Jill Smith, she/her/hers
it says on her email signature
or her Zoom caption, huge in white on black
when her video is off, showing nothing of her
or the badge she wore when we met in person in another world.
“We invite you to state your pronouns,” they say,
showing how woke their allyship is.
“He/him” says Joe, “she/her” says Sheila,
and I am terrified.
“He/him”, I say, hating the betrayal.
Right now I can’t say “she/her”, because
I remember my father’s reaction,
my sister’s reaction,
or the moment she said “You know, I think he’s telling the truth!”
and I felt myself disappearing as I sat there
and they talked about me
then talked of something else.
The hate looms larger than your acceptance.
So now I say my pronouns are obvious from my name
like a Free Speech, No Identity Politics, Fox News guest,
except I don’t.
They mean well and I am not going to be rude to them
though I hate my gratitude.
“She/her,” I say.
I like when straights say “he/they,”
it means man, but not too bothered about gender.
But “she/they” is too frightening.
“So you admit you’re not a woman” shout the accusers
pointing their fingers
and I collapse in misery
though they are only in my head.
“She/they/he/it,” I say.
You choose the pronouns.
If you choose “it” I know where you’re coming from.
My pronouns are “We/our/ours”.
If you talk about me
talk about something we share.
Talk about us.