finding a place to stand
outside of the question why?
essa may ranapiri
The chemicals douse the land. Watch them fall in the light, feel them scatter over your skin. It’s like a new kind of rain. Open your mouth, feel it fill your insides. Recoil as it settles at the bottom of your stomach. The gut flora flourishes; the birds of your insides are safe once again. If you are a man then turn into a woman if you are a woman then turn into the sky. If you aren’t either, turn into the land.
I read somewhere that the use of insecticides are responsible for the increase in the numbers of ‘transexuals’ in New Zealand since the 1960s. What a wonderful world, what a wonderful statement, what a wonderful load of bullshit. This claim is made up of colonial maps laid down by a transphobic world trying to find the x that marks the spot of our becoming. Watch as the effect of pest destroyers morphs our bodies, turns us into grubby genderfucks writhing in the filth of our nonconformity. On the alienated land look at them/us bulging, all genitalia and sadness. Why would anyone choose this?! The author assesses the connection between pest sprays and gender-movement, child abuse and gender-movement, pathologies filling in for access to language. No, it must be some kind of traumatic break that causes us to become so . . . beautiful. I spew up into the toilet fill its cold white with my warm insides. I flush. I blush in the hum of the light. I can hear its filament just going to shit. I wipe my mouth with paper, there is an ink smear from my lips. For a second the room dissolves into dirt, into ferns, serrating a brush against my sides.
The author of this article is trans. That is the hardest pill to swallow red or blue. Why do we search for a reason for what we have become? Why do we look back along the whakapapa of what-we-be and seek a culprit? Who is responsible for making us this way? Are we scrambling in the garden looking for the original sin in kūmara mounds? Did we steal our identities from the stars in the sky? Is Eve’s deadname Adam? We find a rib sticking out of the ground, carved into its side, are the words gender is a story about control, what a cage. It is a cage that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
There are hills that stretch up either side of me. They wear the nooses of capitalism around their necks. Indigeneity co-opted. All Maui’s brothers have become property investors, selling the parts of this dead fish to the highest bidder or whoever they can. What a disappointing outcome. What a deadly profit margin. My people came here at least a thousand years ago on a waka. The confederation I come from has become a business has become so complicit in the way of the tangata whai pūtea. What do our ancestors think about Tainui being plastered over hotels? Manaakitanga costed. Too rich for my taste. Tainui were the first to settle for less than one percent of what we’re owed, to play the game of the bourgeoise. I imagine I’m in Kāwhia now on the west coast (even the direction is colonial) standing under Tangi-te-korowhiti the pōhutakawa tree that our ancestors tied their waka to. Tainui waka. I feel the sand between my toes. I sink into the beach. I can hear the gulls call, their shrill voices on the wind. But before I can settle in the grains of sand turn into numbers on a spreadsheet, I can hear the tinkling of the coins, do our ancestors navigate towards the sound of the cash registers chime? I think of trying to give a friend directions back home, o what fuckery it is to be turned around over and over again by invasion, neither of us navigating well even with google maps on our side (is it on our side?). The manu grow louder until their beaks are crushed in the cogs of empire. What does it mean to be trans here and now inside this economic system? I just want to lie on a beach and not think about any of this shit. I want to be free of it. Must we serve death as the conditions of death surround us?
‘The land is sick and so we exist’ is the claim. I think about June Gehringer’s untitled poem on the caterpillar. I can see the caterpillar start to mush into a chrysalis and can see all the articles responding to its completely natural transformation; think of the kids we are hurting think of the ways in which womanhood and manhood will be undermined. Look at this abomination it dies to turn itself into something with wings? We saw what happened with Icarus. We saw what happened with Icarus. We saw what happened.
I see under the heat of the stage lights the caterpillar turning to mush and dying halfway. Watch as the trans body falls out of the mess of chlorophyll and flesh. Watch as it settles as a statistic at the bottom of the cliff, the siren is ringing out down there, the state goes through the motions, move the body to the hospital and then the morgue and then wrap it up and put it in the ground; but not in a way that the earth can touch it, never in a way that we can go back to where we come from.
The chemicals rain down upon us, watch them create new awa rushing over the plains, watch them create new roto. I am a chemical reaction on the land and the chemical reaction on the land is me.
I read somewhere that one of my ancestral maunga has a male side and a female side (is of two spirits if my NDN siblings would indulge me), I can’t find any follow up information anywhere, but when standing on Maungatautari I watch the trees dance. They don’t move like this anywhere else. My partner and I are here setting traps, baiting pests with ink and poison. This is what it takes to protect a world of birds. Mammals were not meant to come here. Tūmatauenga made sure we had a place here by beating all the other Atua up, it’s why we’re allowed to eat kaimoana, and yes even eat Tāne’s manu (though pākehā have taken that from us too). I don’t eat meat though I wonder what Tū makes of that, if anything. When I’m walking up the maunga my lungs tell me to give in and curl over. Sometimes rushing isn’t worth how much air it takes from us. Sometimes I’m scared we try to squeeze too much out of the time given to us. I walk backwards into the future.
The only why that I think we should care about is the why aren’t we allowed? The why can’t we have our land back? The why must things stay the same? Everyday lived out on land they stole from us. Everyday lived out in a world where the binary of fuck this and not that polices our bodies. The everyday lived out between walls and inside fences, and on the edge of deadlines and debt and owed this and that to the Kawanatanga. The everyday of licking boots. Why must our everyday be so utterly colonised? Why search for the reason of transness when the reason for this cis-tem is so absurd and violent?
When we reach the summit, we stand there and raise our arms to the sky, we can almost touch the body of Ranginui or so it seems, there is a splitting noise and we watch as the earth cracks open. Everywhere here are volcanoes and Rūaumoko just waiting inside their mother’s stomach to claw up into the open air. Watch as the rebirth crawls to the river of chemicals. Watch as it tries on different dresses in the forest. This body is our body. This body is fucking pissed off and ready to fight for all of us, our patron god is ready to fight for us too. The trans being grows wings and flies out over the forest, trees becoming green smudges, their eyes moving across the body of a fish that is coming back to life. We start to dance as the fish flops, show us your moves it says. I can feel our Atua whooping in the breeze getting ready for dance dance revolution.
NOTE: for context a lot of the Māori words and their meanings can be found on maoridictionary.co.nz
essa may ranapiri (Ngāti Raukawa/Tainui/Ngāti Takatāpui/Clan Gunn/Highgate) is a person or some shit / or whatever / they wrote a book of poems called ransack / it's still in th world / the only time they use they/them pronouns for themselves is in these bios / isn't that funny / thx goes out to their ancestors / who are as big as everything / just wow / just everything / they will write until they're dead