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“The gender binary,” someone once told me,

“is not a binary at all, in that a)

a binary is a system composed of two parts, and b)

the rainbow has more colors than pink and blue.

If she is pink,

and he is blue,

every color in between is not purple.”


I have this friend who is orange,

not quite as pink as red, she tells me,

but just enough that it counts.

The days she wears dresses are special occasions,

short skirts are a celebration,

make-up is worship.

I watch her line lipstick rows on her vanity,

like candlesticks, on the altar

of the perfect girl she never wanted to be.

Most days, she wears jeans like battle armor;

her binder is a bulletproof vest

deflecting catcalls and whistles with a chainmail

made of cotton and elastic, because

she is not girl enough to love,

she is not girl enough to marry,

she is only girl enough to fuck.


My classmate is yellow,

he likes to say that he was there

when the prism created the primary colours,

third wheel on the colour wheel

when red and blue fell in love,

he has no place in their family tree.

If a binary is a system of two parts,

he is writing his own code.


My other friend is green,

they don’t know what that means yet—


My neighbor is purple,

some days she is magenta,

some days he is periwinkle,

she sets her bones up like an easel,

stretches his skin like canvas,

and mixes red and blue in the divots of her hips

and the valley of his collarbones.


I knew someone who was pink—

no, blue

no, pink

no, blue

It’s the only color her father wanted her to be.

He painted it onto her nursery walls like a contract

in limited edition colors of

bruise blue,

neglect black,

disgust green.

When we were sixteen, she signed it in artery red,

her skin caved like drywall.

Today, she isn’t pink anymore,

she is mental hospital white, and conversion therapy grey,

she smells like drying paint and her hands are so cold.


If gender is a rainbow,

then I am the rain,

the prism,

I am transparent,

refracting your glory,

smearing your variety across the sky.

I am structured,


a means to your end,

but I am not welcome in your illusion.

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