Growing up, I had lots of days where I felt more like a boy than a girl. It’s taken me over 20 years and help from a good friend for me to identify this as being bigender. But I’ve spent so long identifying strictly as female that embracing this aspect of my identity is difficult. But I recently heard people arguing whether or not Pluto had been reinstated as a planet (it hasn’t), this potential back-and-forth swing of Pluto’s identity felt like a nice comparison to my own. Here’s my first crack at that:
The first time I heard
that you might not be a planet,
I was eight years old.
My teacher explained that your orbit
was too eccentric,
crossing for periods into Neptune’s.
Funnily enough, eccentric has two definitions–
one referring to how circular something is,
and the other to how conventional it is–
and you properly fit both definitions.
This class discussion came about three years
after I tried to get everyone to call me James.
They assumed I was obsessed
with James and the Giant Peach,
an obsession that would (and did) pass,
but on into middle and high school,
I found myself waking up some days
imagining myself a boy.
The name changed–
went from James to Connor to Simon and on.
It didn’t happen every day.
Sometimes, in sheer femininity,
I wore my favorite sundress and painted my nails bright pink.
But I would inevitably circle back around
to this other self, as if crossing an invisible line
that changed my place in the world.
I was favoring the name Tobias when
they decided you weren’t a planet anymore.
And a dozen years later,
with people still fighting over what to call you,
well… I get it.
I get the back and forth between identity
that doesn’t favor the delicate in between.
And I know this isn’t a perfect metaphor
because you never got to choose your labels,
but in a sense, neither did I.
At age five, I declared myself planet
and was relegated to kuiper belt object,
told I couldn’t be anything other than female.
I was too eccentric for people to understand,
locked in an on-going tug-of-war between two selves.
And maybe there isn’t supposed to be a winner.
Maybe you have always been not quite planet
and not quite something else,
as I have always been not quite boy and not quite girl.
And maybe people will spend the rest of their lives
debating what to call us, but please know,
far away as we may be, that you are not alone.