Momma and them call me James

My momma, daddy and my brothers call me James. The only one that knows my real name is my big sister Jeannette.  She knows my name ain’t no James, it’s Jennifer.  But you can’t tell that to my momma and them. No sir’ree, they go tell you you crazy, like they tell me.

They said I’m crazy cause I know the truth. Well, the truth as I see it. See my momma and them call me by a boy name cause they musta wanted one bad enough when I was born. I don’t know why, they got six of them already. But they named me…James.

When I was younger I didn’t mind what people called me because I didn’t too much care. They said I was a boy and that was that. But then one day, I was about eight or so, I started thinking. I said to myself, ‘Jennifer, if you a boy then how come you look so sweet? I said, if you a boy how come you act so feminine? I said to myself, Jennifer, if you a boy then how come you think you a girl?’Well I’ll tell you like I told my momma and them. I’m a girl because when I look deep in my heart, and when I talk to my spirit, I know I’m a girl.

Shoot, I ain’t but 12 years old but I know more than momma and them give me credit fo’. I know what’s in my heart and my spirit.

It don’t make no sense, you say you a girl, you look like a girl, and act like a girl, but don’t nobody treat you like one. Except my big sister Jeannette!

Momma told me, “Chile if you lay that girl shit on me one mo’ time, I’m gonna whip yo’ ass until you bleed.”

Daddy didn’t make it no better, he said, “You must be a faggot or something thinking you a girl. I ain’t go have no faggots living in my house. So you can quit that girl stuff now  You hear me?”

My brothers and them, they just tease me and call me names and stuff. But like Jeanette always say, ‘sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.’

Jeanette’s 18 so I know she knows what she’s talking about. The only one that really loves me and calls me Jennifer, is Jeanette. We were talking one day and she looked at me and said, “Jennifer, you my sister no matter what momma, daddy or anybody say. I can look at you and see a pretty girl. I don’t know why momma and them can’t. Besides, I use to always pray for a sister, and you’re the answer to my prayers. I love you Jennifer, I really do.

So that’s why I changed my name to Jennifer, because I am a girl. I don’t mention it in front of momma and them no mo’, but that’s what I am.

Shoot, I’m only 12 years old and got all these troubles. What go happen when I get older? Well, I’ll tell you what go happen to me. I’m go be me no matter what momma, daddy or anybody say. I got one good friend in this world, my big sister Jeanette, and that’s all I need.

Well, now y’all know all about me, what’cha got to say? Y’all go judge me like momma and them? Y’all go call me names like my brothers and them? It don’t matter cause I know who I am.

You know what I wish fo’? I wish people could just see me for me. I don’t ask fo’ much, but that’s what I’m asking fo’ now. Just see me as me!

Cause Jennifer is my name, and being a girl is my game!

Lynnell Stephani Long
Copyright 1999

(note: Lynnell's performance in Toronto of this piece was videotaped in 1999. Since then, the video has been shown at five film festivals, including the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival. It was shown in 2001 at the Inside Out Film Festival in Toronto.) 

All rights are reserved. This piece is protected under U.S. copyright law.

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