The first Prince song I ever listened to on my own was I Would Die 4 U –I think I was using YouTube or something for the first time. I knew I was trying to get to When Doves Cry, because that’s the song of his that the radio played most often, and some of my earliest memories are dancing to it in my car seat. But it filled a void of nostalgia that wasn’t as simple as missing a past I had known and lived. I heard it and looked into some parallel past where a cohesive series of events grew me into a person who understood what they were and what it meant.
The more I do
I wasn’t born in the wrong body, because for me there is no right body. It’s more like I’m a begrudgingly invited guest; welcome at random intervals for unspecified amounts of time. A welcome guest overstaying said welcome.
The lonely part is just knowing how alien it is to not exist on an imaginary spectrum that people consider sacred—that’s so ingrained that people will, on the grounds of serious traditions, assign pronouns to inanimate objects before accepting the ones people choose for themselves. And it’s not like I’m not guilty of stepping back in the grasp of a trap I was born into. I’m a writer, and I struggle to fictionalize my own reality. Imagining people suspending disbelief for a world where a non-binary character isn’t
A lot of daily existence is putting myself to the side and not letting people know because it feels like too much, even when I don’t factor in those who maliciously and deliberately misunderstand me. I navigate the world as a Black person perceived as female. I’m already made to feel like I’m asking too much, or I’m doing too much, or I am too much. Regardless of gender identity, my family loves me and cares about me, and the logic, painful as it is, is thus: they don’t need any more reasons to worry about me or my safety. I would never discredit their intelligence, but I wouldn’t expect them to “get it,” and given that I’m still learning who I am to this day, I don’t trust myself to explain just yet. Like a lot of young QTPOC, I do struggle with mental health. I hope to one day to be in a place where I can be out, but as of right now, it’s a struggle to even quantify what’s holding me back, or to imagine what personal liberation would be.
The lyrics to I Would Die 4 U have stuck with me for so long that I almost feel like I was born knowing them.
I’m not a woman / I’m not a man / I am something that you’ll never understand.
This lyric, and by virtue this song, is what saves me sometimes. It transcends clothes, names, pronouns. I get so overwhelmed trying to nail down and compartmentalize fluidity to present to other people when really, no one will ever truly get it but me.
Written by Mars Exwyzi @iluvpingu2
Photography by They Them @theyshootthem