In Our Hearts

That’s your name and your name for us.
You gave it to us as a gift
Marked for us when you gave us life,
And you were so excited that you had to write it everywhere
On our birth certificates, our memories, our legacies, our obituaries—
And you even carved it into our hearts.
The words: I love you.
Because your home would always be our home
As long as home is where the heart is
And we know who our hearts belong to.
Because we’ll always be part of your “us”
Even when we tell you that we’re one of “them,”
Which was another name that you gave to us,
Even when you told us that no,
Of course we’ll never be one of them,
Because we’re family, and you love us.
And you would never make it so that we can’t come home,
Because how could you?

How could you, after you grew us in your bodies, puking your guts out all so that you could have a little baby boy
At your breast, eating your love and spitting it back out as goo goo and ga ga and mommy I love you—
How could you not love us, how could you not give us everything, even when we didn’t see it?
Even when we closed the doors to our rooms, locked our closets, and stopped talking to you,
Even when it seemed like the only thing we can ever do is hurt you
Because we hated your love,
Hated the silent dinner tables, the pointed questions,
Hated it when you told us you were so worried about us you stayed up all night
And then you Facebook-stalked us to see if we were trans or gay (which was really the same thing to you)
(Sidenote: I’m trans and gay)
And then we just stood there and lied to your face,
Because we loved ourselves more than we loved you.
But we can listen, and we listened,
Boy, did we listen.
We let you break our bones
We let you try to fix us, for our own good—
We listened when you told us that we don’t know what’s best for us,
Because of course we don’t know what’s best for us.
But we’re here now,
And ourselves, and real, and alive.
We made it, even though
We were born broken,
Born with your names, even though
We tried to make those names ours,
Pressed and pulled and pushed and carved
Because somewhere buried under these clothes and this skin is the little boy who loved you.
Remember that when we told you who we were,
You looked at us
As though we’d just killed your child,
Smashed ourselves to rubble
As though we hated your life’s work,
This vessel you made to hold your love.
As though we had to hate you
In order to love us, we had to hate us
In order to love you. But
Don’t you remember?
You were the one who taught us: that our love hurt you, that your
Love hurt us, that hurting
You hurt us.
Remember that we love you
Because it’s the only way we can hurt you.
How could we not wish that we could throw away our love, for you?
How could you not see that we loved you so
When we didn’t die,
Didn’t cry, because we didn’t know that we should have cried
When we were young:
When we were yours,
When we thought we were yours,
When we stripped ourselves naked in your closets and looked at ourselves in your mirrors, which were your eyes—
Because your eyes were the only eyes through which we could see ourselves
As we slipped into our clothes (which were actually
Yours), our colors, our names, our skin, our kisses, our fucks to give,
Brimming with sin.
When you forced us to eat with you
Because we shouldn’t eat with “those people, dear,
Because no son of mine would, and I love you,
And it breaks my heart that you don’t love me, that I didn’t love you enough to make you love me,
But I’m trying to do right now so just listen to your mama,
Just come out and back to me
So that I can see the real you.”
That was the us you’d named, the us that’s real
For you.
Those were your sticks and stones: us and them, dreams and reality—
Your reality, because there’s no place for us in reality so what do you expect when you tell us to
Stop daydreaming?
“Look in the mirror!”
“Wake up to reality!”
We don’t exist.
We’re not real.

It’s not easy to move on when our hearts never really left your home,
That place that taught us the meaning of cursed love, ours and yours.
There’s a reason people usually call psychics to summon ghosts rather than exorcize them
And lose a part of themselves, even as that part begins to possess them.
When we finally made ourselves learn the incantation
We couldn’t bring myself to use it against you
So here it is, finally,
Just hear us say the words: I love you.
So just try to look at us the same way, now
That we’ve taken your clothes and made them ours,
Now that we’ve taken your hugs and kisses and your love given to me to my ex to his datefriend to their boyfriend to
My people, our people, made of love—because,
You realize,
Everything you hate is what I love
And everyone I love is who I am
Because your “them”
Is our us
And your us
Is not our us,
Because your names are not our names,
And your names are not our names,
And your love is not our love,
So we’ll let you break our bones,
Turn us inside out so that maybe
You can really look inside us, take us in, and take our
Heart to heart.

About the Author

Alice Zhu is a trans, queer artist currently studying English and Women’s & Gender Studies at UT. Her hobbies include sleeping in, reading, and pretending to be shorter than she actually is. Sometimes she writes things.