Dear Kai - Open Letter

  • Kai Isaiah Jamal
Originally published here.

Dear Kai,
I’m speaking to you from a place that I know you wouldn’t expect. A year on from where you are now but still struggling. Its okay, this letter isn’t meant to save you (really it couldn’t because thats not how life works but hey). But some letters, are not easy to swallow but I know, you have held the biggest secret under your tongue for such a long time, that you will be able to digest this. I know that coming out was probably the hardest thing you’ve done. I have seen how the last two years has taken a toll on your confidence of the world, your trust of the people in it and sadly your perspective of yourself. I’ve seen your spine and the way it plays hangman with your head at times. I have seen how you watch men, hungrily trying to find something that will make sense and boy your presence is becoming so big I don’t know how you’ll fit it in the room anymore! I know you are coming into your own, that right now you are truly learning yourself and that takes some unlearning. I know sometimes it hurts but I also know how much happiness you find on your snail trail. I know how your index finger, closed eyes and a line of hair makes you feel. I have seen your side burns growing - keep getting your barber to shave it! I’ll let you in on a little secret. Your current barber is now trimming and shaping your moustache! Sometimes he calls you fly boy when he’s done and I swear you’ll get this little feeling in the gut of your stomach and you will smile uncontrollably. Hold onto that smile. It will be something you can reach for, pull out of your back pocket on the days that you can’t find it on your face. I don’t want to ruin too many of the good bits so just sit tight for hair growth for now, okay? I know that people are not misgendering you so much, I know it feels like being at home with yourself. I know its taken so long to make this home but the bricks are keeping you safe. I want to warn you that it will still happen. You will still be waiting for ‘the changes’ but please keep waiting with an open heart. Now when you are misgendered it will feel even worse, try to brace yourself for that. It will feel like fighting for something that is yours and not owning a fraction. Thats okay, you have to find a way to deal with. Each time is different. Some days will you blush (that shit ain’t gonna stop your whole life), other times you will want to crush yourself small enough to disappear in your own palm. Some days you will cry, its a cleanse let it happen, you are finding a way to stand your ground and correct people. That’s okay too. It’s not easy, you will still find your voice box in your ankle and not be able to move your feet. Please don’t lose your smile. Write it. Write it all because this writing is yours. Something that nobody can take away from you. I’ve seen how your nightmares find you. How thy start in your feet, how your feet run between your sheets and duvet. Ive seen how you wake up and I know what you’ve dreamt. I know violence has made you doubt what you deserve, I know you think right now that safety isn’t a surety you have. It isn’t. Young man half of the world want you dead and don’t even know your name. Its okay to feel unsafe, but you will find your safe spaces. I know you have started to, you are performing in them and in those places everything feels okay. You will continue to work with those people, only recently you read some new material with BBZ. I know that was a life changing moment for you. You are about to leave London, I know London is like the bottom bunk and Leeds feels like the top and you have developed this strange fear of falling out of bed. I know you have a fear of falling in love and look at you now, hanging from your ankles. I know how she makes you feel, she unlike the others is not a distraction from the bad but instead someone you can go through the bad with, you will. The good, the bad and the most ugly. Sometimes step out and take off your relationship, remove it from your shoulders and find that magic somewhere. In your rib cages, the soles of your feet, the back of your head, I don’t know where but somewhere. Only this morning you cried, Ive lost count of how many times this week and you know thats cool with me. You know that. But promise me you’ll try to accept her love, because right now you are still shoving it so far underwater, that it is becoming anchor and you have not learned to breathe underwater. She doesn’t even know that only two days ago you wrote a goodbye, twice. This is exactly what I mean when I say it doesn’t get easier, you just find a way to survive. You must survive because I tried to write your obituary and I have no idea where to start. I know that you’ve hit these lows before, but this now is different. So I need you to be ready. So ready that when you get here it will be different and when I get there, it will be different. And I can promise you that I am not saying goodbye to you when you get here. I will promise you the same. On the days where the sky is grey, I will pin together enough cotton that a cloud will be made just to place the sun on it. Smile and hold it. I will draw you a body that is the right silhouette that you can slip on like a good suit, make sure you get a pocket square. Smile and hold it. I will not leave you a knife under my bed, for you to pull for when you think you may need. I won’t let them speak about you in the past because you are no longer here. I will hold your smile if you need it. I know you are feeling yourself a little bit at the moment, that you are finding material that doesn’t cling, squaring yourself up. Its beautiful but It will change. You will loose pride in your hair, you will colour it twice in a month to find something that feels like it belongs to you. But baby boy it all belongs to you. You will loose weight, too much. You will feel so feminine, this week especially. You will stop showering, you will want yourself to crumble like mould in the cup in the front room. You will feel weak, this is because your not eating so don’t blame it on some feeling you can put in a metaphor. Eating is important- don’t stop eating just because you feel like you only need to fill half of yourself. Because you feel half yourself and h full of sadness. You are not gaining any control just by stopping. You will try to write this letter so many times, but this time none of it is rehearsed. You can’t fine tune it, it is honest and haunting but it is needed. You will be writing this will full eyes. More water than in the ocean will lay on your tear ducts. Its okay. I can’t do a lot for you, only change fate for myself, turn the ship around and find the wind I want to sail on. I don’t know what that wind will be, right now its turbulent. I know in this hypothetical situation when you ‘read this’, you’ll be pissed that this isn’t a poem. You will learn in time that poems aren’t always what you need. Here is what you will need a mouth with enough of a back bone to tell them what you need, do not let them speculate about what you may or may not. This body is not theirs. You need to keep surviving. You will hit a set back, science right now may not be advanced enough for your complex body. Please do not go, do not give up, do not see this as the end. Trust me it will feel like it, it will be like a thunderstorm tearing you in half and all anyone is talking about it the rain. You see so many people will compare trans experience to being in a prison, your body this cold iron but they will forget that that prison walks with you in every footstep. They won’t understand, you can’t expect them to. Even your future wife won’t, pleas don’t expect her to. Some days now nobody will even glance at you but it will feel like everyone sees. See’s what always beneath binders and baggy shirts - speaking of binders, take them off when you are home. Learn to shut yourself off on some days and some moments. Don’t read comments that are full of transphobia, you wouldn’t believe them if you weren’t trans so don’t you dare now. On mothers day, be happy for others. Weep when you feel it. On fathers day do not hit your womb. Do not hit your womb. Do not hit yourself. When your womb reminds you that it is still here, let the blood flow. Do not act like its not happening, even when you wish it wouldn’t. When you really can’t find any smiles and you don’t have the energy. Reach into your back pocket. I promise you I will leave a drawn different smile in every trouser pocket I own. At least hold that, knowing it belongs to you. When you can’t hold this body and this body can’t be help. Listen to me, its about to get harder than you thought could ever happen. Some days you will have dreams where you are being born again lifted into a basket, a born boy so full of life. Other nights you will have one where you are being lifted into a coffin. You will wake up less scared every day, it will feel like fate. Don’t forget you are scared of small spaces. Some people who knew you before will still say you are walking casket, you will see how much words hurt, how much more than sticks and stones. Your bones will ache. Your poems will sound like suicide notes. You back pocket will feel further than your finger tips. Please don’t give up. I promise ill do the same. A year from now we will be survivors. You won’t break anything, punch anything, smash anything anymore. You will be in control. There will be nothing more to break, so please do not turn back to yourself. They do not deserve to find your body, with blood because finders keepers and It was never theirs. You will never know what is left behind because you will be here. With me. It will not feel like it but there will still be enough of your shoulders to hold, enough of your voice to silence a room, still enough of a reason to write because you are here, breathing. For another year and for another year I will find use for everything. The seeds that haven’t found the soil to bloom, the rooms that are empty, you and me. I will find our use. The same as the clothes you wish to wear. And the body that fills it. I will find our purpose with no imposters. i promise. You are the tree in the middle of the desert that nobody knows hold the whole ground from rising. The whole world from ending so I am begging please don’t end our world.
Now, reach into your pocket.
Hold it.
No longer boy.
Now a man.
Hold it, Kai.
I loved you. Even if I don’t love me, right now.