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Challenging “Supposed To”

Magazine Review by Katy Haas

If you’re using pride month as a time to become more familiar with LGBTQIA+ writers, I recommend grabbing a copy of the Spring 2020 issue of Hiram Poetry Review. Inside is the four-page poem “I Didn’t Know You Were Transgender” by Mercury Marvin Sunderland. This poem is a response to the observation cisgender people have made: “I didn’t know you were transgender / they tell me / I thought you were a cis man.”

Sunderland spends the poem speaking to these people, asserting his place in the gender spectrum. At one point he declares:

if you knew
even a scrap
of trans culture
you’d know i
already do look
like a trans man
because we are a diverse multitude all over the earth.

With this poem, he challenges the idea of what someone is “supposed” to or expected to look like, challenges the argument that using “they” as singular “destroy[s] the english language,” challenges the idea that “stick[ing] medicine in me” means “i want to be cisgender.”

Throughout the four pages, Sunderland provides a better understanding of what it means to be a trans man, and what it means to be Sunderland himself.