Femme on Purpose

I read this for the first time at UCLA for the Noche de Joteria as part of AJAAS (Association for Joteria Arts, Activism and Scholarship) in June. It was one of the first versions and now I am working on figuring out how it should look on the page. Most of the work I acutally share is first narrative in nature even though I reserve the right to explore any and every form I so please. Still thinking about punctuation, space, tense structure, line breaks, prose blocks, why my poem is so damn epic…*but mostly would love to hear your first impressions. Please be aware there is some violent language.


Words tattooed like nightmares

puta, perra, traitdor, mojada wetback, fucking weirdo, cunt whore, you’re not a woman, pinche drag queen, tranny, fucking freak, jota, maricón, fucking bitch, get out of my way you fucking bitch

She yells these words crouching down

in my classroom

looking each student in the eye

hissing and taunting

not letting them settle into their seats

for their introduction to trans 101

Looks of horror, confusion, disgust, recognition, discomfort, sadness

blink back at her

dart over to where I am seated

my back turned to them

so they can’t search my face for approval or comfort.

A taste of what I experience every day

Walking these streets, on the bus, going to school, on my way to work, in the daytime, at night.

Everyday I step outside to the judgments and fears reminding me of my place. I tire. But I never let it break me. My spirit has weathered too much for me to ever let down.

And every lesson about migration, gender violence, homophobia, the patriarchy, economic inequality, I have concocted to produce discussion comes screeching from squiggles in their notebooks right there into their face

speaking a language that calls both mind and heart to the discussion

They can’t look away

hide in text book descriptions

or parrot back to me essays what they think their profe wants to hear

Before them, this tall hazel eyed mujer, with shades of walnut long hair

frame indigenous features full lips form every lilt of word some careful and determined

some soft and hopeful

some matter of fact and biting

her laugh cuts through any sorrow

Students eyes wide and careful, polite, stumbling over words to get it right.

Trying not to offend.

What else do you want to know? Do you want to know how I do it? Where I put it? Who I let hold me? What my status is? Do you want to know? Are you thinking about it? Cause I do. I want to hear it all. Don’t be afraid. Now is not the time to hold your tongue. Cause here I have the time to speak back for each time they tried to break me, steal my humanity.

I won’t judge you.

I won’t hurt you like they hurt me.

She weaves stories of being tied to a chair

until she washed secret stash of makeup from her face

rejected dreams of dresses, and tight jeans and playing with socks stuffed under blouses to imitate curves

her mama told her were not for her

Her father snuck dolls, knows she likes pink and whispered mija, tu eres mi hija

to her when her mother was out of earshot

Her brothers stop walking with her to school

ran up ahead so no one think she belonged to them

She didn’t sell her body over there. She works in a second hand clothing store, adopted by fairy god mother who shows her how to contour the sharp edges of her face

how she knows the girls of the streets but didn’t want that wanted to go to school wanted a career

Had a boy friend who took her shopping and to the movies.


After class over Chinese food in the Castro proud of every English word she can use to order spring rolls and chow mein.

She says ask me anything. Do you want to know what I’ve had done? I earned every cut.

I think how my own body has been under attack on these streets the way men have whistled and sneered and even hissed

nice tits want to fuck? I want to cum all over that ass!

while walking two blocks from my car on Capp street to the

Noche de queer cumbia. Where I think it’s safe to be a sexually actualized mujer.

Catcalls regulate who belongs where and what kind and how and when

no matter how many degrees or dollar signs I add to my name safety is something I have to think about.

But I will never know what it is to have been beaten unrecognizable for the body of mujer that is still being sculpted that is emerging from these stories like a song in rehearsals wanting to be sung. Practiced polished, effortless.

She says ask me anything

I tell her I want to hear more about your boyfriends. Do you believe in love? How are your English classes going. Do you like your new job as a health promoter?

The things I ve done for love. The things I have to done to come to este país

Tu no eres lesbiana si te gusta las butchas machas or trans she says to me.

she worked so hard to be the woman she is today she can’t imagine falling outsidethe lines of gender on purpose. It’s just not for her she says.

And I laugh

Patient in my own stories of what is under the dressing I present

That my queer is on purpose, that my femme is on purpose,

that it was earned with scars doubt discovery self love

like she did.

never found a boy that could make love like a woman, although I tried.

I tell her loving women is like loving myself times two.

She says she’s always wanted to know what its like to kiss a woman.

Queer is a funny word.

Hard to say the vowels get caught between the lips and teeth the R falls silent when she speaks it

We don’t have a word to translate that word She says.


You know femme was never about clothes, the presentation of the box

or who holds my hand

My femme has wild teeth, has tomboy roots, ragged nails, has scars from sliding into first base

dresses ripped by clumsy boys, fights nightmares of war stories

the hard shell of my femme holds sweetness, caresses bruises, and rings knuckles in case I have to fight my way out of danger

can run in heels if I have to

Flags queer with nail polish and glitter, the books I read, makes friends into family raises my own eyebrows at gender, the way Oakland queers express themselves with their asymmetrical hair cuts fashioning radical politics out of ironic t-shirts community gardens, fanny packs and neon leggings from my youth, wears slacks and bright lipstick to work

My femme has put my tomboy to bed,

Knows how to take pain that is wanted, that screams pleasure, negotiates the terms consenting sexy

whispers yes yes yes.

My femme’s been beat down from self hate, the shoulda could wouldas in my rearview,

the wound is my trophy, the fierce in my soft armor,

digs bare feet into earth calls moon to chest ocean wash request

dresses up sadness with sequins, fake flowers to the hilt when I want to shakes off the cobwebs,

and cleavage that begs come on please.

I dare you to.

these chichi’s are political.

I am exactly as I should be.


Didn’t come to this country to sell her body so she could get the body that she wants

this is not the story she came here to tell me

It was a job. I got paid for it, she says

don’t ever feel sorry for me. That’s the worst offense you could offer.

The rest doesn’t bother me. My spirit is stronger than it ever has been before.

This is how I learn femme solidarity

reflected femme fierceness

From women who’ve earned it.

Who are different.

Who are femme.

On purpose.

Just like me.

Maya Chinchilla 2012