I forgot to feed my daughter’s hermit crab when she was away at horse camp—that’s why it died and her room smelled vaguely of bacterial vaginosis.

I parked too close and opened my door into your brand-new Kia Sorento.

I struggle with touch—receiving and giving; I avoid my friends to watch television in my sweatpants; I dislike dogs, even puppies.

I learned to brandish words by dodging my father’s. I’m a pillow princess, a caustic bitch, a flinty cunt.

I once lied to a coach about being friends with a classmate who died in a midnight car accident so I could get out of morning swim practice.

I set my baby on the scorching trunk of a car and burned the backs of her legs. I covered her shrill screams with the trembling fingers of my left hand.

I’ve claimed a deduction even after losing the Goodwill receipt; I steal soup spoons from Perkins; sometimes if I cry during a movie I’ll press Pause so I can go study myself in the mirror.

I’ve been divorced since 2008, but still wear my wedding ring to bed.

After my transition—because I had to know for sure—I met a man at the Grand Casino in Mille Lacs and gave him head; his name was Scott and he wore black socks.

While she was away at graduate school, I accidentally ran over Susan’s cat. It wasn’t dead, so I put a tea towel over its head and twisted its neck. A butterfly landed at the crook of my elbow and drank my sweat.

In 1979, I stole a Susan B. Anthony dollar from my older brother’s Boy Scout leader. That same summer my younger brother and I used baling wire to hang a leopard frog from a fence post, and took turns plinking it with our BB gun.

I held up the hood while a friend removed the dipstick and squeezed valve-grinding compound into our roommate’s car engine. We let the phone ring when he called in a panic, halfway between Bemidji and Two Harbors.

I’ve given both of my daughters wine, and showed them how to grind marijuana. I’ve written one letter to Gary Ridgeway, The Green River Killer. He hasn’t written back.

I’ve spent an evening collared and caged in a Cottage Grove basement, and have been issued pet names—“grace,” “kitten,” and “slut”—by three exquisite Mistresses.

I used the tiny pencil with no eraser to draw a penis and testicles on a page I’d torn from the back of a United Methodist Church hymnal. I passed this sacrilege to my brother, and he placed it in the collection basket. Our stifled giggles became hiccups.

I screen all calls. I malinger. My breasts and labia are pierced. Since my gender confirmation surgery, I’ve only been able to cum while masturbating.

I’ve tasted the barrel of a loaded Winchester Ranger 20-gauge, silky with Hoppe’s No. 9. I fantasize about committing a crime so I can spend a year in a women’s prison. But only a year.

I went down on a 24-year-old artificial lure carver at Minneapolis Pride in 2012. Her body writhed in the blue quiet of June moon shadow.

I’m petrified of early-onset dementia—terrified I’ll only remember my life as a man, and demand my CNA call me “Greg.”

And I’m afraid my daughters won’t invite me to their weddings, but will write about me in their own poetry.

Of course there’s more, but some things are better left unsaid.


Gina Marie Bernard is a heavily tattooed trans woman, roller derby vixen, and full-time English teacher. She has completed a 50-mile ultra marathon, followed Joan Jett across the US, and purposely jumped through a hole cut in lake ice. She lives in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her daughters, Maddie and Parker, own the two halves of her heart. She has written one YA novel, Alpha Summer (2005), and one collection of short fiction, Vent (2013). Her poetry has recently appeared in Mortar, The Cape Rock, New Plains Review, and Leveler. She has poems forthcoming in r.kv.r.y quarterly and Flypaper Magazine. You can find her online at