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Libretto for "They Can't Steal my Joy"

for the Nasher Public commission, May 2022

You know,

I realized 

I was trans 

around 19

before that 

I was just 

I was just

a lesbian in guys clothes

during my pregnancy,

I enjoyed being visibly pregnant- 

but I hated 

the way people looked at me 


tried to stay inside as much as possible


I kept my beard through my pregnancy

And everytime


every time

I would go to the hospital, they looked at me like 

- why the hell is he here? 


I’m always surprised when people ask: 

whose baby? 

is it yours? 

is it your baby?

are they from you?

are they yours?

is he yours?

is she yours?

Cause they think that a dyke like me 

could in no way be a mom

Not a single person calls me

calls me



But they can’t steal my joy 

I was

more stealth

During my pregnancy, 

I was 

in awe 

of my body and 

its ability 

to grow new life

At 5 months,

I'm finally calm 


I had an emergency c-section with a lengthwise incision 

from hip to hip 

and the entire shape of my body changed, 

like a stretched watermelon

At first, I was dysphoric 

about how 

my hips got bigger 

my body got softer

But pregnancy helped to confirm 

what I knew from a very young age, 

which is that I'm not a woman


I carry 

carry a lot 

a lot of grief 

inside my body

I love my partner

but seeing her pregnant

makes me feel


like I am missing out on an entire chapter

yet to be written


And I said 

I identify  (clap clap) I identify (clap clap) 

as a cis femme queer woman

I have struggled my entire life with feeling 

too "fat" 

too lush

but pregnancy felt natural 

I was not afraid of how my body would change 


I was nervous about how the world would treat me, 

as a pregnant person, 

as a mom, 

in a heteronormative world,

I know that people are going to start reading me as straight

more often 


As butch

I didn’t

didn’t mind 

when I started getting bigger, 

in fact I loved it

I enjoyed 

feeling the baby grow

feeling my very round belly grow

But as soon as I looked in a mirror,

I remembered 

that this is my body

It was my body

It was a body

It was my body

And I got a crushing feeling of dread

for what was ahead



this means 

I exist 

exist somewhere 

in the middle

between masculine - and - feminine 


Which room do I go to with my effeminate, masculine, pregnant body?

Where will I swim? 

Where will I play?

Will I have to wear a top because my “male” nipples will now be considered “female”? 

When I start going to doctors’ offices or yoga 

and I’m the only person there who doesn’t identify as a woman, 

what then? 


A lot of people expected my partner to carry our child

- but she couldn’t

I used to go into the women’s restroom, and people would think I was a dude 

That changed when I was pregnant

Why did I have to be pregnant 

- to feel safe in a public restroom? 


Cause I

I feel

Feel like

I am


about my hourglass figure

I can’t 

can’t stand

my chest feeling full

my butt getting wider

my feet not fitting in my favorite shoes 

My body looked pregnant 

for a year after my last miscarriage,

All of my hair fell out

The brown



I finally got pregnant in a clinic

we used donor sperm

my body changed but I just felt like there was 

more of me

to give


I live like a man, my girlfriend lives like a woman

we take hormones

never in a million years would I 

ever imagine I would get pregnant 

being a parent was never really a dream I had for myself

I cried when I found out, 

We cried when we found out,
I cried so much 

when I understood

what it meant 


As a boy who gave birth

it was the most profound experience of my life

Before T,
Before T,
Before T,
I had no connection to my body
I didn’t want to lose the relationship I’ve built with it over the last six years
But this pregnancy journey
is not a regression
rather than losing what I’ve built,
I’m connecting to my body in ways I never imagined
I would as a trans person
I’m only at the beginning, but already this is a deeper level of connection
And it’s just going to get deeper

I feel
feel like
I feel like
a science experiment
It is strange to take up so much space

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