A short (ish) poem on gender identity. [The beautiful cover is by @River_Summers]


1. Define

When the boy was born

He was born with not much hair

But swaddled up quick

In much too much

Soft pink cotton

Because colours mattered

Even back then

Even if you were colour blind and couldn’t care less

If the cotton was pink or blue or



And then the boy turned one

Wispy hair like outdoor breeze

And a little pink

Pinafore dress and pink tights

And far too many

Cooing aunties with blood splatter cheeks -

The uncles weren’t expected to coo

(Even back then) because

Cooing was a girl’s



So after time the boy was two

Fine blonde hair with more ribbon than pigtail

And his very first

Barbie doll (he called it Barney)

And not enough

Time allowed to play with

His older brother’s toy cars because

“Doesn’t Barbie want some attention, darling?

Cars are only for your



In a bit the boy was three

Tufty yellow hair like grass

And his first

Ever day at the nursery at the top of the hill

They read a book about

Pinocchio and the boy

Went home and asked his

Mother whether he would get  

to be a real boy



It wasn’t long and the boy was four

Curly hair like thin blonde string

Youngest in reception class

Even back then he

Didn’t want to

Wear a skirt

 (the girls wore skirts)

When all the boys were

Wearing ironed straight grey



All too soon the boy was five

His hair was long: his father wanted him

To grow it out like Rapunzel because

That’s how he had to look if he expected to marry a prince

But the boy didn’t

Want to marry a prince because

He wanted to be a prince

Even back then and

Princes never married other



In a while the boy was six

His mother had told him not to be so silly

When he’d asked to cut his hair

Because it was absurd to think of a

Girl with short hair

Or a boy with long hair

Even back then

Especially back then

When the world was even younger and even more



By his next birthday the boy was seven

He’d cut off his hair

With the classroom safety scissors

His mother cried and in class

They played a game with Venn diagrams

Where all the boys went in one circle and

The girls sat in another but

The boy went in the boys’ circle

And his teacher told him to stay behind after class and she’d explain Venn diagrams



Soon enough the boy was eight

And he was outcast and called weird not because of his funny haircut

But because the other children

Couldn’t see him for him

And let their sight be clouded

By the body the boy was caged in

And when the boy rattled at the bars

They laughed and jeered

Like he was the prime exhibit in the zoo they went to on

School trips.


It took time, but the boy was nine

His father was trying to convince him to grow his hair again

But he didn’t want to

He didn’t want anything but

To be allowed to be himself

But even though uniqueness and

Individuality was promoted

In his School Assemblies he knew

No one like him and that meant he was



The boy blew out ten candles

Wearing a party hat on his head

But no one came to his party because

No one wanted to be his friend

Except for Sarah and she was

Even more outcast than him because

She played kissy-tag with other girls

And even the outcast look down on the more outcast

Than them so Sarah hadn’t been invited to his


The clock ticked and the boy was eleven

He’d dyed his hair a lighter shade of blonde

To disguise the black poison gas that

Shrouded his happiness like a soul-sucking coffee machine

His parents were worried

Because hhadn’t grown out of it

And it wasn’t just

One of those things and the other

Children noticed and they



The boy turned twelve but he didn’t want to

He ran his hands through his cauliflower hair

And he wanted to die rather than

Have to lie about who he really was inside when no one would accept him

And when he ran the blade across his wrists

He felt more bitter relief than anything

As the pain washed away with the

Rushing red river of blood and shame and he didn’t listen to bullies anymore

 Because he wasn’t just dead inside he was


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