“I read a headline today:
“Preferred” Pronouns Gain Traction at US Colleges.
and I couldn’t help but think
even when we get a victory
we’re still prisoners of punctuation.
Trapped in quotations, like the air-quotes
that mocked me in seventh grade
when I wore boy’s clothes to school
and no one said I wore “boy” clothes to school.
No one mocked the gendered shoes.
No air-quotes around my flannel button-down shirt
marketed for males only. The quotes go around
things like “normal” instead. Punctuation trapped
words I chose for myself. Like normal.
Like my name.
Quotes around words like “intersectionality”
and “genderqueer” and “pansexual” in the newspaper
because even when they concede to using our words
they have to make sure we know
they don’t really believe it.
The little red line on my computer screen reminds me
they’re just humoring “us”
and our made-up “words”
highlighted with quotations
that point and laugh so everyone knows we aren’t real
and fenced in on either side by punctuation
so we can’t escape.
I want my words to be like everyone else’s.
I want feminism in a sentence like your morning coffee
and genderqueer in the spellcheck dictionary like lamp and courage.
I want my words to be no different than the ones you already use
and I want you to stop putting air quotes around normal.”