July 18, 2020

By: Nicole Cohen

For those who are cisgender (a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) or heterosexual (attracted to only the opposite sex), it’s easy to not understand the struggles and discrimination LGBT+ youth and the community as a whole face throughout their lives. As a Canadian citizen, I’m grateful for the legal rights and the push for equality Canada has in place, but this doesn’t mean LGBT+ people here are totally accepted for living their truth - a prime example of this being conversion therapy as a consequence. As explained by the Trevor Project, conversion therapy sometimes referred to as “reparative therapy,” is any of several dangerous and discredited practices aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Conversion therapists use a variety of shaming, emotionally traumatic, or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ+ identities. The organization adds that according to studies by the UCLA Williams Institute, more than 700,000 LGBTQ+ people have been subjected to the horrors of conversion therapy, and an estimated 80,000 LGBTQ+ youth will experience this unprofessional conduct in coming years, often at the insistence of well-intentioned but misinformed parents or caretakers. The rate of previous suicide attempts among transgender people in the United States is extremely high, and a study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry has especially linked exposure to conversion therapy with thoughts of and attempts at suicide among transgender people. Recently the city of Calgary has voted to ban conversion therapy practices. This is a step forward for Calgary, however, Canada, as well as the US, have a long way to go for LGBT+ acceptance. When you read this poem, imagine the suffering of not only those who’ve lost loved ones, transgender or otherwise, as a result of conversion therapy but the trauma these loved ones have gone through as well.

her hands are calloused
rough and unforgiving,
contrasting my softer pair
gentle, like yours, were once.

i recall your appearance from when we first met
yet whoever that was i encountered back then,
it was someone to love and grow with,
but it yet wasn’t you; not the real you.

it took time for the mask to fall off,
for the sunflower to bloom from beneath the shadows;
and when you reintroduced yourself to the world
i remember your radiance that rivalled the sun’s.

it’s been forever, hasn’t it?
all the same, it’s been no time at all.
how could you leave me behind
and give up on everything we had?

i want to be selfish, to get revenge
to go after the loved ones who turned
their backs on you, sent you away
when you needed them the most.

the voice trembling in my mind
blends to become white noise.
i wish you could still long for me,
hold me tight and comfort me.

i really am selfish to want your comfort
when i’ll never forget the horror on your face;
we screamed and cried for your happiness,
it meant nothing when they hated who you were.

truth be told, i’ll never be more special 
than when you wanted me,
and no hands will fit in mine so perfectly
like yours would.