(heads up: contains stuff about health and bodies and dysphoria and stuff)

This week I was told I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), and because I am the type of person I am, I have spent much of the last two days doing research. Trying to understand what is going on in my body, and trying to figure out which of my multiple chronic health issues might be tied in with pcos. For those unfamiliar and now worried: it’s not something life-threatening, and it’s actually extremely common. There is no cure but it’s manageable, although my odds of developing some other, more dangerous things, like diabetes, are now higher than normal.

This is scary, but also a relief; a known problem can be addressed in ways that a nebulous feeling of something being wrong cannot. Maybe dealing with this health issue will clear up some others. I feel sort of hopeful and excited in addition to worried and overwhelmed. 

The thing about this diagnosis that is somewhat taking me by surprise is the dysphoria of it. So much of the information about PCOS is focused on concerns about fertility, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, passing on genes. The issue itself is often framed as “too much testosterone”, “excessive body hair”, “masculinization of the body”. (From what I understand, this could *also* be framed as “too much estrogen”, because if I’m not mistaken PCOS causes high levels of both testosterone and estrogen and low progestin, but also I’m not a scientist.)

As a genderqueer person with ovaries in my body, I am not loving spending this much time thinking vividly about those ovaries, and–the bigger problem–the expectations and attitudes put upon my body. 

So here are just a few things I want to think through in type, mostly for myself. 

Not everyone with a uterus wants to bear children. (Many do, and I absolutely wish them health and happiness in that endeavor! But this shouldn’t be your default assumption about strangers.)

Not everyone with ovaries is a woman, and some women do not have ovaries. Gender is not determined by genitals, or hormones, or secondary sex characteristics, or even by deliberate decisions you may make about genitals and hormones and secondary sex characteristics. 

A hormonal imbalance is something to be addressed due to the stresses it puts on the body and the potential hazards of underlying problems with the body’s systems that may be causing that imbalance–not because it’s inherently “bad” for a female body to be “masculinized”. 

I am still myself regardless of how much hair I do or do not have on my legs, or how I feel about my body, or how my moods may fluctuate. I am still myself regardless of whether symptoms I have been dealing with for a long time get better, or worse, or stay the same, or change. I am always myself, regardless of how I feel about my gender. I am always myself, regardless of any and all diagnoses I have received or will receive. I hope to heal my body, and to learn that body’s needs and serve them as best I can, with love and without judgement. 

December 2, 2016 (written for [Trans]formation)

whenever I am taking up space in a space made officially queer
not just in practice but in title, in queers only
I am seized by the panicked certainty
that I’m not queer enough to be there
in any of the relevant ways

because I don’t feel like a woman
but I sometimes feel like a femme
or like a permanent drag
or like a circus clown

and so people look at me and see long hair and lipstick
and the stubble on my partner’s cheeks
the broad shoulders on his tall frame
they recall the man before that
they forget the one before

they do not hear my thoughts
they do not know that no woman I have ever fucked or loved
has deigned to date me
to make me hers
despite my best efforts

they do not know that when I picture my body
it is exactly the same except
not defined by illness, or by anyone else
and maybe I have abs
and my hair is ten inches longer
and my dick six

and I say I changed my name to be more easily googled
and I guess that’s true
but as time goes on it gets less so

and as I get older I get less butch but more masculine
whatever that means
like I want to put on a skirt and interrupt you in a meeting
I don’t know

I am feeling not only a little adrift
but like my writing is truly suffering from being this direct
like I’m embarrassed, like it’s crass
like I don’t have the right to get up and say
hello my name is Sid Branca and I’m genderqueer
and you can use they and their when you talk about me
because you and I and anyone with eyes most days
we all know I’m femme as fuck

and while we say presentation and identity are not the same
if you’ve been around for a minute you may have noticed
that if you were born with a vagina and you like to wear dresses and kiss boys
it doesn’t matter how much hair you grow out
or how many girls or how many more complicated constructions you are kissing
or how many more complicated constructions you build yourself into
and destroy and build again
you will be seen over and over again as straight and as a woman

even if in your mind you’re not even human
but more like something that fell like a meteor in a field
or crawled out of a tree, all sticky with sap

I picture myself a thing made out of mud and whispered over
bits of sapling trees and string
or the workings of igneous rock
or a robot built out of spare parts in a desolate future
where we don’t have time to give a shit about gender
because we are busy scouring the desert for water

or I come from an alien planet where all sex is telepathic
and genitals are things that morph with thought
and not a fixed item to be compared with your fashion sense
to determine which diversity grants you can apply for
or who yells at you in the street
but when I look to the oracle of the internet
to show me a reflection of myself
to see what I should call me
I google genderqueer and I do not see an ocean the size of a body
or a person carved from wood and given life through sheer will

I scroll through masculine people, whatever that means,
who have vaginas and short haircuts like I used to
and I see beards paired with lipstick
and truly they are all so beautiful and handsome and good

but I’m not genderqueer enough to be here
because the bodies that I see the most of myself in
are those of certain trans women
which is surely some kind of offense
some kind of thing I should not say
when you consider that when I was born they said it’s a girl

even though in my fantasies they say
dear god what is that thing
it must have come from the crash site
or they say, look what I made at school today
or they gasp quietly into the laptop night
because finally, after all these years,
they found the extremely specific porn they were looking for
and they wept

when I am dead–when the world outside or inside my body
has brought it to a halt–
when I am dead, my bones will still be queer.

and if I am lucky enough to be buried straight into the ground,
the dirt my body seeps down into will be queer
the little flowers, the worms
the oxygen the plants breathe out
all queer as the day is long

and if tradition gets the better of my wishes,
in all that needless shining weight
the atoms of my coffin will be queer 

or the button that my baby brother pushes
to change my body into ash
the button, and the fire, and the smoke

if I should die of old age married
to a kaleidoscope
that our foolish language calls a man

or if I should die somewhere
in the flash point of hatred 
watching sacred spaces evaporate
like water on hot stones

a sign on my chest and my jaw working
trying to get one last kiss blown
one last showtune belt out 
one last middle finger up 

while the world that has given me everything
takes also everything away 

either way: hello, for however long,
and to have been once goes on forever.

when I am dead, my bones will still be queer. 
the little flowers, the worms. 


april 15, 2015 - sidbranca / thisbedisaship

today I was thinking about learning spanish,
mostly for small reasons centered around myself

to sing Selena songs at karaoke
to save myself the gringa tax and occasional embarrassments

to have something to talk to my little brother about on the phone while he’s at his new school because lord knows I’ve forgotten all my calculus and I am too afraid to talk to him about anything real because I know we both still have slugs in our blood we are both not always well we are both not always sure whether we are having the appropriate reaction we both have built such delicate structures to keep the madness rushing out and breaking everything so let’s please for my own sanity’s sake stick to adjective agreements and dormitory food

to better make my way through southern california
to remind this boy of his mother in panama
before his fluttering hands push his hair back and pick at tablecloths and move drinks up to his lips until they finally settle tight around my neck
while he is finally very still, while he looks me dead in the eye

but then I wished I could tell this man standing on the sidewalk
that he didn’t need to feel bad in that moment
that I had been there
that I have taken many trains on other people’s dimes
that I likely will again

and now, alone in bed, I simply have my fragment french
and the half-remembered ending to someone else’s poem:

todo cuanto los dos hemos callado
lo tenemos que hablar

scrap thoughts:

I lift my head up for a breathing look, here, above the ocean of my living:

how strange, how lonely and afraid I feel, when so much of my days are filled with the pressing hopes and loves of others.

how constantly ravenous for love (the distant flutter of wings, suddenly up close), despite just how much of it I have somehow stumbled into receiving.

I remember that it is human to be afraid. I look at the snow. 

I remember that it is human to long for that which you already have. 

I am, as we all are, a creature of longing. I am snapping with the jaws of time. 

I sit at my kitchen table and I imagine, briefly, a row of plants on a sunlit porch and the sight stabs me in the chest.

I think: I just want to be the kind of slut I want to be forever, and I want that to be yours and yours and yours, to hitch our circus wagons up and take in tightrope walkers as they come. 

I think: these boys all mean a lot to me, and I need to find someone I could ever trust to read this compare and contrast essay I’ve been writing in my head, this painting of the different locks they pick in me. 

I think: I’ve gotten in over my head and I probably like it. 

My skin breaks out in red because I like sleeping in your cum.

I tattoo your name on the inside of my mouth while I’m dreaming. 

I’m in love all the time, I’m in love all the time, but time is always running out on me, collapsing in on itself. 

I am lulled by a chorus of voices, but yours is the one that speaks my name the most. 

I want all my one night stands to know how fucking cute you are. 

[maybe abandonment issues are good for the skin]

I’m explaining it to my best friend and as I say it I realize it’s true– for so long now my love and my plans have been all or nothing, the affections I receive have been all or nothing

either you’re obsessed with me or you’re goddamn ghosting

(I mean you in the general sense)

(I realize this is, in addition to being true, not actually true)

either you’re speaking your love for me in a lust-filled recitativo, a repeat until end of drive space, a gleaning out of marriage leanings, a complete devotion in all unwaking hours, the twining through of all my days,

or you’re threatening to leave me on a midnight sidewalk in the San Fernando Valley, asking me how much money is in my bank account, asking me nothing and answering me nothing, sliding your hands in to other hands while I think about sleeping in a park, while I think about sleeping in a snow bank

and so many people have disappeared on me that I assume that it must be my fault

and I’ve still never seen Gaslight and I’m afraid to

and I never got a letter back from that wife in California

and I don’t know man it’s hard for me I guess to know how to be exactly the right level of casual in literally everything

so mostly I keep to myself in a life full of crowds and ex-lovers

I’m gonna figure it out I’m gonna figure it out I’m gonna figure it out

how not to be so afraid that everyone will leave me

because everybody knows that everybody will.