How to Make Love to a Trans Person

A breathtaking poem by Gabe Moses:

How to Make Love to a Trans Person

Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.

Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.

When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.

If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet it, Let her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
Diabetes,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.

If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.

Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.

Gabe Moses is “a poet, author, performance artist, dogwalker, and accomplished floor-sock-glider who does most of his best writing in the bathtub. You can find his work in lots of cool places, but that kid singing James Brown on YouTube is not him.”

(Via Whittles, via Sarah Dopp, with thanks.)

18 Responses to “How to Make Love to a Trans Person”

  1. Red Says:

    I found this so incredible moving and beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. megs Says:

    holy crap this is wonderful. Thank you.

  3. Alice Says:

    WOW. This made me blush. In a very “I’m quite moved” sort of way.

  4. Bun Says:

    This is so incredibly beautiful. I had to revisit it and read it again.

  5. David Says:

    actually, i didn’t like the poem as much as i wanted to. the writing is very good, of course, and the ideas expressed are important ones, and spoken very eloquently here (“changing the dressings on a trauma patient” is particularly visceral)

    however, what got me really exited in the first two paragraphs was the sense of celebrating the body that WAS there, and its landscape. i think that this idea is especially beautiful. as the poem progressed, however, it seemed to me to focus more on what one should not do, and to be more an exploration of how not to make love. i’m sure that this is also very important but it was less interesting to me than that first rather shocking idea of simply embracing and celebrating the body that is offered to you and how that feels.

    thank you for sharing this poem with me, and for the continuing exploration of gender on this site.

  6. asha beta Says:

    yes.
    surely one of the most sweetly written truths i’ve ever come across. in love with the gentle, sensual way this artist makes shapes with language, and the warm, open embrace of his message.

  7. nat Says:

    thanks, truly beautiful sent shivers through my spine, in a good way.

  8. rumorsofmydemise Says:

    Wow. Thank you for posting this. As someone who has dated a trans person it is heartening and refreshing to read such a description of our love making that does not trivialize our relationship by fetishizing it or resorting to the “ew, Weird!” reaction that we have come across so often. Well done.

  9. dweller Says:

    Somehow this poem works better for me in reverse – the last line of the first stanza would make an excellent ending, and the last stanza feels more like an introduction to me.

  10. Shikhee Says:

    Touching and beautiful!

  11. Ahnika Says:

    Prrr… Yay.<3

  12. Paul Komoda Says:

    I think I’ve needed to read something like that for a long time.

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  15. Asher Says:

    You know, a lot of trans folks seem to really like this poem, and I can appreciate why. Personally, though, I really hate it. I think the reason it grates on me is the title– “How To Make Love To a Trans Person”– as if this applies to all trans people. I don’t relate to my body as being wounded like this, and if somebody approached me in the way this poem suggests, my impulse would probably be to scream in frustration and run away.

    Reading this makes me feel ashamed of my body in a way that I usually am not. I don’t want my body to be approached with tremulous compassion, but with rough enthusiasm. If I were to write instructions on how to make love to me, they’d be a lot simpler and would probably read: “Fuck me like I owe you rent.”

  16. Shane Says:

    I totally agree with David, I loved it until it got all industrial and rule-book sounding.
    However, it has made me want to write again for some reason, so….Win Win.

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  18. just another person Says:

    omg…. i almost took back my decision to surg…
    ok, really open ppl DO exist.
    (so out of my reality…………….)