A Letter to My Male Friends Who May Not Know That They Are Women


Dearest loves,

As you are, I am stricken. I am devastated. I am unmade.

We have all felt a terrible blow. And yet, of course, we all feel it differently, and have different understandings of what has befallen us, and what is to come. What I fear now is that the extent of my sorrow and devastation will seem unaccountable to many who are close to me. That this terrible thing that has happened to all of us will divide me from those I hold most dear. I feel I must write to you, my closest and most important friends, so that when we are together you can understand why I am so changed.

I woke up on the morning of November 9 with a new body. The first thing I discovered, and it’s been a surprise, is that I am female. I stood in the bathroom and looked at my breasts in the mirror. How strange that these familiar shapes now mean something new.

Deep in the night of the election, I felt a storm of hate, one that had obviously been building for months, years, decades, but was now rising to unimaginable heights, striking like terrible lightning through my physical body. I felt this hate was directed very, very precisely, at me. It said that my claims to be fully human were rejected utterly, and that the destruction of everything I loved would be reveled in. I am taking this very personally.

More than 60 million people have chosen to support and condone a leader who does not believe I am fully human. Because I am female. Because, when I take my shirt off I see breasts. Because I have a clit. And because I am queer—queerness ignites a gender panic, a hatred, which is at its roots misogynistic. And again because I live in a city, because I read books, and I write, and I make art. Because I practice meditation. Because I wear my hair a certain way. Because of what I value and because of everything I love. As I examine my life and myself, wherever I look, there is nothing about me that is not hated by that hate.

And yet as I feel that hatred coursing through me, I discover that my body is not only what I can see in the mirror. I feel the hatred reach and run through every female body. Every little girl, watching and puzzled, trying to discover who she is and can be. Every old lady and every embryo. My female body is huge; it contains millions. I feel the hate running through my queer body, male and female and trans and in drag and undefinable. My body grows, mysterious and enormous. I feel it running through all the people on the subway with me, every single resident of New York City. I feel the hatred attack every Muslim-American and every immigrant and every person of color. By where the hatred goes, I know who I am. I feel it coursing through every book on my shelf, through libraries and campuses, through professors and students and scientists, through therapists and social workers and aid workers, through peace activists and do-gooders, through writers and artists. I feel the hatred striking everywhere that inner life is valued and treasured, everywhere there is a subjectivity that declares itself to be fully human, uncontrolled and uncontrollable by authority.


I understand that not every part of my new body loves me, or wishes to be defined as part of me. Many or most may be offended by the idea. This is a body I do not have, or claim, agency over, a body I cannot and do not appropriate, colonize, or control. It is a body of subjectivities, all nerve endings: a body of feeling.

I am aware that many parts of my new body also hate me, and may feel that they themselves are not fully human, and that many parts of my new body voted for a world that condones and ratifies this hatred. This body is riddled with self-hatred and fear.

I am walking through the streets alternately crying and raging. If I see you, there may be tears running down my face. I am afraid for the world. I am afraid for my friendships. Some people I love may have wished for this devastation. Some people I love may not be feeling this blow in their own body. Some people I love may not be able to recognize it in mine. Some of my male friends may not know that they are women. I am afraid that when my friends look at me, they won’t recognize their own lightning-struck body looking back.

November 12, 2016


Photograph of a November 12, 2016 protest in New York City provided by the author.

Sal Randolph is an artist who lives in Brooklyn and works between language and action. Her projects have been seen recently at Cooper Union, Denny Gallery, Wave Pool, Asian Arts Theater, Le Centre Culturel de Cerisy, and at the Akademie der Kunst in Berlin. She is the co-founder of dispersed holdings, an artist-run listening and publication space. New language work is in Otoliths, Queen Mob's Teahouse, the anthology Dream Closet, and forthcoming in La Vague. She is also writing a novel on Twitter: @driftictation. More from this author →