by Cal Brantley

Mural from Austin, TX, USA, April 2023

Why does the LGBTQ+ community unify the most during queer/transphobic tragedy or political attacks? It is true that life is unfortunately nasty, brutish, and short for too many trans siblings around the world–but too often, our arguments for trans rights are framed only around alleviating our suffering.

Trans suicide and murder rates. Gender dysphoria. Life-saving gender-affirming treatment. Youth homelessness. TERFism. Pronoun semantics and bathroom debates.

These are important realities that demand our reflection, but what about the joys of being transgender? There is so much trans love and pride that goes unnoticed. It angers me that we equate transness with sadness; with being stuck in a “wrong body.” I was not born in the wrong body; I was born in a trans, genderqueer body, and that is beautiful.

I read the first poem, “An ode to trans bodies”, at a pro-Stonewall demonstration on LSE’s campus on January 26, 2023. This was in response to LSE’s transphobic decision to withdraw from Stonewall. I read this on a freezing morning outside LSE’s Centre Building, with the words “QUEER NO FEAR” written across my bare chest.

I wrote the second poem, A letter to Louisiana (and other small town) queer and trans youth,” for my inner child; to the closeted person I was a decade ago. I wish I could give that person a hug and promise them everything will be okay – that it is not myself, but society that is diseased. I hope you enjoy these poems evoking the immaculate realities I want to see in our queer, trans futures.

Art at Queer Britain, London, March 2023


An ode to trans bodies


Because when they told us

we’d fall in love someday,

they never meant with ourselves.


That someday

I would weep together with a trans guy onstage at a dive bar hugging bare chest to bare chest for the first time in public

they never told me I would buzzcut a friend’s head on a Brooklyn fire escape,

pierce my own nose in the bathroom during COVID

or take my parents to a drag show.


I wish someone had told me


will become everywhere

family will become everyone

and queerness will never go extinct


I am the remnants of transcestors before me

cycling into my bones, dust to dust, ashes to ashes

and from the centrifuge I float

into the ether

the macrocosm of my own androgyne galaxy


limitless beyond my two legs

but binary bipeds


the unknown.

They are scared.

They should be scared.

We are another life forward

a better life forward.


They try to stifle our love and joy

they violate and criminalize us



And politicize us

But our bodies are not political


they are simply not yours.

After pride month we lower the flags

But the fags remain

I have two footlong scars, armpit to sternum and back to armpit

That signify where I end and others begin

and you may divert your eyes at the beach or swimming pool

try to push aside your discomfort


But I fought for

This life, this body,

My own internal weaponization

Pitting flesh against mind against heart

Against a world that cannot understand

Beyond the binary of self and society.


Where you see imperfection

or instability

I see resistance

Imperfect bodies are divine

Imperfect bodies are daily existence.

My body is exactly as intended

I am exactly as intended

I am transcendent

every scar, every freckle, every coarse hair


is real.


Our bodies are a record of survival

always advancing, discovering

always enough


and to be seen as we are

is to be boundless


A letter to Louisiana (and other small town) queer and trans youth:


I want to wrap you gently

in Spanish moss, swaddled,

and let you wade out into the gentle waves

on the Mandeville lakefront,

joy overtaking you like gentle tides,

Queerness lapping at our feet

on this dizzyingly hot summer’s day.


We lie down under the magnolia tree,

etched into my ribs in black ink like

your head resting on my flat chest.


Do not fear

the black garter snake slithering through

the grass; its long stripes welcome us

in continuum. We have been the enemy

but this is no Devil, no poison,

just peace. Gender indeterminate, it creeps

between our toes,

so we can

worry not what lies between our legs.


Louisiana youth, I want to protect you,

Save you, keep you safe.

I fear I cannot.

I fear I have abandoned you.

Abandoned myself, age fourteen,

When all I really needed was a therapist


(or a girl to kiss me on the mouth.)

Life is transient but I cannot melt

down the clock hands, perhaps you too

must wait your turn. We reverse the years

to the time I slept on the floor in the closet


Even in my heaviest dreams,

I was straight and

knew no other


But there Is an Other in the world,

another life, another light,

that waits beyond the shores

A Joy you will feel with her,

Hands around Theirs

Like a potter at the wheel

Peeling crawfish, telling jokes,

drinking beer. We have

nothing but



on our side.


Cal Brantley (they/she/he) is an MSc student in International Migration and Public Policy. Their research focuses on trans and queer migrant experiences, specifically with regard to public health issues and gender-affirming healthcare. Cal is a southern, queer American who comes to London via Boston, where he worked in care coordination and housing for HIV+ communities, plus volunteered with immigration and reproductive justice initiatives. She also loves exploring queer London and finding new iced coffee spots around the city.