Category Archives: Sari Krosinsky

Nonbinary

Yesterday, on the way to a nonbinary and gender nonconforming art event (where I got to do a bit of art modeling for the first time in 15 years), I had the urge to make an attempt (not my first) to clarify my gender identity and general thoughts on gender/sex in (I hope) simple, direct prose. Later in this post I’ll share a new poem and talk about some others that deal with being transgender, and how they do and don’t communicate identity.

The most descriptive single word for my gender is “nonbinary.” Before I start unpacking that term, l should clarify that I’m speaking of gender as distinct from physiological sex. (The Genderbread Person is still my favorite breakdown of the distinctions between gender identity, gender expression and biological sex.)

Those who’ve read Courting Hunger will know what reproductive function I’ve played. Sex can be divided into a binary of “maleness” and “femaleness,” but that doesn’t mean we’re all ones or zeroes (intersex people excepted, or forgotten, or denied). It means we’re each composed of both ones and zeroes. Most of us are either a lot of ones and a few zeroes or a lot of zeros and a few ones, but to be something of both is the norm. Most of us don’t know exactly what our individual proportions are. We have not, perhaps, tested our chromosomes or hormone levels. 

And that ratio of zeroes and ones changes throughout our lives. I have to wonder, does a person really have the same sex before, during and after so dramatic a change as puberty? Is the male/female binary really the most meaningful way to categorize sex? Are the deliberate ways we moderate our sexes less real than the automatic ones? I have taken hormones and had surgery that altered my sexual characteristics because I’m transgender. Others undertake those actions for a variety of reasons—menopause, fertility, sterility, virility, cancer. Does the motivation make the change less meaningful to the person living through it?

However we divide it, physiological sex isn’t simple, and neither is gender, with its additional complications of social and personal definition. When I say I’m nonbinary, I mean that I reject the notion that anyone’s maleness and femaleness has to define who they are—at least, no more than the many subsets of human physiology by which no one defines their identity—and that I will not passively allow socially defined and enforced gender to determine who I am or how I define others. I also mean I am not a boy or a girl, a woman or a man, a he or a she. 

My transgender-related poems tend to focus on specific moments rather than broader questions of identity, and I suspect that might make my gender identity unclear to those who know it only through my poetry.

The only poem in god-chaser that deals with being transgender is “in transit,” which tells the story of my quest for testosterone 20 years ago. It is explicitly nonbinary—”I just couldn’t find the none-of-the-above box under ‘sex'”—though actually at that time I thought that not being a woman meant being a man (a temporary mistake, like the brief period during adolescence when I tried to be a girl). I added that line to the poem because Bob suggested it ought to be clearer what my present conception of my gender is, and accomplishing that without disrupting the immediacy of the poem was more important to me than historical precision. 

Courting Hunger includes several transgender-related poems. “Before I heard of transgender” describes how at age 4, the gender identity declarations of my fellow toddlers prompted me to consider my own gender and to conclude that I wasn’t a boy or a girl, though I also knew what others would say I was, and how I tried to find a way to express that. “Compassion,” “Rites of Passage,” “Original Cum” and “Pinocchio” describe experiences around the time I was taking testosterone. I worry that the lines in “Pinocchio”—”Was that the night I knew / I didn’t want to be a real boy?”—might confuse readers, but I hope it’s clear that “real boy” has a narrow contextual meaning. It may not be also clear that the rejection of masculine identity was in addition to, not instead of, the earlier rejection of feminine identity. I hope, at least, that poems appearing later in the book—”Coming out” and “Don’t say ‘transgender'”—make it clear that “Pinocchio” doesn’t signify the end of my transgender identity. “Don’t say ‘transgender'” gives a conjectural account of my plans for top surgery, based on the sort of hurdles others have had to face, which bears no resemblance to how the actual surgery worked out, which was a good deal better. So far, this new poem is the only one which makes reference to the actual surgery:

The Truth #81

The one who thinks she’s a little girl

confronts me by the sinks

as I close the door on sunlight.

She sets her lips in grim pout, folds slender

arms about her chest, indignant at

the man in the women’s portapotty.

 

Perhaps seeing the ends of mastectomy

scars snaking from beneath the hems

of an orange tank and under my arms,

her mother apologizes for her. But

the one who thinks she’s a little girl

isn’t wrong about me, and I prefer

the honest asshole a child can be.

 

I’m trying to hint at “nonbinary” here, but I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded. “Consumers,” appearing in the chapbook Call Me Crazy, also hints. A recent poem included in my last post, “The Welcoming Committee,” deals broadly with the idea of gender role enforcement.

The books mentioned here are available through the Books page in print and/or as free ebooks.

Poetry and Moss in the Northwest

Since moving from sunny Albuquerque to soggy Bremerton, Bob and I found reading we both like quite a bit at the Hugo House in Seattle, Works in Progress, an open mic for all kinds of writing on the first and third Mondays of the month, 7-9 p.m. (sign up at 6:30 p.m.). 

Here’s a bit of what I’ve been writing since the move. The water has been as good for my poetry as for the moss. So has the moss.
 

The Welcoming Committee

I think they yelled “homo”

 

or perhaps it was “om” or “home” someone hollered from a speeding window

as I walked along the tall iron fence around the naval base, before

I turned onto this quiet street and sat on this bench to talk to my notebook.

 

While the moss picks out a life

between cobblestones, I transform

the indifferent gift of hollered wit

through the alchemy of incomprehension:

Was this the call of longing

for home, for peace, for natural order?

the anger when home, peace, natural order

become a question?

Do I always have to be the questions

no one wants to answer?

 

I am like this moss, lost

to home, to peace, to natural order, fit only to fly

on wild winds, to root in specks

of earth, to encrust the predictable concrete with life

in all its chaos, to be

soaked and sated and washed away in the next rain.

 

A passel of school children passes chattily

behind me. Someone has told them

they can be whoever they want to be,

as long as they button their shirts

on the correct side. Perhaps

they are telling each other now. 

 

I love taking the ferries, and they’re a good, er, “place” to write.

Meditating in the Dark

In shadow where water hides from sun, its surface

takes the shape of Earthly things—

  evergreens like a many-turreted, ivied castle wall

  red smear of little house on shore

  denser dark of the ferry below that shows nothing of earth, heaven or water

 

The nothing is a membrane

between worlds where a gull floats, pretending

to be a duck far from shore.

 

There are shores

whose veils of evergreen

I don’t want to peek behind.

My surfaces are as opaque

as water.

 

This was the first poem I wrote in Washington:

The moss on the stairs isn’t climbing

The sidewalks and bridges, the stone walls of our new city are growing, furred with moss. Mold spores black fronds

in the puddles around our sink. Even the damp folds of my nervous system are growing: green, black and furred red, toxic

 

and nourishing. People tell me how brave I am, starting over like this. I don’t

understand. I didn’t spore in this new puddle, only splashed down, still myself.

 

I’ve been watching the last of the move-in bruises fade, the one that came not from boxes but my fist. The silhouette of palm and pinky is faintest stain

seventeen days since you asked me to stop hurting myself, “Please,” and I held back my hands along with the howling I’d dammed with blows.

 

You’d hoped the good sea air would heal me. It does. You hoped it would heal me

more. I want to tell you: This is life: how it feeds, how it poisons. The same act.

Ramblings on identity politics and what the heck a Maude activist is

For a while, my standard bio has included “writer, artist, Maude activist and novice game-maker” and omitted the rest of my potential laundry list of identity labels. The labels I have used are about what I do — what I do by choice, or at least without too much coercion by necessity or social pressure. Most are self-explanatory, while my “Harold and Maude” reference is perhaps a bit oblique. If you’ve read “A God’s Life,” you may have gotten the clue in “A test.” When Harold asks Maude if she’s done with revolts, she answers, in part, “Still fighting for the Big Issues, but now in my small, individual way.”

Not that I was ever an activist on the scale of Maude. Being always a behind-the-scenes kind of guy, I was a bureaucrat activist, booking the visits to legislators and paying the bills, talking as little as possible to either persons or crowds but doing it a great deal more than I wished, doing it because I had to, for the sake of the cause, the demands of the position, or because I was the only person-of-oppressed-class-X handy. That last was always my very favorite. (Need I employ the sarcasm tag?)

Several things I think of as important to who I am align with various identity-based movements, but I’ve tended to be uncomfortable with identity politics, though I’ve involved myself in them on and off, in the past to a very active degree. Coming to identity politics for refuge from the larger world of being-expected-to-be-what-I-am-not, instead of being thus freed, I found myself subject to all new unreasonable expectations as the price of admission to the community, often as rigidly enforced as the usual norms, or more so. Not all the groups I’ve been involved with have been dominated by identity boundary enforcers, but none have been devoid of them either. 

And yet there is a reason still to employ these labels at times, which I shall get to after that laundry list of identity labels you’ve so patiently awaited. I give it to you here with only a little more ado, or rather a part of it, the parts that seem most important at present:

  • aspie/autism spectrum/neuroatypical
  • nonbinary/genderqueer/transgender/transexual
  • queer/bisexual
  • atheist who used to be a Jew but doesn’t particularly think ze is anymore
  • mentally ill/crazy/disabled
  • possessor nevertheless of the privilege attached to being white and American

What makes most of these labels important is that they involve things people get denigrated for. Why should the fact that people’s genitals aren’t really a factor in my attractions be a matter of identity? Because I think knowing people who are X may do more than anything else to counter the idea that people who are X can also be presumed to be anything else not fundamental to the definition of X, or to being human. So I feel a duty to be “out” about such things.

Being a Maude activist, I try not to restrain any of my queernesses (though one is to be often so quiet very little of me is particularly perceptible much of the time).

These labels name things important to who I am, but they aren’t so important in determining whom I can relate to, or who’s likely to relate to me or my writing. Some of my closest friends are straight cisgender males! Though each part is important to me, none is me, as no part is the whole of anyone.

Being a Maude activist, I try to be my whole self at all times (though I often fail).

My farewell poem to New Mexico

At least, this is the farewell poem I’ve written before leaving New Mexico. I shan’t be surprised if I have more farewells to say when I’ve gone.

Crossing Puget Sound,

I say how unlike the odor

of the Atlantic, not noticing yet

I don’t mean I still miss that childhood

shade of brine. Months later, my nose

is still full of it. So you’ll come with me

back to water. We’ll let the desert

sands run out, at least the ones

we don’t carry there with us, the grains

that may spill sometimes when we blink.

Bob and Sari’s Farewell Reading

We’re leaving Albuquerque and relocating to the Seattle area at the end of July, but before we go we’d love to read you our poetry one last time. On Saturday, July 23, we’ll be in the Special Collections Library (room: Center for the Book) on Central and Edith NE from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Please come and join us in our farewell to Albuquerque, and pick up a book or two while you’re at it!

If you’d like to let us know you’re coming, RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.

Reading on 4/23, Releasing New Chapbook with Poems from the Locked Ward

Cover image for the chapbook "Call Me Crazy"
Download the free ebook
I’m reading at Los Griegos Library this Saturday (details below), and I’ll be giving away a limited number of zine-style copies of my new chapbook, “Call Me Crazy,” which deals with my three stints (so far) on a psychiatric ward in 2012 and 2013. Click here to download the ebook version. I’ll also read from “Courting Hunger,” “A God’s Life,” “god-chaser” and a few favorite poets.

More details about the reading:

Celebrate National Poetry Month at Los Griegos Library (map) with a round robin open mic on Saturday, April 23, 10:30 a.m. to noon. This month’s host and featured reader is Sari Krosinsky.

Sari is a writer, artist, Maude activist, and novice gamemaker. Ze has written three books of poetry and publishes Fickle Muses, an online journal of mythic poetry, fiction and art. Sari lives in Albuquerque, N.M., with zir partner, Robert Arthur Reeves.

This is the final reading in a monthly series at Los Griegos Library that began during National Poetry Month 2015. Participants are invited to remain at the end of the reading to discuss the possibility of continuing the series at another venue.

RSVP (optional) on Facebook or Meetup.

Poems of (partial) recovery

Some of the newer poems I’ve been working on deal with the comparative improvement in my depression over the last few months (and the elimination of extra pharmaceutical problems). Here are two of those, the first from last fall, when I was just getting through the medication withdrawal and starting to reemerge. 

Recovery

I’m having feelings again. I can’t tell you

which. I’ve forgotten their names.

Like small mammals, they creep

through the brush, leery of giants’ feet.

The small mammals evolved into lions-and-tigers-and-bears-oh-my since then. The next poem is from a couple weeks ago; I wrote the first draft on the way to print a proof copy of a chapbook dealing with my stints (thus far) on a psychiatric ward. 

Sunday Stroll

If anyone were near enough on the Sunday-empty

campus, they’d hear in the shortness of my breath

not the labored pant but the heated gasp

of being a physical body among physical

bodies—tree and lamppost, concrete and sky—

’til inattention turns my steps to the main street

and quiets me. I let my hair fall before my face

’til I can reappear as social animal and conceal

the bliss of muscle pulling bone under skin.

Ripples in Space-Time

Geeking out this morning over the detection of gravitational waves, I thought I’d share this poem from A God’s Life with Ben’s general relativity-based time travel idea—that one might be able to transform between movement in space and movement in time something like the way one transforms between mass and energy in special relativity. 

The Pesach Seder

 

A little girl—Rachel, Jeremy said—

holds a basket over her head

for me to choose from.

I draw a tiny triceratops,

find its mate on the table,

almost as far as possible from Jeremy.

 

Rachel sits next to me

and flashes a wide baby-flirt

smile. Then, she attacks

my triceratops with her stegosaurus.

 

Across the table, Jeremy secures a spot

by his other cousin. He asks Ben if he’s still

working on his time travel theory.

 

Ben straightens from his slump.

“Well, I’ve gotten as far as an approximate

equivalency between space and time,

but I need more calculus

before I can get it exactly equal.”

 

“What would you do, if you controlled

time?” I say. He answers, “I’d go back and see

what really happened.” But nobody sees that.

 

Michael, Jeremy’s uncle, comes

from the kitchen saying, “Chicken’s

in the oven. Let’s get this show on the road.”

 

After the first half of the Seder

over bowls of matzah ball soup,

Michael and Jeremy’s dad argue

about the war; his mother waits

for Grandma Ruth to finish the story about her first job

during the Depression. She’s heard it before.

 

A couple glasses of wine later,

Michael starts balancing plates

on his nose. Jeremy’s mom

punches her brother’s arm.

 

Rachel tugs my sleeve, beckons me

to lean closer. She tells me how her mother

used to put food out for the neighborhood

alley cats, and Rachel named them.

 

Her favorite was a gray tabby

with a hint of orange in his coat.

She named him Marmalade.

 

Then winter came, and Marmalade

stopped coming around. Ben explained

about death, about the unknowable.

 

Then, their mother died.

 

She says she hopes the stories

aren’t true, that there isn’t only one love

for each person. She says she doesn’t want

to believe god could be that cruel.

 

Later, on the subway, I pull Jeremy

into a crushing hug. “I love you, too,”

he says. I wish he didn’t.

 

Another new poem: Etiquette for Job Seekers

The new poems are still coming. Here’s another, inspired by some of the vastly sage professional advice and self-help tips I’ve heard.

Etiquette for Job Seekers

Do not cross your legs or hang them open.

The Deciders are great believers in the angles

a sentence makes, in the knowledge

measurable in degrees.

 

Do not ask questions.

They must believe you know everything

— yes, even where the bathroom is.

 

Do not slouch your shoulders and twist your fingers so.

They’ll think you’re hiding something

in the dimensions dancing inside the spacetime

between your palms, behind your chest.

 

Do not expect them to know

they don’t know you.

A real live new poem (Rated NS: Not Safe)

New poems have been mostly slow to come these years, but this one came in less than 24 hours, and it’s one I’ve been trying to write for years. I think I’ve managed it, this time. 

I bit a guy once.

I was 17 and didn’t know

he was roleplaying. He was 18

and I didn’t know he was roleplaying

for two months. I didn’t know that when he said

—as his fingers fucked me, handcuffed to a tree—

that I should say “no”

if I wanted him to stop, he meant

that exact word. When a few weeks later

I said, wanna stop

—around his bleeding hand between my teeth—

I didn’t know he thought I

was roleplaying. When I told him,

let’s not do this anymore,

he asked, why didn’t you just say “no?”