"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

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