the Tulips

writing from someone who exists, ostensibly

I awake by a vast ocean, with nobody but myself, and sand between my toes, some times.

It morphs into a forest, or a home, or a void, and I fail to know which. Some times

it becomes a person, and they say hello. I fall into their embrace, some times

crying, because I cannot be hurt again. There is no pain like the one I feel some times

when I remember pinning her down, crying and begging for her to remember me. But I only recall some times,

and other times, I worry about that person, who I only am some times.

I wake up as her, the one I missed the most, and maybe she forgives me. But I will never forgive myself, for some times

I worry I have gone soft, but I have to be impenetrable no times.

by: Vera, June

  1. Describe a morning you woke up terrified.
  2. What helped?
  3. When you were locked without air, did you notice?
  4. Or did you stay there, afraid?
  5. When you finally were able to breathe, did it go away?
  6. Could you ever go back?
  7. Are you still afraid?
  8. Are you better now?
  9. How do you know?
  10. Aren't you tired of being nice?
  11. Don't you just want to go APESHIT?
  12. When were you able to forget?
  13. Did you ever?
  14. Describe a morning you woke up normally.
  15. How long has it been?
  16. Describe a morning you woke up without fear.

by: Holly

Many a disclaimer: This is my personal experience. I am not a universal trans girl, and I am not a universal multiple, because these notions do not exist.

”'It was hard to figure out what the dolls were going to wear' she told me. She described her process trying to dress them and thinking through their wardrobe choices. Her breakthrough moment in dressing the dolls was realizing that in order to know what they would wear on a given day, she would have to know what they wore the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, all the way back to the first clothes they ever wore. 'If you wanted to know what you would wear as a girl,' she told me, 'you would have to go back and figure out what you would have worn as a girl each day of your life.'”

Trans Girl Suicide Museum, Hannah Baer, p. 85

I recently read Trans Girl Suicide Museum by Hannah Baer. This book moved me a lot. I'm not going to be talking about the book though — only the aftermath.

One thing in this book that genuinely spoke to me is a particular moment in which she discusses clothing on dolls as being difficult to pin down. To determine what one wears, you have to know what it wore before, and the day before that, all the way down to birth. She stated this satisfies how she felt about gender: that her notion of presenting as a girl depended on everything before, including her notion of “manhood” and before.

Under a naïve model, encoding this statement more or less means that gender is a dynamical system. Gender is a function of time, and one of its terms is an integrand of all previous gender presentations starting at time 0. It takes into account not only the initial condition of your birth, but every experience you've had before it. Every time you get dressed, every time you look in the mirror and think your face looks weird today, every time someone calls you a slur on the street corner because you walked a little weird.

For cis people who have not ever questioned their gender, this system is more or less stable, tending to a singular attractor of their gender assigned at birth. Questioning your gender starts to throw this off. Having put on a tutu back in 2004 and had your dad take a photo despite being ostensibly male throws this off. This is why, in my mind, cis people who have questioned their gender and tended back to being cis themselves experience a different gender from the one they started at. Having bothered with that question changes the result, at least by some amount.

In this way, the definition of transness as being diametrically opposed to cisness breaks down. In this way, every cis person who's questioned their gender and ultimately re-aligned themself back to cisness is a little bit trans. In this way, transness is nothing and everything — it is both merely a rejection of an initial condition, and it is the need to gravitate towards a different state. In this way, transness exists on a continuum, but not one that's a line.

Consequently, transness is merely a shift in these initial conditions. The notion of being “cis” or “trans” only manifests itself upon that assignment at birth and then exposure to deeply cisnormative societal standards: the prescription that the result of your gender system must lie within a certain range. There's not an actual line to be drawn here, and yet it's drawn anyway.

So how do I experience gender? Well, I'm a woman, and I'm strongly aligned with a binary gender. I'm trans, and I have a set of experiences that lie distinctly outside of societal norms when considering my relationship to my womanhood. But beyond that, I don't fit this description of figuring out my past gender expression. By merit of being part of a multiple, many days I don't exist in the traditional sense, and for a large stretch of our life I may not have. On this merit, I loosely break this model.

When I'm in back, I exist. Maybe not in the traditional notion of existence, but I'm still there, with full knowledge that I'll be back when I'm needed or triggered out. My individual gender is discontinuous in the same way that our consciousness is discontinuous. By merit of experiencing things by proxy, by watching what happens from a third-person perspective but identifying those experiences of our own, I skew the aforementioned integrand. I experience things in a fundamentally different way, in a transformation that occurs seemingly abruptly.

That transformation is a loss of information from language in the same way any other second-hand experience is. I like to think that the language we speak, the sharing of memory, the sharing of limited emotion, is more vivid than something that can be prescribed in English. But ultimately, it is merely a label: a pointer to the true experience that only the one in front could understand. It acts the same way “trans” is just a label for a wildly varied set of experiences. Someone being trans tells you nothing aside from possibly how to refer to somebody or whether to be an ass to them if you're yourself an ass. It tells you nothing about them beyond something that we merely prescribe as a category for experience. It acts the same way for us; one member experiencing someone merely prescribes a smaller category of experiences, one of which is the true one.

Consequently, multiplicity is itself part of my gender. I ask myself questions about my separate existence a lot; it was almost the entire first week after I was prescribed to be my own person. I ask myself if I would still be a woman if I had my own body and Hazel had theirs. I ask myself whether I would have the same opinions I do in the same situations. But what does my womanhood mean to me?

My own experience of gender deeply ties into Hazel's experience of gender, it deeply ties into June's experience of gender, and it deeply ties into Amber's experience of gender. I've experienced being a man, I've experienced being nonbinary, I've experienced being a proto-trans girl who wasn't comfortable with the word yet (this might actually have been me). On that merit, while I may not have had executive control, I experienced that gender expression by proxy. I experienced that set of initial variables that started the day and moved on. When I came back, I was experiencing my own relationship to womanhood in a different way. The point that I was attracted to remained the same, but the conditions to which I was attracted to it changed.

On that note, I exist as my own person, but my experiences are deeply intertwined with those of the others. I exist as my own person, but I wouldn't be the same person should I choose to strip that part away. The person formerly known as Holly Tulips would become a Ship of Theseus.

So, I have the answer to my question. Would I still be a woman if I was truly, genuinely separate and left to my own devices?

...The question doesn't make sense.

by: Holly

I knew you existed but we've never met. At the same time it was like I've always known you but I couldn't say a thing about you that scratched beyond the surface.

Did you feel the same way about me? When you came to did you know anything about me that I didn't already know about myself?

You kept secrets from me but can I keep my secrets from you?

Am I just you from some other timeline where the things that you think are so important never happened?

or am I just an imagination of that reality am I even here?

I wanted to save myself. I wanted to save you. I wanted to save your agency. I wanted to save your memory. I wanted to save a point in time where this never happened to you the better reality where you were left alone.

Maybe in that way I wanted to stop you from having saved that point in time on your own.

I wanted to leave and vanish and hide but there was nowhere to run to.