when i shave my stubble & gender dysphoria with it, when i grow my hair out shoulder-length, tease it out, let it curl, when i put on my cute little skirt & try on a voice that hasn’t been mine but which one day could be, when i stop those mental tapes that insist i will hear slurs if i go out like this, when i take out the garbage looking how i want & come right back in, when i superhero-change to go to a friend’s under cover of darkness, when i go even if the hangout’s a little earlier, in broad daylight, & people might see, when i wear the lip gloss some days, lipstick others, when i look at this body that played football, wrestled, & fought, this body where stocky was considered a compliment, hearing things like big guy, & wanting to be small, thin, with narrower shoulders, not an upside down triangle, & maybe not an hourglass, but something not-this, & when i wear these loose & flowing things, when i think of all the time i wasted trying to fit a mold that wasn’t for me, that isn’t for anyone really, when i interrogate where this fear comes from, when i tease out the homogeneity of that masculinity, an empty concept, & when i’d try to fill myself with it & feel only like a hungry ghost haunting a wide wasteland, when i waited till i was hundreds of miles away, & years out, to come out, when i traded cursing my parents for pitying them, getting at something like understanding without condoning, when i peel away the years of guilt & toxic self-talk like sunburn falling away, skin shed, or maybe it’s the last remnant of cocoon, either way, when i do these things, these radical acts i never before had the courage to do, i am saying that there is no going back, not now, not ever, that i am both going & gone, arrived, having never left.
Liza Olson is the author of the novels Here’s Waldo, The Brother We Share, and Afterglow. She’s also the Editor-in-Chief of (mac)ro(mic). A Best Small Fictions nominee, finalist for Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction Award, and 2021 Wigleaf longlister in and from Chicagoland, she’s been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and other fine places. Find her online at lizaolsonbooks.com or on Twitter @lizaolsonbooks.