We Don’t Talk About Adrienne: A Trans- Disturbing of (Y)our Silence

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By G Koffink

A conduit for the trans- men gone before me, I rely on their spirits to guide my hands as I search, learn and produce. However for the past two months, I felt no one on my shoulders, no tender lover curled in my arms, I felt no one, other than myself. 

Hence, I want to use these essays to “crawl through” and feel for him, her, them, it, whoever emerges from these “internal [worlds] that are far more powerful and permanent” (Nicolazzo, 2022, p. 131). Not searching, instead, tracing our steps to see where we strayed. This essay specifically sets the contextual frame of where we find ourselves in this ephemeral now.

Finally awake in the cattails, we struggle to rise from a kneeling position. Angry, shouting, we “spit and shit” with the hums of the world (Banias, 2020, p. 38). Among us, are voices that I do not understand, or at least I do not try to sing with. 

Between us, we did not engage with the Adrienne Rich article. Instead, we chose the critique of two trans- poets of her as a “special friend / and critic” in Janice Raymond’s The Transexual Empire (Banias, 2020, p. 41). While certainly not the article requested, I believe engaging with trans- poetics is another “frame” to discuss what feminist research “want[s] to remember” and therefore bring to the “forefront [of] our memories and lived realities (Ware, 2017, p. 171; Evans-Winters, 2019, p. 14). 

Engaging with Rich through the method of trans- poetics, we locate ourselves in a place of momentary comfort and growing unease. We love the balloon of anger in our sternum. However, it becomes exhausting to breathe through this “index of betrayals” found in the obedience of affirming intellectual ancestors (Banias, 2020, p. 37). It is here, in our muddy pants, vaulting the remnants of latex feelings, I see the gray sky. 

The wind nods. The clouds whisper with rain. I see that even in the safety of my rib cage, I am still in a cage. We grow restless not only with exhaustion but how cloudy the sky above us is. 

We do not know what is beyond that anger. How else can we be? 

How do we settle with our hurt, without the “[apathetic] cannibalization [and pacification]” of this field, more a wetland taking us under? (Nicolazzo, 2022, p. 127) We’ve been alive for over twenty-three years now, more as we “[manipulate the] notion of time [,] place [and presence]” and we are still… afraid of what is (not) below anger and grief (Evans-Winters, 2019, p. 14). 

Alongside Banias’ erasure of Raymond’s book, Bryn Kelly (dis)engages with Rich through an implicit reflection on a conference she volunteered at (Kelly, 2020, p. 55). Rich is only mentioned twice in the piece by full name. Instead, Kelly chooses to interact with her rage through a speech given by Frances Goldin who was at the same conference as Rich. She encourages the readers to “watch [and listen to Goldin’s speech] all the way through,” asking us as Goldin does: to remember the humanity of our comrades (Kelly, 2020, p. 57).

Goldin speaks to the sweetness of “comrades” despite how we may “[smile] the kind of smiles that are about bearing our teeth to each other” (Kelly, 2020, pp. 57-58). Necessitating a radical vulnerability and trust, Kelly reminds us that even in the weeds of our anger, we need others. No matter the wreckage, our comrades, our ancestors, are still frames through which we see specific issues, emotions, and bodies, no matter how tight we close our eyes and look the other way (Evans-Winters, 2019). 

We are radical in the sense that we oppose those things that hurt us. But even in the framing of poetics, in our bitter disengagement with Rich, in opposition, we still feel pain. Bryn Kelly is dead, committed suicide in January of 2016. So is Frances Goldin, June 2020. So is Adrienne Rich. 

In short, no method of (dis)engagement with a trans-phobic author will make us less tired. We are still tired and crying. Now though, the mud sinks with us. The tails bend, in shelter, in comfort, my comrades brushing my back.

And the rain drops knock comfort on this ribcage. 

And the rain drops knock comfort on this ribcage. 

Who else could be here with me?

G Koffink (they/them/theirs) is an autistic Masters’ Student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. Their current work focuses on the creative survival of trans- masculine individuals through poetry, zines, memoir and drag performance.  Outside of their work, G enjoys crochet, cutting their own hair and reading modern variations of Mary Shelley’s (1818) Frankenstein. 

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