"The First Time Someone Asked For My Pronouns" by Jo Matsaeff



Exeter Pride 2018. In a bar crowded

with maskless people,

a stranger wrapped up in a stripy flag

ran to me and asked for


my name and pronouns.

I heard myself say they/them

and it was like a galaxy was born

inside my mouth that day.


There’s a special terror to uttering

your real name for the first time,

there’s an exhilarating joy to realising that

yourself is finally happening outside of a notebook.


For a few minutes we shared this anger

turned into pure joy that is Pride before they

took off, as quickly as they came, probably

on their way to freeing someone else.


When they left, my cousin who can’t

speak a word of English asked

if they were a friend of mine

and I said Now they are.


Nearly three years later,

looking down at the shiny they/them pin

attached to my shirt, I don’t remember

which flag, which name or which pronouns.


All that’s left is this piercing look, kind enough

to actually see me. A couple of blue eyes

opening their wings, gifting me the sky

and daring me to fly.




Jo Matsaeff is a neurodivergent queer teacher based in France. Their work focuses on mental health, trauma and queerness. They can be found at their local open mic or virtually hanging out with their international poet friends wishing for a day when a magical tunnel will bring them all together.

Instagram: @jo_pangolin

Related Posts

See All

"Without Breaking a Few" by Lorelei Bacht

When we first spoke, the colour dripped from our mouths, a rich orange - it did not need a protection. Elements. We were our own, weaving the space around us into happening. How I longed for my face t

"The Last Straw" by Kika Man

The weather is batshit crazy, temperatures flying, echolocation useless in the face of this speed. It snows and rains and hails, the sun is a warm bath. My plants have not been watered, I might even m

"Seventeen and Stopped" by Jaimee Boake

at 17 I realized that being in over my head felt the same as sweat-sticky bare skin on leather seats, fumbling, awkward - hot-breathed I love you in my ear turned shiver the sound of fear grew familia