(You Can’t) Make Me Lovely



You’re sitting in a room painted with people who laugh and drink and you are sure you are comfortable. She sits on the coffee table next to you, head bobbing to a beat, tender smile adorning a face that evokes curiosity, desire, a tightening in the space between your ribs, the space beneath your heart. She lets you touch her thigh and beckons you with an expression that – you are sure – has made men crawl towards her with tongues out, wetness leaking from their mouths. You wonder if she’s kicked them; you wonder if she’ll kick you, too. Charming, hungry eyes quietly roam around the room as guests engage in conversation. She sits there looking splendid in a young pop-star kind of way; and, in a sense, you feel slightly awful about wanting to slide your hand further up that thigh. You feel a little less awful when she decides to assess you from under long lashes, a stern regard zigzagging into starry lust. She lowers her gaze onto the phone in her hand, teeth biting lip as her finger moves across the screen. She pauses. Looks up at no one in particular. Taps the screen and suddenly Erykah’s voice is coloring your world. Her eyes flit towards you as a shy smile precedes her declaration to the space,

This one’s for my girl.

You are jolted out of your reverie, invisible hand yanking arm from socket as head is pulled out of clouds. She refers to you as her girl – repress the shock running through your system, soothe the retaliatory hiss within your chest, quickly smooth over the shrinking of your forehead and plaster on nonchalance.

What exactly does it make you? When the girl you’ve been seeing puts on a song and says,

This one’s for my girl.

You can’t help but feel slighted. Dressed in black joggers, drop-line t, thrifted brown leather boots, beanie strategically placed off center on top of your cropped hair – high and tight. Curls are getting long; you’ll have the topknot look on lock soon enough.

This one’s for my girl.

You’re channeling a street style. You shop in the men’s section because you don’t like the way the women’s shirts cling to certain parts of your frame, accentuating curves you wish didn’t exist.

This one’s for my girl.

You got your first bowtie at Bloomingdale’s with your first girlfriend. The assistant at the register was a Black Queer who saw himself in you. He gave you your first bowtie for five dollars, looked the other way when you checked the price tag’s double digits. When you got home, you whipped it out and spent the following hour in front of the mirror, brows furrowed, fingers clumsily attempting to thread fabric into papillon shape. The first time you wore your bowtie out was in a club in San Francisco, surrounded by queers in their own bowties and beanies and belts. You’d never felt more seen.

This one’s for my girl.

You walked into your (now) homie’s barbershop on North Fairfax and felt free. A Black Lesbian who knew how to cut hair, knew how to make you love your Black curls instead of pining after straight white boy hair. Buzz, fade, come out looking fresh.

Communion with your coiffeur, kiss of razor on Black Queer flesh by Black Queer flesh.  You walked into your barbershop on North Fairfax and found fam. Came home the same day to be disappointed by your real one. Walked onto a plane, came back to the Bay. They didn’t understand. Angry footsteps leading to slammed doors, green veins throbbing through white skin on shouting neck – do you want to be a boy? You must hate yourself, to want to deny your femininity. What the fuck is your problem?

Every day is a form of expression. It is more than that; it is a method of survival. You ripped your favorite pair of printed pants once. For a week before you sewed the tear, you had never felt so naked in your entire life. Stepping outside induced an aching, a cringing of the body.

This one’s for my girl.

It feels right, when you stand in front of the mirror, naked, and begin to dress up your skin.

When you’re in the shower you stand facing the spout, arms taught with hands placed on the wall in front of you, fingers splayed across tiles. You allow your head to fall forward and stand there as the drops spray across your back, forming quick trails of wetness down, down, down. You push against the wall and feel the muscles in your back work. Refuse to acknowledge the parts of your body that soften into tenderness. Turn off the water, step out. Close the door.

It is a habit, to stand in front of the full-length mirror in your room once you’ve showered. You stand there.


This one’s for my girl.

You stare. And in the mirror glaring back at you is a girl. Tits, ass, hips. Thighs to boot. At least the tits are small. You flex your abs and admire the muscles in your shoulders and arms, allow your eyes to roam across an elegant collarbone. Your gaze skims past the hips and thighs. Turn your feet in and go into a slight squat. There, that’s better – looks more toned, less curvy.


Reach up and grasp the top of your bed frame. Lean back and smirk at the definition in your stomach. Appreciate the developing V; ignore the real one below it. Too much anxiety wrapped up in your crotch and you don’t know why. Wish you didn’t have to look down and evaluate yourself on a scale of confusion – wish you could understand the relationship between you and your body and gender and the world you navigate, the policing that occurs when you walk down the street, when you shop at the store, when you talk to your family when you talk to your lawyer when you look at your girl and you wish, you wish, you –

Wish you could float out of your body if only for a minute and not need to understand at all, wish you could tell your girl(s) that you wished they wouldn’t go down… there, wish you could appreciate the complexities woven into your assigned womanhood, wish you could stop wishing because then it would mean you either wished all your wishes away or had nothing to wish for anymore. Whatever it was, you wished it didn’t bring you so much distress – unease, shame, and a restless mind.

Bring your arms back down, press hands against sides of hips and smooth them down, hope they will disappear. Wishing that every aspect of your frame below your waistline will simply straighten out and match the hardened tone of your shoulders, your arms, your backside.

Crouch down, legs pressed together, arms wrapped around knees, spine curled and chin resting on top of kneecaps. Turn so that you are profile to the mirror. You are able to stomach your legs a little better in this position. They seem stronger, holding you up against the ground. Soften your gaze as you recognize the embrace that envelops your body. See each vertebra connecting to the other, curving along your spine. Notice the tendons in your back, the tightness of the skin along the side of your upper frame. The tattoo there adds an edge, makes your body feel less soft.

Stand back up. Face the mirror. Tear your eyes away, for a second. Look at your wrists, clench your hands into fists, and search for tendons and veins and lines that prove you’ve got the right body.

This one’s for my girl.

Step into your boxers. Pull them up so that they sit just right, so that when her hands grasp your shirt and push it up against your skin, she’ll notice the definition.

It feels right.

What exactly does it make you?


The girls you chase seem to always fall into very specific categories of women. Femme-presenting with an edge. Sought after by many, they exude sex with everything that they do, and their creativity and intelligence multiply that characteristic tenfold. Doesn’t matter how introspective or well-centered they are; you will always find a girl with dramatic tendencies. Vacuum hands latching onto the collar of your vulnerability and sucking you into a hurricane of emotional intimacy. Seems to be your type.

This one’s for my girl.

Those words escaping from between her pouty lips make you pause. My girl.

Those are the words you are supposed to say.

This one’s for your girl. Have her come over here and show her what it means to be your girl. You don’t feel like a girl when she straddles you on the bed, your hands on her hips. You don’t feel like anything except for powerful.

When you’re both lying in bed at 2 a.m., you trace the side of her face with your fingertips. When your lips touch and twist, when tongues meet and a sigh escapes from her open mouth, you feel right. There is something right about the way she clasps her hands behind your neck, the way she pulls the hair at its nape, her fingers curling as you trail kisses up to her ear.

Keep the attention on her.

This one’s for my girl.

You keep tabs on her movement because you know she’ll try and make a move that will stop things in their tracks – you don’t want that to happen, you don’t want that to happen at all. So don’t say anything, just keep track.

The sex is meant to be a shimmering undoing of barriers; of hands pulling back golden shutters, deftly untying rope, loosening personal prisons and offering entry to tongue and lips and teeth. Your prison remains locked, however, sealed but for a sliver that allows dust to creep in, particles settling onto the only line of light illuminating your inner cell.

She has crept her way in, tricked her way in, distracted your hyper-vigilance with stolen keys – you must’ve left them somewhere when fabric was grazing skin, pulled off of the body and dropped onto the floor. She’d been nimble, fingers at the ready once the button of your pants was undone and your jeans slapped against the ground.

You didn’t say anything, you just kept track – kept the attention on her. When she kissed your neck you were all right, all good – you were the sun and stars, heart in a horse race and skin on fire with every touch between your two beings. You were all right, all good. Bars solid, her hands wrapped in a tender caress around their iron frame. You were all right, till she stole her way in. You forgot that you were supposed to keep track of her hands and her lips and her being because you got lost you got lost you got – lost… in her vast beauty and when she pulled the hair on your head up and back to stop you from shutting the door, locking the cell, diving into her and taking control and running away from the light of her lips on your skin, she made you look inside her. You knew she was looking inside you too and it scared you – perhaps her as well, you weren’t sure. But your racing hearts didn’t lie.

So you let her hold your head in her hands, let her eyes burgle their way into your own. She found unspoken thoughts and brought them round – showed you parts of yourself you didn’t know existed. You allowed her to intrude on the vulnerability you work to keep under lock and key.

Then you slammed the door, retreated back into yourself. There was no longer a sliver of light on which she could land to explore the aspects of you that made you feel bare. There was only the clanging of finality ringing through your mind and reverberating off of your skin, reminding you of the role you were expected to play.

Keep the attention on her. Flip her over, take control. Draw out each letter of your name from between her trembling lips with pink ribbon tongue. Extract breath from lungs until nails pierce flesh, reclaim the role of burglar and slide your way in between the crevices of her –

–      soul

Do not seek to comprehend what keeps the door locked, what inspires the need to establish your dominance and affirm a masculinity you do not yet understand.

She’s your girl. Tell her to come close.

Tell her to come here – come here baby. You can touch, but don’t push it. Come here, you love it when I call you that, right?

She’s your girl.

What exactly does that make you? A body with no name.

The girls you date, they like your whole body – and you don’t know why. Some like your ass – and you don’t know why. They like your tits – and again, you don’t know why. Their preferences don’t mesh with the images you love of yourself.

You are the smug boi, masculine of center Black Queer with a swagger that has developed naturally out of the comfort that arises from embracing your expression of self. Look in the mirror, tip the snapback just right and give yourself a little wink before stepping out. Look in the mirror, smooth your hair back and give your bowtie one last tug. Look in the mirror, rustle your curls and pop the collar of your coat – don’t forget the earring in your left ear.

The girls you date, they’ve never just been into women. They are the kind of beings that fall for your soul, fall for you – your body follows that feat. You wondered, once, what kind of Queer that made you – what did it mean, that you’d never dated a woman whose soul preference was someone of the same body, the same gender?

You didn’t think much of it then. You think of it now.

Some days you will wake up and feel like a girl. Others, like a boi.

Some days you will wake up and not feel like much of anything at all.

Blackness calling for Community, Queerness calling for Kin, Confusion calling for Clarity of Self.

Tell me, what does it make you?

2 Comments on (You Can’t) Make Me Lovely

  1. Felicia Smith
    May 14, 2015 at 11:05 am (2 years ago)

    Wow that was powerful, enlightening and deeply profound. When you wake up in the morning, just be true to yourself and do not worry about fitting into arbitrary categories designed by mere mortals. Just continue to unleash your indomitable essence that will change the world. I know from person experience you will be miserable trying to be who other people want you to be. DO YOU Gi! Much Respect, Felicia

  2. Quintesaa
    October 5, 2015 at 9:06 pm (2 years ago)

    I have never met such a powerful human being in my life, I can honestly say It’s a pleasure. This piece is absolutely beautiful. ❤️


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