• Loma Cuevas-Hewitt

Escape routes

Another day in the shatterbelt between tectonic genders, and you can't seem to find an outfit that works. Unbidden, their mocking laughter begins playing itself on loop in your mind and a slew of other unwanted memories ensue: What's the point, you're never gonna look like a woman anyway, you'll look ridiculous, no one will take you seriously, all you're gonna do is invite bullying and discrimination, why do you have to go out in public like that, why can't you just keep your crossdressing to yourself at home behind closed doors, why do you need to dress like a woman anyway, so you can attract men? You're deluded, we don't believe you, you're just doing it for the attention, are you sure it's not just a phase, you're ruining her life, how could you be so selfish, think about what you're doing to everyone around you, what has Sydney turned you into, they're not your real friends, you've fallen in with the wrong crowd, just like your drug-addict brother.

Just when you thought you had found clarity and self-love, their confusion and hate becomes your own until your image in the mirror begins changing before your eyes. Through their eyes, you no longer see a liberated woman, out-and-proud and living her truth, but a sad pathetic she-creature in a dress, eyeliner and mascara now smudged from salty tears. Mannish, fat and unlovable, you collapse in a heap amidst piles of unfolded laundry. There, on your thin camping mattress, because what's the point of buying a bed if you might not be here tomorrow, you howl and wail and then sob yourself to sleep in deep emotional exhaustion. You forget to call in sick to work, but your phone has died anyway.

You wake up somewhat disappointed to still be alive, and lie there for hours, numb. It takes all your strength to get up, let alone fix your face and have to deal with yourself in the mirror again. But as you re-apply your make-up, you feel yourself slowly coming back. Your concealer doesn't conceal so much as reveal, and your mascara isn't a mask but removes the mask you've been forced to wear for far too long. You find a femme ensemble that helps you feel adequate again, and you know a walk would be good for you. Walk you do, but to nowhere in particular, across the Eastern Distributor, through Moore Park and up Crown Street when, What did you say? You heard me. And yes, you had heard correctly, he called you a faggot-bitch, his reading of you being somewhere between a man and a woman, resulting in a curious compound slur. But these thoughts came later because in the moment you were dumbstruck at how the universe delighted in kicking you while you were down. I feel sorry for you, must be hard to be you with all that hate in your heart, you find yourself saying. You walk away without revealing anything of your momentary fantasies of violence, but the old slogan of 'Queers Bash Back' gives you comfort. You try to walk it off and feel a sense of relief upon reaching Oxford Street - until you notice gay men checking you out, and you realise they're not attracted to you as a trans woman but rather for your vestiges of mannishness. Then the barista calls you 'sir', and the universe twists the knife in further.

You want to either disappear or click your fingers and be a woman already. But disappearing would be an all-too-permanent solution that would forever foreclose your chance at knowing happiness as a woman. In that moment, at your lowest point, you find your reason to live.


Loma Cuevas-Hewitt (she/they/siya) lives on the banks of the Parramatta River on the unceded lands of the Wallumedegal people of the Darug Nation.

She also lives in the borderlands of race, gender and sexuality, being a proudly queer nonbinary womxn of colour of Filipinx and Caucasoid ancestry.

She works as a researcher and moonlights as a trans liberation warrioress and aspiring prose poet.

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