To Liz

I call Liz my “trans mom” because she hatched me—made me realize I was trans—back when she came out while we were both undergraduates. We were the same year at Caltech, and she organized a web-forum for all the incoming freshman, back in those days before Facebook made such things obsolete. We’ve managed to stay friends since then, but she is always very busy, so I don’t get many chances to talk to her.

“To Liz”
July 2018, in Catonsville, Maryland

Sometimes, even now, I can’t quite believe you could really exist.

My first memories of you, when you were just a name online
are of one thing alone: competence, condensed and made solid.
Though you seemed what I thought Blacker was, in those early days,
You remained real when I saw Blacker for the mirage it was.

I’m not sure we really knew each other in those first years at Tech.

I wanted to be your friend, but knew I wasn’t worthy:
Did you know how glad I was to learn from and teach frosh with you,
How proud I was when I managed to cook food that you’d eat,
How much I learned about myself when you told us who you were?

When you left the bubble that is Tech, I was sad and proud and scared.

But, of course, at least so far as we at Tech could see,
You flourished and were happy in that foggy north you fled to,
And when, on Ditch Day, you returned to Tech to lead our stack
You seemed a wizard princess, who wrought worlds from your will alone.

Sharing Boston with you for half a decade was a second chance.

For both of us, I think, it was such a healthier place,
And, though you grew inexplicably tired and distant,
– I didn’t notice the war you were beginning to fight –
It was so wonderful when you found time for an audience.

And finally, now, after all these years, I think I understand.

Or at least I am beginning to grasp a little bit,
Enough to realize what you are fighting, and achieving,
And to wish I had the strength and skill to be your comrade
Or, at least, to find a way to ease your pain and give you joy.

If it has taken a dozen years for me to understand you,
then, perhaps, in the next dozen I can learn to help you.