When Trans Life Becomes Trans Art

A Poetry Squawk
By Noah Mendez
Poet whose work appears in Defining Myself: Transmasculine Experience Through Poetry

noah mendez, transIn my experience, there are two common pieces of advice you’ll get about writing poetry: (1) write about what you know, and (2) write about what you don’t know. In the first half of my writing development, I tended to go more Tumblr style: combining the fantastic with extensive metaphors and overly obvious sentences. But as time went on, I realized I was slowing down in my writing process and bumping into writer’s block, even as I continued to have experiences that were definitely worth incorporating into my poetry. I was blind to all the memories and childhood moments that would actually be relatable to my audience, and yet I was still wondering why most of my work didn’t seem very popular with readers.

This all changed when my boyfriend David (not his real name) broke up with me two days before my birthday. I was taking solace in the arms of my best friend and I mentioned that I was slightly happy about the whole situation, because then I’d never have to tell David that sometimes I felt like a boy. Eventually, those feelings of sometime became full time, and I slowly started coming around to the fact that perhaps I was a boy. In order not to get overwhelmed by these feelings of confusion, internal denial, and budding discovery of men’s fashion, I turned to my writing to let out all the thoughts and questions I had for myself. Like, what was the etiquette for men’s bathrooms, what name did I want to go by, and how would my friends and my lovers take my transformation even as my physical self didn’t change? I put all my fears and worries into poetic verse, shying away from fantasy and into almost biographical prose. My writing ended up evolving with me: from internal disgust and fear at myself and my situation, to acceptance and careful exploration, to advocating for my right to co-exist in the world, as well as the right of others.

Being a trans male has led me to realize that my own life experiences are worth incorporating into my writing and toying with to create a both relatable and entertaining piece that touches people’s hearts. I did a poem at a slam last spring on being trans and having sex, and afterwards I had a fellow contestant come up to me and tell me their boyfriend was moved by the poem. These days, I mostly stick to writing about romance and life and how specifically I navigate that while being a male with the body of a female. I think it has made not only my poetry better, but my life. I see life as a masterpiece, and through the art of writing, I’m just filling in the canvas. I can only hope others will enjoy the outcome as much as I enjoy the process.

Noah Mendez’s work has appeared in journals including The Phoenix Rising Review, Brouhaha Magazine, The HIV Here & Now Project, Thank You For Swallowing, and Three Drops from a Cauldron, as well as in the anthology Defining Myself: Transmasculine Experience Through Poetry (Boundless Endeavors, 2016). He has performed at Urban Word and the Apollo Theater. Noah is a first-year student in forensic psychology and English at Syracuse University.