The lynx arrives like a secret
slipping beneath forest skin and willow marrow
lending whiskers to rock cover
and tufting hill tussocks
until it poses in the meadow
like a champion of the mosses
as if to say This
is more than survival.
is how life
Some secrets have secrets.
I recently watched the documentary film Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, which chronicles Hollywood’s portrayals of transgender people — and some of the impact this has had on both western culture and on the lives of transgender people.
When laid out like this, it’s clear that the media has modeled hatred, repulsion, fear, and disregard for people who question their gender and/or sexuality. This lens was eye-opening for me, and not easy to watch.
Disclosure held another revelation for me as well, which became clear while writing this poem, assisted by the lovely lynx.
Why the lynx? The answer is in her gaze. I have long wondered what it is about that steady, un-self-conscious, unapologetic look in wild creatures’ eyes that I find so compelling. I think I now finally understand: Here is a being that has never been taught to hate itself, or to project hate onto another. This being has never questioned its worth, belonging or existence. This being knows only how to be what it is.
The fact that this inspires me is troubling, and this is the secret’s secret. Authenticity isn’t the norm in our culture. It can look aspirational, even heroic, given the odds. When a transgender person claims their true being, those odds are life-threatening — especially if they also identify as Black.
Actor and activist Laverne Cox, who produced and appears in Disclosure, gave several interviews around the time of its release. One interviewer (see link below) asked her how to build a world in which Black transgender people can live full and dignified lives. Cox was clear: “People need to stop killing us… and harassing us.” She noted that as of June 30th, sixteen trans people have been murdered in 2020. Black transgender women — and trans people in general — shouldn’t be fearing for their lives when they step out the door, she added. “Let me live. Literally: Let me live.”
I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to surpass that low bar, even to go beyond a world in which, as Cox described, trans people can “thrive and show our brilliance.”
What would it be like — for all of us — to live in a world where true authenticity is neither a threat, nor an inspiring act of tragic heroism, but rather is accepted as normal. Boring. Wildly and unapologetically expected.
And no longer a secret.
1. Disclosure is a Netflix Original Documentary:
Cox, Laverne (Executive Producer), Scholder, Amy (Producer), & Fader, Sam (Director). (2020). Disclosure . Retrieved from https://www.netflix.com/title/81284247
2. Alicia Garza Interview with Laverne Cox:
“Laverne Cox Defends Democracy.” 7/3/2020. Lady Don’t Take No Podcast. Retrieved from