"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.