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One Thousand and One Ways to Make Your Own Gender Trouble

by Rebecca Lee


I am thirty-six.

I am marrying a man again.

I have frozen five embryos

my popsicle babies saved for a rainy day

when I’m old enough to be someone’s mother.

Someone on the internet says Anna Paquin can’t be bisexual

if she’s married to Stephen Moyer. Someone else says the word “bisexual”

is trans-exclusionary. The most powerful bisexual 

person in America flips her blonde hair

wears a bedazzled denim vest in the Senate

as she guts paid parental leave.


I am twenty-eight.

I have five ex-boyfriends and two ex-girlfriends.

I stand in line for a chair at the barbershop in Temescal Alley

with the flavor of the month and the other hipsters and butches.

A kid trying to sell me his demo CD at the 19th Street BART station

shouts after me asking why I want to cut my hair so short

“You wanna be a boy, don’t you?”

Hollingsworth v. Perry makes same-sex marriage legal again in California.

A girl in the class below me at Berkeley Law tells her friends I am a sexual 

predator after I kiss her at a bar but never call for that second date.


I am twenty-two.

The woman I love will only sleep with me

if it’s in a threesome with one of a rotating cast

of too-eager boys, until the night we win the

What Would You Do For A Dollar

party by putting on a show for the wolves upstairs.

I slap a hand that tries to touch her.

We zigzag home cackling in our matching boots in the snow

clutching our trophies, full handles of Jack Daniels and Absolut.

We drip melted puddles between the hookah burn marks

pocking the floorboards of her apartment.

I think I have never been happier.


I am sixteen.

My mother buys the spinning bike

so she can work out twice a day

once at the studio and once at home.

I discover if I punish my burning thighs

for an hour a day they will still touch

but I can eat whatever I want.

Ninety minutes and I can wear the sky

blue tube top Maggie lent me.

A boy at a basketball game leaps over two rows 

to sit with me. A firefighter in his truck winks 

at me in my school uniform, navy polo and pleated khaki skirt

It’s a few months after September 11th so I don't say anything.


I am fourteen.

My friend Lina weeps when she tells me she is scared

she is a lesbian. I thinsmile sweat at her and tell her I’m sure she’s not.

A voice inside me shouts that it’s contagious.

That someone already knows I like Rose

better than Jack. Even though there was room for both

of them on that floating door.


I am twelve.

I have learned to hide the betrayals of my body

under my father’s castoff Boalt Hall T-shirts

and two sports bras. I hold the shirts away

from my waistband with my fingertips

so they won’t show the cave of my bellybutton

My soft stomach. My Bok-Po in her hornrimmed glasses

eyes blued by glaucoma strokes my hair at Thanksgiving

calls me by my cousin Garrett’s name and asks me why

I’m wearing a braid. I stuff my flushed wet face 

with Gung-Gung’s fivespice shortribs and Uncle Brian’s candied yams

in the bathroom where no one will see.


I am four.

I have slipped my babyfeet into my Po-Po’s lavender kittenheels again.

My mother strokes the photograph stuck to its plastic sleeve

moistened by three decades of Santa Monica breezes.

“You always loved high heels” she sighs

I loved the sharp sound they made

when I slammed them on the cool speckled tile of our townhouse.

“You loved dresses too. The froufier the better.”

The fullest skirts were best for parachuting from the garden wall

For gathering sand for castles.


Someday I may be fifty-four.

(“Live and be well,” my bad Bubbe would say)

I will leave out my copies of The Paying Guests and Frog Music

for my children to discover for themselves.

To make their own good trouble.

About the Author

Rebecca Lee is a public interest lawyer by day and writer of poetry and prose by night. A queer writer of color, she is a graduate of Yale College and UC Berkeley School of Law, where she was Senior Articles Editor of the California Law Review and co-Editor-in-Chief of the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice. Her poetry is forthcoming in Dispatches from Quarantine. She lives in San Francisco with her fiancé and their Goldendoodle, Justice.

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