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FTM slam poet: Miles

January 14, 2010

This piece “Lillian”, by an FTM poet called Miles,  blew my mind so hard that it forced me out of the lull in my blogging.

Miles was given the name Lillian by his parents, but in this poem he tells the story of guarding that name for his future daughter. Given the distress that so many trans people –myself included– associate with our birth names, it’s so liberating to see someone rebuild that pain into an idea this sweet and beautiful.

Here’s the video and –after the jump– the transcription I typed up. If anyone knows anything about Miles, please let me know — I’d love to hear more of his work, but the video doesn’t have enough information to go on. Edit: commenter Andy let us know about Miles’s blog.

“Lillian” by Miles

I will name you Lillian
because to me it sounds like running through a garden
and with every step you take in life I want you to feel as beautiful as the flower I’ll call you.
And don’t worry about your mother:
whenever I meet her, I’ll convince her I deserve naming rights.

But more importantly, Lillian, you will inherit from me the one thing
the world will let me give you.
I can’t hand you my curly hair or blue eyes,
so you will have the name that has followed me
from birth certificate to driver’s license to passport,
all the while knowing it was never really mine.

Your middle name will be Olivia.
For years I hated the name;
it burned through the paper of any official document I filled out,
seared my ears when it escaped the tongue of a stranger,
and annihilated my entire body anytime I had to incorrectly introduce myself.

But Lillian, I understand what happened now.
See, I am just the middleman; the accidental address on the package.
The name was given to me, to hold onto for you,
my future daughter.

For you I keep it safe, protected from people who gawk at me,
not understanding why my short hair and masculine appearance
can’t match the sweet femininity in the name.
Or people who do understand and hate me for it,
attacking the way I bypass the barrier of biological sex
because I know that what I feel is more important than what I see in the mirror.
And people who think I should conform to the name I was given,
ignoring everything I know about myself,
the same people who will someday hate our family because of me.

But through it all, Lillian, always remember that I love you.
I’ve never met you,
but I love you.
My future daughter.

So I hold the name under my shirt, against my chest,
and with every heartbeat the syllables provide me a new sense of rhythmic direction.
Because I know I’m moving towards you.
The name Olivia no longer hides in the back of my throat but floats off my tongue.
A promise of beauty; a promise of purpose. A promise of you,
my future daughter.

Someday, Lillian Olivia, after you’ve mastered the art of the two-wheeled bike,
I’ll take you to the top of the tallest hill in town and we’ll soar down,
secretly wishing we could take off into the rushing wind and at the bottom I’ll tell you that
that feeling was how your father felt,
knowing someday, you’d be in his world.
And he’d finally get to give you your name.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2010 10:20 pm

    Wow, that made me get tears in my eyes. What a beautiful way to take something painful and redefine it.

  2. Avery permalink
    January 15, 2010 2:39 am

    This is beautiful.

  3. joaquinjack permalink
    January 15, 2010 5:06 pm

    I think I know what to do with my name now. Almost…

    Except…

    It hurts so much now to hear it, I wouldn’t want to feel that every time I looked at my daughter. I have a friend who has my name, and even among friends who don’t know what my old name was, every time I hear someone call out for her, I wince, and I resent her for having it.

    No.

    I’ll be leaving it behind me.

    • genderkid permalink*
      January 18, 2010 12:01 am

      Yeah, I think I couldn’t do it either. I also have a friend with my given name, but luckily people came up with nicknames so they could tell us apart. That’s how I got a gender-neutral nickname, yay!

      Thankfully, I don’t hate hearing my name so much, except for when people call me that; and even then, I mostly feel weird and detached — did that name really refer to me before? I only get really frustrated when I hear that name and automatically turn around: it’s a reflex reaction, but it still feels like I’m acknowledging the wrong name.

      As much as I admire Miles for giving his birth name a new meaning, I know that not everyone could do it; we all have differing relationships towards our given names and only some of them can be rebuilt towards something positive.

      • maggs permalink
        January 21, 2010 3:07 am

        Hey!

        I REALLY love this….

        thanks for posting it. You should check out tristan… she’s so good.

      • genderkid permalink*
        January 23, 2010 11:43 pm

        Thanks for the recommendation, maggs. I watched the video and I’ll look up her work.

  4. Andy permalink
    January 17, 2010 10:14 pm

    http://poetrymaybe.blogspot.com/2009/08/lillian.html

    I googled one of the lyrics. Someone who posted a link in their blog from your blog found his blog…

    • genderkid permalink*
      January 17, 2010 11:04 pm

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to read more of his poems.

  5. February 5, 2010 10:38 pm

    It’s so touching, and cute. I’ve watched it many times, and showed it to my closest friends who loved it as well. We are kind of “susanitas” and fantasize about our future children´s names, and how we would raise them and so on.

    And, as usual, you provided a great perspective on something I hadn’t put much though into, like the given gendered name for trans folks.

    I had googled Miles to no avail, so thanks for the blog URL.

    • February 5, 2010 10:52 pm

      Jajaja, Susanita : D (By the way, for a long time I’ve wanted to name my daughter Ana. It’s a special relative’s name.)

      You’ve become such a good ally, Anita. I bet you’ve changed a lot of people’s minds. Thanks! I know that if I visit Montevideo, I’ll find lots of trans-friendly people that you’ve converted. (Weeelll, I know Montevideo is big, but still.)

      I found out that Miles’s last name is Walser, so that makes it easier to find other videos on Youtube (there are a lot).

      • February 5, 2010 10:57 pm

        This might sound creepy, but I actually had a dream about you coming to Montevideo. I did not know it was possible to dream about people you’ve only met from blogs, msn, etc. jajaja. At least in my dream, you found lots of trans-friendly people and nobody really cared whether you were trans or not. I was your hostess, of course.
        And it’s not THAT big, actually. We all have 2 degrees of separation, at most, jeje.

      • February 5, 2010 11:12 pm

        That’s neat. I wish I had contacted you when you came to Buenos Aires; I think I was going through a tough time (although I can’t remember exactly what had happened). I don’t know if I already told you, but I loved finding your blog because, somehow, I could tell that you’re the kind of person who would make a great friend.

        Otra vez será. ¡Viva la cercanía geográfica! Actually, I often daydream about moving to Uruguay at some point in my life; it seems like a great place to live. We always get news about cool things that happen in Uruguay and journalists offer it as an example of what Argentina could be like if we stopped messing up.

  6. Jem permalink
    February 16, 2010 5:56 pm

    That was amazing. Made my heart melt or…something. It felt good either way. :) I talked to someone a while ago that said they saw a trans man do a poem about naming his daughter his assigned name, I think it may have even been this one.

  7. reen permalink
    June 10, 2010 6:34 pm

    What an uplifting thing to read. Such a brave thing to feel, respecting that name without any bitterness. I couldn’t do it for my past name or future child…
    Thank you for sharing this, genderkid.

  8. August 17, 2011 4:52 pm

    I was so impressed, as a sometime slam poet myself. What an important thing to be saying to people. And how courageous to say it on stage. Gifted performer. :)

  9. March 24, 2013 11:40 am

    I know I’m late posting, but this was beautiful. I created an interesting pictorial representation of it, using wordle.net. Thought I should share it.
    I love how big the word “name” is. It kinda highlights to me how important a right name is.

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