Her Mom Wanted Her To Wear A Dress To Prom. Here's What She Wanted To Say But Couldn't.

These two girls tell the story of childhood friends who share something even more special than memories — and remind us that we're all so much more than meets the eye. Even if you don't like spoken word, trust me: This performance is unlike anything you've ever seen.

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Narrator: Give it up for Team Philly. This poem is about transgender issues who have this one being, being expressed by two people. One side's the boy. One side's the girl.

Alysia Harris: Melissa sits in the back of the class and is afraid to speak up. She pulls awkwardly at her extra loose khaki cargo pants. She doesn't want the boys to notice her.

Aysha El Shamaylah: James finds himself the back of the classroom. His baseball cap casts a shadow on his pimple stained forehead. A white shirt hangs on his broad shoulders, but no one ever noticed him.

Alysia Harris: Melissa, the teacher asks. And she says nothing because she is not here and Melissa has never been here because Melissa is just some just some abstract, jumble of syllables that doesn't fit her position. She's not what she seems. She doesn't want to have to explain to her mother for the 232 time why she doesn't want to have to wear a dress to prom. Doesn't paint her face because her whole body's painted on.

Aysha El Shamaylah, Alysia Harris: Melissa, Melissa.

Aysha El Shamaylah: James doesn't want to have to explain where he came from.

Because with the exception of Melissa he has been deemed an abstract reality by everyone.

Aysha El Shamaylah: All he wishes for is to get to wear a tuxedo to prom.

Alysia Harris: And Melissa's been tugging at breasts that have been growing for only three years now, but using duck tape to press them down and mold them more into pects. She just wishes that people would understand that at birth her genitals didn't know which way to grow. Mad at God who couldn't relay the message directly to her hormones that they should produce more testosterone.

Aysha El Shamaylah, Alysia Harris: The only person who understands her is James.

Alysia Harris: And they've been playmates since the age of four. Around the time girls notice boys.

Aysha El Shamaylah: And boys notice girls.

Alysia Harris: See, James's family wanted daughters.

Aysha El Shamaylah: Instead of sons.

Alysia Harris: And Melissa was always like that male beetle that everyone called a ladybug.

Aysha El Shamaylah, Alysia Harris: Melissa, Melissa, where is she? Sometimes she wishes she could rip the skin off her back. Every moment of every day she's inside the flesh of a stranger. Melissa.

Alysia Harris: And she stands to her feet wanting to say.

Aysha El Shamaylah, Alysia Harris: I'm here, and I've been here since I was born. So quit asking me if I'm a him or a her. Because when you combine the two pronouns you get h-i-r, here. And God combined the two genders and put me in this body, transgender-ed. I'm here, so quit talking about me like I'm not here.

Alysia Harris: James falls back into Melissa's skin.

Aysha El Shamaylah, Alysia Harris: And the two comfort each other in their syncopated heart beats.

Alysia Harris: Waiting for the day where Melissa can finally scrub off this made up genetic makeup. When the teach asks for James. He can say...

Aysha El Shamaylah: I'm here.

Narrator: Give it up for Philadelphia. All right, next on the stage.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

This poem was originally performed by Alysia Harris and Aysha El Shamayleh at the 2008 Brave New Voices National Youth Poetry Grand Slam. The competition first aired on HBO's docu-series of the same name.

May 14, 2014

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