Cistem Bleed Out
- shoulders. voice. feeling the initial bodily surge almost immediately. awaiting public confirmation when out of nowhere—Sir, a stranger says to me three days after my first T-shot. i smile; miracles do come in three-letter words.BREAK
- Sir. this time it’s two plainclothes cops who stop me at the mouth of a busy local subway station downtown. they say i didn’t pay my fare. No, I did i argue, but suddenly stop short of proving my point because i’m nervous my voice hasn’t deepened enough to talk with cis men, especially white ones in authority. both cops could be a gay couple, read: more fascist fuckers than flowery faggots, translation: trigger-happy, subtext: they were assigned to my neighborhood not to serve or protect but to publicly terrorize people who look like me. i police myself, backing away slowly slowly even slower, avoiding eye contact, making me even more suspect in their eyes. but i’m qtpoc, translation: not male enough, not female enough for their rugged binary so how black am i given the circumstances?BREAK
- handcuffed. not allowed to ask questions. my gender is black. searched, frisked, not allowed to rage. my gender is black. never read my rights. my gender is black. never shown a police badge nor proof the police are who they say they are. my gender is black. by contrast, my driver’s license plus all identification and personal items are confiscated immediately. my gender is black. dumped into a mysterious minivan. not told where i’m going. my gender is black. learn quickly they’ll beat me senseless if i ask, Where are you taking me? my gender is black. unhandcuffed. dumped into a holding tank. my gender is black. rehandcuffed. dumped into a private cell. my gender is black, unhandcuffed, rehandcuffed, unhandcuffed. dumped into a much larger holding tank. all-male presumably cis plus two armed guards sitting at an empty desk nearby watching over us, guns ablaze thanks to light pouring dreamlike from a tiny window up the stairway. i’d say dropped headfirst into a dingy dungeon for limitless confusion to swirl about our heads forever is the desired effect. i’m scared, i’ll admit it, but also excited because A) i’ve never been grouped with so many cis men before, and B) i never went to jail in my other body but it’s what? less than a week into my transition and i’m behind bars locked inside a cage like a wild animal. if this isn’t “black male privilege” then what is, right? i mean, how much more proof do i need to finally claim with confidence i am a black man in America. #celebrationBREAK
- two black guys who’ve been to prison before tell us step-by-step exactly what to do. Yeah, we get arrested every week, they laugh.
Every week? someone asks.
it spins a wild dance bouncing barefoot before swallowed by our dingy echo chamber: Arrested Arrested every week every week every week.
Yup, they laugh. a mexican kid who hasn’t spoken word one in english only spanish can’t force himself to stop crying.
We’ll see a judge. You tell that judge you’re guilty.
What if you’re not?
eyeroll. it’s delusional questions like those that demean group morale down to drops but both black guys figured eons ago that the rest of us are newborns taking baby-steps down a long, bumpy, mysteriously cruel path so they proceed gently.
Doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or not, you tell that judge “guilty”.
And say that shit to the judge with nigger pride, like “GUILTEEEE!”
everyone but the sobbing mexican laughs.
Then what happens?
It stays on your record for six months to a year tops.
Then what happens?
They take it off. Expunged. both black guys laugh. Sounds like executed.
i laugh. the mexican kid looks up, cracks a beautiful smile.BREAK
Who is this?
I’m in jail.
Who am I talking to?
i tell her.
What happened to your voice?
i tell her Hormones.
You there? Mom?
long pause then, Yeah?
Mom I’m in jail.
she hangs up.
i call her back. she picks up thank god, screaming into the receiver she says:
You’re such a fucken asshole, know what you are? A royal asshole, that’s who you are. D’you know how much of an asshole you are?
I know, alright? I know…
I said I know I’m an asshole Mom but—
So you admit you’re a pathetic piece of shit on the face of this fucken earth?!
Will you shut the fuck up for once and just—
What am I supposed to do, huh? Tell me, what in God’s name do you want from me now?
I want you to sit still, be quiet ‘n’ listen to whatever I have to say. Then I need you to do what I say because it’s the difference between my life ‘n’ my death. So I’m begging, please Mom, do not hang up on me or—
she hangs up on me. i call her back. she hangs up on me again. i call back again and again and again again again until a chunky female guard strolls over to tell me, Time’s up, so i hold the receiver against my heart for a moment the length of eternity until the guard snatches the phone from my chest, making eye contact as she gently places the receiver down.as god is my witness, i swear on every single one of my queer Ancestors, a huge chunk of me still lives inside that hallway ear stuck to the receiver listening for a ring tone, waiting for Mom to call me back and when she does, guess what? i’ll pick up in an instant to pour my heart into her.
- my mom hates me because i’m queer. the cops hate me because i’m black. the black guys in my jail cell trust me because i’m in jail. the mexican trusts me because he’s in jail. i worry their trust will turn deadly when they find out i’m queer. i can’t trust my masculinity as much as my blackness so i become more black to become less queer to become more masculine to become more male to gain more credibility to secure more trust. hard to know the proper amount of blackness for my level of masculinity, especially given my circumstances. to be or not to be the nigger, that is the current question. the next question is: how much of a nigger should the nigger be? there’s such a huge buffet of black masculinity on the menu to perform: there’s black thug, black preppy, black pimp, black baller, 14-inch uncut penis black, black poverty porn, black pride, black victim, black nerd, tragic black, black raised by grandma, black activist, black Barbie, black Becky, black minus the mask, neo-futuristic Kunta Kinte black slave, uncle tom two-point-oh. so many stereotypes. so what’s the healthiest dose of queer faggotry for my current amount of blackness? like—how far have my nostrils flared since my last T-shot? have they preserved their soft-butch-blackness or escalated up to gorilla? are my lips extra juicy? my bubble butt too fluffy? any wispy wooly facial hair yet? am i alpha, read: threatening to white folks? i guess i’m measuring my queerness to see if it still cancels out or at least complicates white supremacy’s impact on my body read: my life. if not, if i read as more queer than black then i’ll have to adjust my blackness to my queerness by monitoring white supremacy. my father, well, i don’t know but i trust his and my mother’s DNA inform my masculinity enough to silence my post-butch-pre-trans identity but i can’t know for sure. and i can’t trust that my cisness will protect, read: erase some of my queer history or at least not reveal that i once walked the planet as a post-butch-pre-trans-tomboi. i don’t know if passing is enough when realness gets you in jail. i’m thinking the judge will hate me because he’s probably an institutional racist and i’m just another black man in his cistem cistem cistem, say it:i am a black man i am a black man i am a black man i am a black man i am a blacBREAK
- get me before nighttime, i’ll do anything put on a dress heels lipstick makeup permission to deadname me granted i won’t correct you whenever you deliberately use the wrong pronouns i see the glow in your soulless eyes whenever you revert to my birth-name and this time, promise, i won’t curse you out or fight back yeah, so, yeah… i’ll talk boyfriends, titties, fashion, menstrual cycle no more queer t.v. shows and willingly, i’ll reapply for that fucked-up job with the creepy boss who sexually harasses me for kicks because he thrives whenever a queer black boi squirms at heterosexuality, say thank you Sir when I mean fuck you Sir i’ll endure it all to help with rent, pay bills, be more responsible Mom are you listening? this is what i’m saying: when i go binary i die but i’ll commit suicide for you, okay? take me away. please come get me Mom.BREAK
- nighttime. even though i sleep on my stomach to hide my vagina, they find it, flip me over. with both hands, i cover my hairy mound, thinking, my T-cock (Transsexual cock) will go mega-penis as an act of resistance. prayer: dear penis, i will not get wet so don’t betray me. listen, do not, i repeat, don’t you dare orgasm during my rape, hear me?, or i will drown in queer shame, understand? in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and my Ancestors, Ase. one guy fucks me in my asshole doggystyle; one guy fucks my mouth; one guy fucks my t-hole-vagina. my rape feels so alive yet unreal. from those depths of numb confusion my revolutionary truth is born, yes, screams powerful as volcanic rupture morph into my chant poetry: I refuse to be a woman for them I refuse to be a woman for them I refuse to have a gender I refuse to have a gender I refuse to have a body I refuse to have a body. I refuse to take ownership of my existence. My body is not their dumping ground, nor is it a grave for their sick, twisted pleasure. My body will not house nor be a sanctuary for toxic masculinity. I refuse to participate, own, or claim their reality. I am not your victim, survivor, warrior, princess, queen, vexin, jezebel. I will not bow to patriarchy. I will not apologize. “No to hate,” I say, ““yes” to love.” No to stereotype; no to (gender) roles; no to your rigid, inhuman identity compartments. No to the gender police, thought police, border patrol. I refuse to honor concepts of time and space blind to generational trauma. I refuse to cement the power of intimacy with a shared language. The inhuman will not be made human to pervert that which is sacred. Pain is my truth. Failure, helplessness, insanity, vulnerability are my core superpowers. In the affirmative, yes I come from dust and to dust I willingly return. at that point, that moment of complete surrender/ surrender/ surrender, when i know nothing because i am nothing, and because i am nothing all i know is nothing, this is where divine intelligence becomes revelation. i flirt with it. the penis raping my mouth transitions into a hot queer trans-lesbian’s pussy raping my tongue back and forth. s/he sticks hyr fingers inside my asshole, vagina, moving within spatial realities only queers of colour crack open. touch is the real revolution, touch is the other side of grief, touch is the other side of time. dear letter to my lovers. i am we. and we are many genders, as many as there are people on the planet, each orgasm signaling the birth of new nebula. Another cosmic reality, another world, another Self speaking another language yes my black body is not a prison my black body is not a prison my black body is not a prison queer lesbian fuck-fest was born to transcend, to take back the power stripped from us before time began. such is the manifesto tattooed on my heart.right?i am a black man i am a black man i am a bla—ssssshhhhhhthe cunt deserves a monologue. the penis deserves a monologue. the T-cock, monologue. the body too. but rape = no self. silence, sssshhhhhh.we are actually nothing. and how beautiful that is. because from there, we become infinite. that is how, why queerness saves. ssssh, you are a black man. say nothing. don’t breathe it to a soul.BREAK
- at this point in the story i am supposed to take care of you. seduce your fragility by quieting my tragic circumstance, removing its scars by issuing a series of content and trigger warnings the way a “good reliable narrative” should. question: who is there for me? and who is there for the millions, billions in the world forced to function among their perpetrators, unheard if not silenced by those privileged enough to captivate a platform as their “voices” impact policies, alter cultures. the ones who occupy white space so oppression operates backwards towards restorative justice. other than the power of narrative to heal silences, who is there for me? not you. never ever you. for years, i will tell myself stories about how ugly i am, how unworthy i am, how i deserved it because i am unwanted. until the story stops. but not in service of you. never ever will i perform for you.BREAK
- black pastor, black businessman, black entrepreneur, black billionaire… so many stereotypes.BREAK
- in the shower washing away my blood. it circles round the drain underfoot where my ancestors live, mouths open wide ready to swallow my sacrifice. they’ve tasted century upon century of black pain mine hardly satisfies. i drop to my knees, at the mercy of an unknown queer african god fluent in oppression by the boatloads thanks to the west. these cleansing waters that killed my ancestors will purify me, i pray, rid my life of ugliness. speaking of which, standing naked facing the bathroom mirror, i think to myself, i was gang raped; why am i not shaped by shame? too soon maybe. or maybe there is no explanation. taking two, three steps closer, the silence is queered, mirror image complicated but not shattered. i could easily pass for a twelve year old boy partly because the hormones tighten my skin so, partly because i’m one of those black-don’t-crack prototypes, mostly because the hormone swallows time in reverse for FtMs. 30 going on twelve, 50 going on 25-ish, 20 takes you into single-digit timelines which should play to my advantage with the judge since white folx go absolutely ape-shit over black youth and innocence. i’m thinking a white judge with white guilt has more of a white savior complex for a black boy than a black man—so i better read as black boi.BREAK
- the judge looks nothing like santa. he’s not a wrinkly, bearded old white guy with rosy cheeks and blood that pumps justice to a heartbeat spiritually in tune with jesus christ like on t.v. during Christmas specials. no. he is a she. she is white, cis, probably het and racist. the first thing she says is in a white man’s voice is: How do you plead? What would happen if I plead “not guilty”? both black guys turn to look at me. the mexican kid stares straight outdoors, searching for a realm beyond this racist, wretched earth. after a shitty lunch of canned rice and cheap dollar-store kidney beans, we were grouped into a straight line then shackled together at the hands and feet, then dumped into a police van to be driven to yet another cell where we met, all five of us, with the same court-appointed lawyer for two minutes each. Plead “not guilty”, and you would need to pay—emphasis here—for a private lawyer—distinct though subtle tonal shift in her delivery—with your own private funds. Think you can afford to do that? at which point i know the judge thinks i’m a nigger, read: poor, young, urban black male, read: criminal, hypersexual, illiterate, subhuman, violent super-predator read: i’m not trans enough, read: black is my gender because it erases everything else, especially my humanity while amplifying the volume on my perceived cisness, read: young, black male, poor, urban, uneducated, no good criminal violent rapist all of which is a lethal cocktail in her whitewashed reality. because she stereotypes me i stereotype her; because i stereotype her, she must be stereotyping me. from the start of this fucked up ordeal i’ve been searching for pockets of salvation, some form of light or hope—from white guilt, or radical black love, or redemptive humor, or black joy, or female cop compassion, or some privileged white bitch willing to side with me by denouncing a cistem she claims has fucked her over too thanks to misogyny or sexism, or maybe from a rage-filled leftist jewish lawyer incensed at the purgatorial loop that is the world’s never-ending injustices—someone, anyone willing to ask the tough questions that disrupt the social order, pop the neo-slave prison narrative, tough questions that crack open my vulnerability so when i finally meet up with my court-appointed lawyer for a private session i trust that my surroundings are safe and secure enough to come out as trans, exercise my exotic trans privilege, use it against the cis men of color who took turns gang raping me, then negotiate a fair deal since i did nothing wrong in the first fucken place. instead, i stand silently shackled at the hands and feet to my rapists, facing a judge staring straight past me at a life-sized photo of our first black president. Plead guilty, the judge says, six months later you have a clean slate with nothing on your record. the caption written in beautiful bold black letters floating above obama’s salt and pepper head reads Yes We Can. i plead guilty.BREAK
- @ home. facing the mirror, raging @ myself: MOTHER FUCKEN LOSER FAILURE BULLSHIT ASSHOLE DUMBASS PUNK, USELESS NOTHING BULLSHIT—this is how i cry—SHITFACE NIGGER UNGRATEFUL DIRTY BASTARD—black men don’t cry—CUNT, BITCH, WHORE—not allowed to—NASTY ASS PUSSY—bash my head against the wall—NO WONDER THE WORLD CAN’T STAND YOU NIGGER—never ever cry —I CAN BARELY LOOK AT YOU AND I AM YOU—head bashing—PATHETIC—harder—ASSHOLE—blood drips down my face—D’YOU KNOW HOW MANY QUEERS OF COLOR RISKED EVERY—I’M TALKING EVERY FUCKEN THING INCLUDING THEIR PRECIOUS LIVES SO YOU COULD HAVE THIS MOMENT AND WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WITH IT NIGGER YOU THREW THEIR BLOOD AWAY BY GETTING RAPED—IN JAIL NIGGER! THEY DIED FOR YOUR FREEDOM! WHAT KIND OF BLACK MAN ARE YOU?—BLACK ENOUGH? ARE YOU!—MAN ENOUGH?—STRONG ENOUGH—HARD ENOUGH—REAL ENOUGH?—IF YOU’RE A REAL BLACK MAN, WHY WOULD YOU ORGASM?—WHY TAKE PLEASURE FROM MALE RAPE UNLESS YOU’RE UNREAL? UNLESS THERE’S A WOMAN INSIDE YOU?BREAK
- it’s raining oppression gender=white space world=white space race=white space sexuality=white space universal=white space architecture=white space art=white space my body= white space prison=white spaceBREAK
- dear white supremacy,
fuuuuuuuuuuck you! why do you have to take up so much space? colonizing the bathroom, world, my dark-skinned black body, is all white space. what is so wrong with me living outside of stereotype? what is so wrong with celebrating the margins? what is so wrong with living your complexity? what is so wrong with screaming back at a world that keeps screaming at you? because gender, because the binary, because class, because race, it’s all lies. why must penetration = woman? what is so wrong with reaching beyond the body for a self? what is so wrong with being black and unconstructed, raging against a boxed reality that has nothing to do with who you are because it is unreal? what is so wrong with exposing the lies that kill us? what is so wrong with rejecting the interior death that comes with blackness? what is so wrong with holding space for the margins at the centre, making room for vulnerability, helplessness, powerlessness, for failure and freedom? why must my creativity be of service, disciplined, dominated, driven by goals and money to have meaning? what is so wrong with giving birth then putting forward the fullness of my humanity with its messiness, its muck unscripted and illegible? why must i perpetuate the unjust violence in this world to fit in and call that manhood?dear capitalism,
dear white fragility,
dear white supremacy,
when you gawk at my body, looking for clues with unseeing eyes, begin to read me from wherever i am unscripted. permission granted.BREAK
- @ a meeting with a private lawyer in her upscale office. the lawyer tells the receptionist she won’t see me. i tell the receptionist to tell the lawyer she agreed to an appointment last week then confirmed the meeting with me this morning. Still, the receptionist says, she can’t see you. can’t or won’t? then i tell the receptionist i’m trans and the lawyer magically appears in the hallway.Lawyer: Why didn’t you tell them you were—What are you?
Lawyer: That means…What does that mean—exactly?
i don’t know—exactly.
Lawyer: Why not tell the judge flat out for a deal?
long pause. i’m more confused than a room full of middleclass hippies. this privileged white bitch overlooking the most affluent part of the city is asking me what would my life look like if i were her? if i could live freely read: fearless in a world tailor-made for me the way she lives as its prize? i look at the long tuffs of hair she tosses over her shoulder as she asks her question. i think of the silent saving grace that is my queerness, of blackness as my gender, the binary as lie, rage as purifying best friend to my unspoken and unheard painful truths, a tool to decolonise for my body to live unmolested, moving through time-space slivers nowhere near her reality despite the present moment.
Me: Why didn’t I tell the judge I’m trans? Because I feared for my life…?—Bitch.BREAK
- this is a story about oppressive stereotypes transcended by an individual through triggering crises as agents of change, or is it? this is a story about an oppressed human trying to see themselves in the mirror for the first time. it’s a story about betrayal, abandonment and the desire to formulate a language despite institutional injustices and cistemic failures. it’s a story about cistemic oppression, the mirror as rapist. it’s about embracing pain as truth. it’s moving from “i” to “I”. no, it’s a story about pain too severe to heal, immune to transformational powers but one functions because trauma is alive. cistem bleedout, is that what this story is about?BREAK
- back at the doctor’s office for my second (t) shot. pronounced muscles, angular jawline, deep voice that cracks cement blocks, imagine. my doctor looks sick, like he needs a doctor himself. his wife says there are two types of male gynecologists: the ones who adore women and the ones who want to destroy them: My husband is the latter. she turns to her left where the doctor emerges from his bedroom-slash-makeshift-lab, syringe in air. i lower my trousers just enough to expose one butt-cheek. i can feel the needle’s sharpness penetrate through flesh, the slick oil travels fast towards my trauma, will collect over it then gel into a crusty protective shield shaped like the love parents shower on needy orphans. i’m told the syringe is filled with steroids for horses, not hormones for humans; a joke, a dream, fantasy? thanks to pain, i return to my body then exit towards a world where special cruelties await.
Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko is trans, queer, non-binary, Tanzania-American looking for a literary agent and publisher for a book of short stories. Nick has published two queer, trans books called Waafrika (Un/CUT Voices Press, 2013) and Waafrika 123 (Un/CUT Voices Press, 2016). If you’d like to get in touch, Nick can be contacted by email.
Image: Flickr / Gnome J
OMG!!! The writing is phenomenal!!! OMG!!!! I LoooooooooooooooVE this story!!!!
Queer, rich, complex, tragic, funny, topical; epic while everyday. This story made me cry, weep, laugh, scream, not want to stop reading.
As a queer advocate for changes in policy, this piece resonates with me because it shows the impossible choices individuals at the margins have to make in order to live in their bodies. What I love most, above all, is how queerness in the world is both hell and the saving grace into a better world. In fact, it was does and will heal the world and this piece shows how and why. I love this piece!
This is a stark cry of pain, anger, shame, disappointment and despair… an eruption of astonishment at the sheer dumb cruelty of existence in the margins of a brutally mainstream universe. What makes it remarkable is the aftertaste of joy, empowerment, pride and hope it leaves in your ears and heart once you take it all in.
The only thing I know is what I don’t know. That’s why Cistem Bleedout spoke to me. I had no clue; none. Then, after reading Mwaluko’s magic, I had an epiphany. How beautiful!
I’m so upset and so glad this exists. Thank you.