The laptops were gone, requisitioned for a phone bank,
putting a crimp in my volunteer plans,
my hands sidelined—
no data entry that afternoon at Freedom for All Massachusetts.
Staff in the hallway shuffled talk of political districts, voter registration rolls,
sign-up slots, messaging to religious communities, resource allocation,
while I humbly wielded the paper cutter and stood patiently by the copier.
They were professionals.
They direct a campaign that will move people in the hundreds of thousands,
those whose contact cards I slice with the paper cutter,
whose sometimes callow commitments I register in the database.
I became a voiceless assembly line,
no comment except the squeal of the slicing blade.
I entered an identity fog.
Perhaps I can’t follow the strategy,
but I can take a walk in the park,
request a tofu combo in a cafeteria,
visit a clinic’s waiting room,
and consider the wonder of those things.
Ponder a world where people whom
I didn’t know existed ten years ago
will stand newly erect,
erected thanks to brave recognitions,
slurp estrogen-bearing tofu with me,
sling free bodies across the benches,
and laugh with the strategists.
In 2016, Senate Bill 2407 protecting transgender people’s access to public places filled a human rights gap in Massachusetts. After being passed with enormous support (voice vote in the Senate and 117-36 in the House), the bill was attacked by a shadowy national anti-transgender alliance. On Tuesday, November 6, Massachusetts voters issued the first direct voter statement on transgender rights in the US, turning out to uphold the law in a decisive 69-to-31 percent result. The effort to support the law drew together an enormous coalition and hundreds of on-the-ground volunteers from many diverse communities. More than 100,000 conversations were held, turning a threat into a glorious educational opportunity.
This poem was published in Outliers, Conclave Literary Journal Book 5, 2020.
October 3, 2018