Sexuality in Color: the skin they're in

a graphic featuring colorful dots and lines labeled SEXUALITY IN COLOR WRITING OUTSIDE THE LINES AT SCARLETEEN

This is a piece that I wrote for a course I took called "Healing Narratives," in which I was challenged to write a poem from the perspective of my own skin. This class specifically focused on the ways in which people of color have historically had so much trauma, violence, and prejudice inflicted on their bodies, and how damaging it can be to their mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional health.

I decided to revive and republish this piece with Scarleteen in hopes that it might help others not feel so alone. So with that, I dedicate this to: everyone with curly hair that doesn't grow in right, hairy legs and asymmetrical rolls; the people with mountains moving around beneath their skin and the weight of their ancestors' trauma on their backs; every person of color who's ever had the vision of an exotic sex goddess or a sideshow attraction or a hunk of meat slapped on top on of their bodies; for every queer person who's ever felt that they didn't look "_______ enough" to be who they are; and anyone who felt like a flower getting crushed underfoot.

I hope you know that you're beautiful.

"The skin they're in"
Healing narratives
3 december 2014

I am not whole for they aren't either
I am covered in scars some by casualty some by casualty with intent
all spanning over time that has never quite passed
I am covered in bruises from the people
that they learned to push away from first
I am surrounded by clothes that seem to fit them
but only seem to anger others
I am dark and light enough to confuse to inquisition,
and to even confuse themself
I am stretched over the hips and thighs that they dreaded
watching balloon up in the mirror squeezing back into jeans after middle school P.E.
I am covered in hair that they use as a shield for people
that would make those remarks through the rim of a broken bottle
quiet street
I bake in the sun when they lay out
trying to get the warm breeze and the light to somehow stick
to their bones I am dry
and crackled on the bottoms of the feet
from too many nights spent wandering under the stars
I shiver as they get colder waiting for someone to wrap their arms around them
I am flushed and sweaty with the thought of speaking
their mind after they've had a few beers at a party
where they know they don't belong
I am pierced and tattooed for semi-permanence
to make a statement to feel something I need to
feel something I am uneven I am scarred I am stretched
I am thick to protect against others I am thin

I am soft in her arms I am warm
I am softly traced circles around the scars and the ridges
The slowly healing wounds
I am hot coals under her touch and warm sheets under their back
The way that the crooks of her knees fit perfectly into mine
I am exposed by the candlelight and wanted
for more than hearts on a screen
I am cool under her breath and goosebumps popping up everywhere
as we forget the bills to be paid and
I am trusting her with me I am trusting her with it
trusting her to push back and ask for more
I am stretched out over the bone and muscle
that move underneath like tectonic plates
moving towards something and away from the past
where are you headed anywhere far from
what broke my mother's heart
I am stretched out over things that creak and shout and snap
and while they writhe I do my best to hold them together
under heating pads and pill bottles and days wasted in bed
I am soft lips and softer hips and the smell of
turmeric and chocolate on a lazy Sunday afternoon
I am a latte with too much milk and she is trying not to drink too much
I am unfazed by the temperature covered in rain and feeling
more alive than I ever have before
I am holding them together
they are standing on their own
standing tall
they are a redwood and I am the bark that keeps them safe

I do not surround a temple because there is no worship
but they are working on respect
for what remains.

Know of a blog, organization, or resource that belongs here? Send it to our curator, Al (that's me!), at al AT scarleteen DOT com.

Interested in contributing as a guest writer for our Sexuality in Color series, or any other part of Scarleteen? Check out our information for writers and then take it from there! Experienced queer and trans writers of color of varied abilities and experiences are always strongly encouraged to apply.