Life on the Other Side

4 Mar 2017

My name is Alyssa Anne Rosenzweig. I wasn’t born this way, but I don’t mind.

Alyssa is from the Greek ἀ meaning not and λύσσα meaning insane, all in all meaning rational. Rosenzweig is from German, an Ashkenazi Jewish name, meaning “rosetwig” – I suppose my last name is as queer as the rest of me. And Anne is after my late grandmother, Anne.

It doesn’t matter what could have been. I don’t mind that my name is not objectively perfect – it is my name and nobody can take that away from me. Maybe my first name is common and my last name is mispronounced, but that’s okay.

Once I needed a better name. A name to call my own. I chose my name – I chose Alyssa. I didn’t seek something special, something pretty, something to lure the male gaze. I just chose something of my own.

My friend Annie agrees my middle name is “pretty”, and regretfully she loves to drop the etymological a. It’s insanity.

It doesn’t matter now if my name isn’t perfect.

It’s mine, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Noah’s Ark

Once, in my youthful innocence, I didn’t know what “transgender” meant.

I didn’t know why “gay people” were the way they are.

I didn’t know what was so secret behind people’s pants.

But slowly, the dam cracks, and what was once a drop of doubt becomes a river of discovery.

Soon enough there is a full-on flood of feelings, for boys, for girls, for everyone in between. Under the watchful eye of the wrong hormones, everything is upside-down.

It’s only six months before Noah rescues me.

Perfect Pitch

Everyone loves to ask children, “what’ll you be when you’re older?” But how should they know? It’s a lovely proposition, but the direct question will never work. Instead, ask them to show perfect pitch! It should be obvious from there.

The musician will begin tuning an instrument, by only her ear nonetheless!

The singer will sing up a scale, each note mathematically exact.

The big shots will show tempo instead, for the fifteen seconds they have in the elevator.

The pilot will take out a gyroscope and gesture somewhere around there.

The architect will get a wooden ruler and measure out an eighth of an inch.

The athlete will serve a ball straight to your – wait, what, OW!.

The writer will illustrate typography (what was the point, again?).

And at the end of the day, the linguist will wonder how it all came to be.

But me, I always wish for less resonance, a higher pitch.

When they ask me what I want to be when I grow up,

I say I want to be a real girl.

Keeping Secrets

I can’t understand secrets, pouring out a person’s soul over the pinky promise they won’t tell, no matter how fun that may be. Secrets exist to complement gossip. A world with neither gossip nor secrets has something stronger: privacy.

I told someone my secret, once upon a time. She told her sister, and her sister told her friend, and her friend told her other friend, and before I knew it, my pillow’s feathers were half-way across town.

I wrote down my secret online, once upon a time. I made sure only to send it to my best friend this time, the one who has never betrayed me. It’s a shame it’s just sitting on the servers of a multinational advertising agency, not to mention more surveillance agencies than I can count.

I kept my secret to myself, once upon a time. If I could not trust others to keep my secret, at least I could trust me. Mm’kay, well, it gets ultra lonely up here sometimes.

I told my secret to the world, once upon a time. It couldn’t be worse than it already was.


After a life-time of blurriness, of oddly patterned dots where I know my book ought to be, of fuzzy faces and smeared paintings, it’s normal to wish our sight away. Who, after all, appreciates a gift that is less a blessing so much as a curse, whose only purpose is to remind you – every day – of its own deficiencies, while everyone is seen better-off, or at least peacefully blind? No, when I am alone, I close my eyes; there, I cannot be distracted, or at least that would be the hope. But moments later, I open my eyes, and my troubles relapse through my optical hangover.

But I know it mustn’t be this way; I’ve seen the films; I’ve heard what they say. If only the world didn’t hate folk like me, I’m sure a doctor wouldn’t be far away. The years go by, wondering, wishing, waiting; nights I pass with my tears forming a puddle – or so they say; I cannot see it. One day, hit by heaven, a letter’s prescribed, and fulfilled, it promises “something like sight”.

As I slip on my glasses, well, it wasn’t the magic I was hoping for. It turns out I couldn’t see them very well, and put them on backwards – silly me. But eventually, I get it right, and indeed, it’s amazing.

Blockers and oestrogen are something like sight.


The alternative government of the alternative right rightly irks me. They spew alternative facts, from alternative sources, and when asked about it, they elect for alternative questions. They follow the alternative laws from their alternative Bible, where ten alternative commandments are changed from alt-Leviticus. Their solutions create alternative problems and their problems are posed as alternative solutions.

Me, I take alternative hormones to affirm my alternative sex, and since I was eleven, I’ve used an alternative name and alternative pronouns.

You ought to understand, I’ve been wishing for an alternative government because this one sure hates my alternative lifestyle.

The Girls Who Talk In the Bathroom

Every day they would go into the bathroom, when they thought nobody noticed. At lunch, at recess, whenever.

They went to talk, and talk, and talk. About homework, about friends, about boys, about girls, about anything and everything.

It was no exclusive club. Everybody went, at one point or another, and everybody got caught, at one point or another.

Sometimes they talked about giggly things. Sometimes they needed pads and were too afraid to ask outside. Once in a while, they actually needed to pee.

I was told I wouldn’t use the girls’ bathroom. For privacy. Think of the children. Think of their parents. That if I needed to relieve myself, there was a locked single-stall restroom available, reserved for faculty use. It would be better all around, and you can do your business alone in peace.

Except I couldn’t do my business there.

There were no girls to talk to in the bathroom.

Smile and Nod

Have you finished your homework? Yes, mum, smile and nod.

Do you want oatmeal for dinner? Yes, dad, smile and nod.

Will you give me twice my food? Yes, pup, smile and nod.

Will you submit at risk of expulsion? Yes, ma’am, smile and nod.

But I don’t tell her that I have long-term projects.

And I don’t tell him I’d prefer cereal.

I don’t tell my dog he gets the same as always.

And I don’t tell Ms. Principal where I pee in secret.


I lost my voice the other day from a nasty cold. You’d think the CDC would intervene, but patient zero was in Washington. All of them are gone for now, stripped of their lungs, and now it’s out in San Francisco.

They put out the cold to silence us. It was peaceful at first, but eerie. People say all silences are awkward, but this was worse. It’s one thing not to be able to speak for a day.

It’s another for nobody to speak in the face of death.

It’s silent out here.

It’s silent.

2 + 2 = 5

I was asked in biology class, “Can a colour-blind girl have a normal-vision father?”, and they tried to make me say, no.

But I’m living proof.

I was then told again, people like me are “anomalies”.

But I prefer the Golden Rule.

I was told in health, “Teenage girls menstruate once a month”.

But I know the truth.

I was asked in maths, “If there are twelve girls in a class of twenty, how many boys?”

But I couldn’t figure out the answer.

I was told in Spanish, “El verbo ‘ser’ es para detalles permanentes, como nombre y sexo”.

But I know nothing is permanent.

I was told in history, “the Civil Rights Movement ended in the 60s”.

But I fight every day.

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