On Loving and Living Myself
I can’t decide if the CBD bathbomb fizzing its way through my tub is beautiful or actually kind of gross. Definitely cheap. I can’t remember where I bought it. Lavender bubbles fight for territory in my tiny tub. I’m a little bit of a cliché, one that I love to live in. As soon as the pink and yellow pastel dissolves entirely, I’ll lower my bleeding body in. Too much of the wrong thing, not enough of the right things. No. I was not born in the wrong body. I don’t believe that anymore. I just was born with something that shouldn’t be here. I saved the bathbomb for three years, waiting for a special occasion. Why not now? I have dysphoria in the form of menstrual blood and the apartment all to myself for the night. Two books sit next to the tub, my hair is in two loose braids, and this is an image of myself I can feel comfortable in. Live in.
Modify This (My Body)
Every time I get a new tattoo, I dream that it peels off, leaving nothing to show for the time spent under the needle, comes off in a swimming pool and floats away.
I wash and lotion each new piece religiously, avoid rivers and pools, touch my body with care for once. I never liked taking care of my body, especially after it was taken from me. Even eight years after that first instance, I find it hard to believe that this body is mine.
So much of my teenage and now adult life has been spent trying to parse out what is trauma and what is dysphoria and what is trauma from that other thing that also happened and what is raised-Catholic and what is bipolar and and and and. I think I’m past trying to separate it all, because what does that matter to my body that has to exist day-to-day despite the myriad barriers?
Before I was of legal tattoo-getting age, I used to give myself a new piercing any time I felt like the world was ending, and the world basically ends every other day in high school–and more frequently than that for queer fourteen year olds with abusive dads and handsy cousins. I suppose back then I thought of the gauges and piercings as productive self harm—the result would make me pretty! Discounting the infected piercing scars on my left ear and belly button, of course. The popping sound once the needle got through my ear lobe was always the worst part. It felt too internal, private. I wanted my pain to be visible.
I don’t know how I made it out of middle school and high school. I tried not to. So now I’m just sort of careening through my twenties, no flight plan. I didn’t think I’d be here. Maybe I’m here because of the galaxy-patterned plugs in my ear that broke my school’s very strict dress code and got me all the ninth grade clout. Maybe I’m here because I dressed up my trauma with words and the only other things I had in my control.
I was fourteen and not far past my first kiss the first time I was assaulted. I was also very Catholic for a while there. What perfect ingredients for an unhealthy relationship with sex and my body. What perfect distractions from the dysphoria gnawing at me.
I fell asleep in my older cousin’s bedroom on Thanksgiving, and that should have been okay. I shouldn’t have been woken up by what woke me up. What was being done to me.
I don’t think there is a single partner I’ve had who hasn’t seen me cry during sex. It’s just a thing that happens, regardless of precautions taken, and my current partner doesn’t make me feel weird about it. I shouldn’t have to feel weird! A therapist forever ago told me I’m having normal reactions to abnormal situations.
I cry less in those situations now, after five years of off-and-on therapy and starting testosterone and initiating other various gender-affirming changes. Yet every essay becomes a trauma essay. Every change becomes a step in making myself my own. These are necessary things.
I turned 18 after my first semester of college, the semester during which I finally got my bipolar and PTSD diagnoses. Of course, the first thing I did when I got back to Lubbock after winter break was schedule a tattoo appointment. I spent $50 and six minutes on a heart right below my right collarbone. It’s just that. A heart. An outline. (Shitty line work—I never went back to that first shop). It was inspired by the Joyce Manor song “Heart Tattoo” and the manic urge to impress my friends.
I decided from the time of my heart tattoo to just go with the impulses of any pieces I wanted, so that I wouldn’t regret any of my ink in the future. Six years later and that weird little reasoning has held up. They’re snapshots. Pieces of the girl I used to be until I wasn’t a girl anymore. Memories of the ex from my teenage years whose handwriting is on my ankle forever now, my partner holding my hand during the most recent piece, matching tattoo with my best friend on our feet, an old friend telling me stories about his dogs to distract me from the one on my ribs, the line of poetry that wouldn’t leave me alone until it was scarred into my skin, the Friday the 13th antics, the piece of queer art that grabbed me, the homily at my father’s funeral mass.
A couple years ago, I asked my then-girlfriend to use gender neutral pronouns for me as a fun little experiment that then set off a series of events culminating in me sitting down at my desk with my Cat Dad mug to type some words about my body, testosterone gel scent still stuck in my nostrils.
My voice cracked the other night while having a semi-serious conversation with my partner, and I almost cried from happiness. My body is bigger than it was two years ago, but maybe that’s okay. Good, even. More room for more art.
All I can do is take care of myself in the ways I know how. Saving up for a sun tattoo to honor my chosen name, avoiding shoulder tattoos now that I’m on T, adding words and flowers and Pokémon and memories until my skin is unrecognizable to my cousin and my shitty ex and to everyone who doesn’t deserve to know me any longer than I’ve already allowed. My recently-acne-riddled face is unrecognizable to so many people, and I think I’m starting to love it.
SG Huerta (They/them)
SG Huerta is a queer Xicanx writer from Dallas. They are the author of the chapbooks The Things We Bring with Us, Last Stop, and Mid-twenties. Their poems have appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Infrarrealista Review, and elsewhere. They live in Texas with their partner and two cats. Find them at sghuertawriting.com or on Twitter @sg_poetry.