“I was not born into the wrong body. I was born into a world that does not know what my body means.”
Ollie Renee Schminkey is a genderqueer poet/activist who directs the Macalester Poetry Slam and is the founder of Well-Placed Commas, a weekly poetry workshop to serve the needs of the Twin Cities area.They have competed on the nationally ranked MacSlams CUPSI team for two years, competed on 2 Twin Cities NPS teams, placed 2nd at the 2013 Great Plains Poetry Pile-Up, and competed twice with the Macalester team at Rustbelt. They have also performed and published work with 20% Theatre Company’s The Naked I: Insides Out, and they tour locally with this show. They are the author of one chapbook, The Taste of Iron, and they have work that was published in September 2014 as a part of Write Bloody and Andrea Gibson’s anthology, “We Will Be Shelter.” They have featured at venues and events such as Rachel McKibben’s Poetry and Pie Night, Slam Free or Die, Port Veritas, Mama’s Crowbar, Zeke Russell’s New Shit Show, OUTspoken!, Intermedia Arts, and Patrick’s Cabaret.
In Schminkey’s poem titled Boobs, they explore the idea of bodies in relation to how transgender people are perceived and how that relates to their self-acceptance.
“But I also know that most gods punish more than they forgive, and my own body feels more like a guillotine than a gift.”
“Boobs” is a spoken word piece that begins with Schminkey talking about how much they loves that specific part of the female anatomy and that they are one of the seven wonders of the sexual world. The piece then takes a shift as it highlights Schminkey’s uncomfortableness in their own skin as a transgender woman. Society’s ideals of what a female should be and how that gender should be defined has placed a strain on the relationship they have with their own body.
“I say not woman. They say, silly girl, it is not up to you to decide.”
Schminkey is questioned daily by society as to when they decided they were transgender, as are many people in today’ society. Gender is a social construction that is constantly being perpetuated. The idea that a female must be a “housewife, mother, or woman” is taught at an early age in the way that children watch their parents interact or even the way they learn to interact with others.
They reflect on how a friend has tried to convince them that wanting to get surgery to cut off a “perfectly healthy body part” is a bad idea but Schminkey retorts with the idea that living with a piece of you that you do not want is what is unhealthy. We place people into boxes not realizing the effect of living in these boxes really has. Society handcuffs bodies to gender and gender roles. From the moment a child is born, a doctor takes on the almighty power to announce whether the child is female or male, and they are forever linked to those words spoken in the first ten seconds of life.
“My body is not wrong. The way people talk about my body is wrong. But my body is the only thing I can change.”
Schminkey’s idea that they are not trapped in their body is something that I have not heard talked about in the transgender community. It’s a different perspective that many people do not consider on a daily basis. Not all transgender people want to go through dangerous reassignment surgeries or spend loads of money to be comfortable in their own skin. Society does not take the minute to reflect on whether it’s the idea of being trapped in a body of the opposite gender or if it has to do with being comfortable based on the perceptions of those around you. This spoken word piece is very important to the transgender community because it gives them a voice to a perspective people have not consider in the past.
“I am not trapped in my body. I am trapped in other people’s perceptions of my body.”