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on fitting in and dying out -- slam poetry by Matthew Kim

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

i want nothing more than to stand out.

to own this body, flaunt it,

to not care if the stares are from admiration or disgust;

i have this recurring dream—

i’m presented with a single button,

and if i press it, the next morning,

i wake up new.

i wake up beautiful.

and then i wake up—

i hate this body.

but, contrary to popular opinion, i have not disowned it.

i grip onto it like a poorly-kept secret,

hiding it in oversized hoodies and sweatpants,

hoping that nobody discovers what it truly is,

who i truly am,

i douse myself in uniformity to stay alive;

and i wish i could metamorphize into a better phenotype,

curl out of shape and into a world that’s built for me.

i’ve waited years to step

into the glamor of femininity

and look in front of me and see a world that’s mine to lose.

but i don’t even have a claim on my own aliveness;

i am at the mercy of people who avert their eyes at my sight,

the butt of jokes, bills, and guns,

my girlness is eye-candy for men,

target practice for fundamentalists.

and, in a world where my very existence is an act of resistance,

i have become too tired to fight back.

i have made my body a temple of america,

a never-ending endeavor at normality;

i have shed my personhood for the melting pot.

just to not be labeled a groomer at seventeen,

or a tranny,

a faggot;

so i don’t have to be scared of alleyways,

of walking outside and never coming back in,

because, contrary to popular opinion,

i don’t want to die—i’ve scarred over enough already;

i have stab wounds from where brianna ghey was taken in a public park.

i have blunt force trauma from where leelah alcorn was hit by a semi-trailer.

i have scars from the blade of disbelief i drove into my wrist when i realized my days as a boy were gone.

the world has taken enough life from us already.

so i laugh along as the firing squad focuses its arms.

i am the model minority,

i shut up, i do well,

i hate myself so others will love me,

it’s better when they think you’re funny,

so i’m the punchline.

because, if i’m stereotypical, maybe, i won’t stand out in a crowd enough to be murdered.

maybe, if i deny myself a dress, i’ll live past my thirties;

estrogen is no more than a fantasy for me,

i dream about injecting myself

until i realize that syringes aren’t the only blades that can mutilate the trans body,

the only thing i’m more scared of than being a boy is being a girl;

you see, i have this recurring dream where

i wake up new,

i have this recurring dream where

i wake up beautiful;

i have this recurring dream where i never wake up.


An Asian-American poet, journalist, activist and nerd born and raised in the Bay Area, Matthew Kim uses their poetry to explore gender, Christianity, second-generation Korean-American identity, and coming of age in an antagonistic, confusing world. When they’re not writing poetry, they love solving Rubik’s Cubes and reviewing music.

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