Sunday, June 3, 2012

Epitaph for a Transsexual

 (for John-David)

He liked feminine things
as far back as I can remember:
high-heel shoes, scarves, purses,

dancing before mirrors.
School was a horror.
He preferred hopscotch to relay races,

jump rope to baseball.
I imagine a woman in search of her body,
a hijacked plane touched down

in a strange place,
or a photograph of someone else
in unfamiliar clothes.

He played out his life in a foreign film
with no subtitles, with no critics
to rave in reviews, no one

to laud his impersonation.
He was less reality than dream,
more imagination than possibility,

and he lived a life without a plot
and point of view,
like a poorly written story

filled with questions and no answers.
I think of a woman I did not know,
of a sister I wish I had.

(John-David was born on April 28, 1961; he died from complications caused by AIDS on June 3, 1987).

“Epitaph for a Transsexual” was originally published in Willow Review.



  1. Man. Completely crying here at work. I think I probably needed to remember some people I was starting to forget. What a gift--- thanks for posting this beautiful, sad poem, Glen.

  2. Mind? I am honored. This is beautiful, Glen.
    Thank you.

  3. from Jim F.

    Thanks Glen -

    I thought of You & Marilyn earlier today. Thanks again for the poem. Johnny like all pioneers was ahead of his time. Today the world might view him as non-binary or gender-expansive. I think of your brother as gender fluid - someone whose gender could vary at random or vary in response to different circumstances.

    Tribeca Film Festival premiered a documentary last week about Miguel Dieppa created 25 years later by his niece: There is a movie trailer on the film's website.

    Miguel like Johnny was an early causality of the disease - at a time when so little was known and the world was less kind. It is a comfort to think of Johnny as brave. I still admire his ability to express himself confidently. He was kinda fearless - a genuine non-conformist. To paraphrase Ray Bradbury: "He jumped from the highest cliff... building his wings on the way down."

    You were a good brother GH Wheels

  4. Are we ever going to understand that we're all human--some better at it than others due to lack of tolerance by some of anyone who looks or acts different than them or their economic status in life--but no matter how they try to be superior based on their own perception of reality--we're still all human beings. Get used to it. Accept it. Stop the hate.

  5. Thank you for sending this again, Glen. Put the same tears in my eyes as before.
    The remembrance is especially important given the doubling-down on hate in this country.
    Never forget John-David and all others.