The Art of Transition Isn’t Hard to Master

(L) Photo from January. (R) Photo from December. In between: a whole bunch of firsts and lasts.

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

The last time I wore a beard.
The last time I used a men’s bathroom.
The last time I used a wallet. 

Elizabeth Bishop’s poem One Art has been my favorite poem for a long time. I dreamed of using it as an audition monologue to hate auditions less. My social and medical transitions have deepened that love in ways I didn’t expect. Because the art of transition is, in part, an art of losing.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

The last time I had hair on my legs.
On my chest.
The last time I went without a bra. 

How can I call it loss when I’m giving it away? But even in the happiest of changes, there is loss. These little pieces of me hold histories. They float when I toss them in the water.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

The last time I used ‘he’ in my email signature.
In my pronoun introductions.
The last time I said ‘he’ and meant me.

At first, little changes hold great significance. The shock of my shaved face. The smooth of my shaved legs. We take time to process each one. Then they come faster, go farther. We realize later that was the last time. Or we don’t remember. The art of transition isn’t hard to master.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

The last time I dreamed in a man’s voice.
The last time I spoke with a man’s voice.
The last time I sang.

I thought I would still want to sing in my man’s voice. It was one of the few aspects of my male self I thought I liked. I’d practiced that voice, taken lessons, been praised for it. Then one night, I couldn’t find it anymore. The hand of my mind didn’t know how to grasp it, where to find it.

I thought transition would be like moving into new rooms in the same house. I could go back to visit, to remember, to feel safe again. But it’s not like that. Once I close the door on an old room, it disappears.  There’s no going back. There’s no back to go.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

The last time I wore men’s clothes in safe places.
In the subways and streets.
The last time I felt safe.

I am grateful that my transition has been met mostly with celebration. Against the stigma of my breathing, that celebration is my armor.  But I wonder if it sometimes keeps us from something vaster. The joy in the pain of losing.  The pain in the joy of giving away. These little things–the joking voice, a gesture–hold histories, and they float in the water.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

The last time I…
The last time…
The last…

And the first and the first and the first and the first and the next.

Categories: Trans

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