Twined Fragments, Chapter 1: Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives

Original artwork by Miriam Suzanne. Print & digital downloads available here.

Twined Fragments is an ongoing collaboration between authors Miriam Suzanne and Allison Washington. Each fragment is sparked by the previous, as trans women of different generations pass their memories back and forth, reflecting on lives and transitions separated by a quarter-century.

Working through these fragments of reflection lets us touch on moments and emotions that are sometimes too painful to interrogate deeply. In conversation, we do together what we could not alone.

The result leaves us with more questions than answers, and we love that. We want those questions, and hope you will extend this conversation in the comments below.

Mother finds me at her wardrobe, in her pumps and pearls.

—What are you doing?
—Being a mommy.
—Are you, then?

She clips on the earrings (they pinch!), reaches for her lipstick.

#Allison #1961 #Four #Girl

In the oral history of my family, it’s my brother who claims he’ll be a mommy someday, nursing his doll. Mom corrects him — you can be a daddy. He lays down the doll. Cis doesn’t mean simple, he tells me now, a father of two.

I keep my dolls much later in life, an unexpected aunt.

#Mia #1985 #Three

My father does not want a girl, so the girl must leave. There is no money for a girl who doesn’t finish school. But there are bars, and in the bars there are men, and the men have money.

This is a different kind of school.

#Allison #1974 #Seventeen

Low on cash, I show up every Tuesday morning. A waiting room, and doors into smaller rooms. Each has a couch, Kleenex, baby wipes, and a glass table with back-issues of Penthouse and Playboy. The woman hands me a cup, making small talk, closes the door. After a few years they cut me off. Friends ask me to donate, and I sign the paperwork — but it never takes. They divorce a year later.

Low on androgens now, it’s just me and this vibe, and a pack of double-A’s. No mess.

#Mia #2010 #2017 #Hormones

In London, I give up being a woman. There is no other choice. I cut my hair. I behave as I imagine men behave, acquire manly friends, drink in pubs, push on women. She is available, I push. Till now it was me in her position, so I know how. I push harder. Her consent is…doubtful.

In Paris, I am being a man and she is my wife. Later, I give up being a man. There is no other choice. I grow my hair.

In Sydney, I am a woman, complete. I am available, he pushes, hard. My consent is…doubtful.

Later, I am his wife.

#Allison #1979 #2009

When she’s violent, I spend the evening at Rubber House, a short walk down the tracks. I’ve replaced the remote 3 times — they shatter so easily, past my head. Tonight she lands a punch to the stomach. She won’t throw the potted plants for another week. Then the fish tank. Later that month I move in, and Katie laughs:

—I’m so glad your wife beat you, so you could live with us!

I paint my nails, bright iridescent colors. My wife asks if this is an identity crisis. It’s not.

#Mia #2005

He is stronger than I am, bigger than I am, harder than I am. He is not a hitter, not even a yeller. He is sweet, calm, firm, convincing. His violence is in his expectations. Which are non-negotiable. In the home my duties are clear. Likewise in the bedroom.

His morning kisses are kind, gentle. His night kisses are like hammers, like drills. I prefer face-to-face. He requires…otherwise. It’s isolating, painful. He doesn’t even reach around.

Shockingly, I am OK with the situation.

At first I think this is new. Then I realise: I’ve been here before.

#Allison #2009

—But she can’t really hurt you, right?

The survivor support group votes to exclude “males” from the meetings.

#Mia #2005

Next: Read Chapter 2...

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