eighteen

This summer, we present a special series on poems as maps. Read the introduction to the series.

18 hours since her last meal, her head is spinning with desperation,
hyper-sexualized body looks good, but the five o’clock shadow is nine hours over
the limit and her wig is beginning to look matted

she was 18 when she left home, college was life on the streets
the school day was long, seemed like it never ended, many nights spent on
sticky tricks’ sofas, days spent as a social activist, marching, lobbying, organizing

18 Trans women of color gathering for an outpouring of self love,
Laverne Cox said that “loving a Trans woman of color is a revolutionary act”
sistas are doing it for themselves…

walking the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, 18 hours before a life-altering
surgery, body didn’t evolve the way she dreamed of in her tiny bed, inside
a shared bedroom that proved to be unsafe

her mind flashed back to that birth certificate, assigned male at birth
socialized in a patriarchal world, yet unable to fully relate to the constant
challenge of trying to live her truth in an upside down reality

18 times she threw out all of her women’s clothing, known in the community
as the purge, ridding oneself of all the reminders of the transgression she’s
contemplated by the day, annually, for as long as she can remember

doctors prescribe birth control pills for women for approximately 18 days a month, but
some Trans women take estrogen everyday, the desired effects never really come though,
still she remains faithful to the goddess

18 candles on Transgender Day of Remembrance, 18 Trans women of color murdered
and not always by those who hate them, but by men who have made love and shared
love with them, but want to keep these secrets in the dark

S/O TO 18 TRANS SISTAS OUT THERE DOING THE DAMN THANG,
CHERNO BIKO, LOURDES ASHLEY HUNTER, ARIANNA LINT, CECILIA CHUNG,
VALERIE SPENCER, ASHLEY LOVE, ANGELICA ROSS,

ARYKAH CARTER, MONICA ROBERTS, MISS MAJOR!, JANET MOCK, LAVERNE COX,
TRACEE MCDANIEL, REINA GOSSETT, CECE MCDONALD,
PARADISE LASHAY, REHEMA MERTINEZ, JUNE REMUS

it’s been 18 years since this journey began, a long way from the days of fear and
loathing, and although her life might seem charmed to outsiders, she knows that her
Trans brothers and sisters are struggling out there, so she tells their story

everywhere she’s invited, the Mayo Clinic, The Program in Human Sexuality All Gender Health Seminars,
The Women’s Foundation, Ramsey County, The Human Rights Campaign Dinner,
The Centers For Disease Control, Macalester College, The Arcus Foundation,

The University of Minnesota Medical School, Hamline University, The Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition,
Metropolitan State University, Trans Ohio,
The Minneapolis Urban League,

HRSA (the Health Resources and Service Administration), The Taskforce Creating Change Conference,
and everywhere else she goes, visibility is key to changing
the narrative that shapes this poem

the tables are rapidly turning, attention is being payed, Time Magazine put a Trans
woman of color on the cover and said The Transgender Movement was at the “Tipping
Point: America’s Next Civil Rights Frontier,” and while that’s true

18 Trans women of color will likely be arrested tonight, processed and locked
up with the male population or placed in solitary for their own protection,
becoming more victims of the prison industrial complex

that thrives on poor, black bodies, to fuel the monetization of black labor,
for corporate interests, how does she get through this madness? She remembers
those 18 hours of hunger, those 18 years of struggle, the 18 Trans sistas

showing each other love, she remembers the 18 hours strolling around Bangkok, the 18 times she purged,
and the 18 lives honored on TDOR, the 18 different places where she’s shared their story of
brilliance, resilience and beauty.

Editors’ Note

“eighteen,” by Andrea Jenkins, is from The T is Not Silent: New and Selected Poems, Purple Lioness Productions, 2015. Reprinted with permission of the author.

About the Series: Poems as Maps

Our series on poems as maps features work by Elizabeth Alexander, Bao Phi, Joanne Diaz, Nikky Finney, Sean Hill, Andrea Jenkins, Douglas Kearney, J. Drew Lanham, Claudia Rankine, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sun Yung Shin, Evie Shockley, and Ocean Vuong.

Cite
Andrea Jenkins, “eighteen,” Places Journal, August 2017. Accessed 23 Aug 2017. <>

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