at The Whitman-Stein Poetry Fest
Jan Steckel


When I help a woman on with her jacket,

my sexuality grabs my gender identity

and waltzes it around the room.

I’m a woman, but there’s a man in me.

He’s a bit of a fop, sort of a pansy.

He might be a fag.

Why shouldn’t everything about me be fluid?

I’m a squishy skin-bag of water and salt,

ocean inside and out.

As a child, I was sure I was a boy.

The heroes of all the best books were boys.

I pretty much lived in my head, what I read.

Now I feel more like a woman –

except around straight women.

Then I feel like a butch lunk.

My husband thinks I’m a femme

because I wear lavender, (color and scent),

and ask him to open jars.

All roads meet in me:

butch when I wake up,

femme at lunch.

Androgynous at dinner,

totally trans all night .

Can I get that door for you?

Jan Steckel

First printed in Bi Women, Winter 2011


Jan Steckel’s full-length poetry book, The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011), won a Lambda Literary Award.

Her chapbooks Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards for LGBT writing.

Her fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in Yale Medicine, Scholastic Magazine, Bellevue Literary Review, Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly, Red Rock Review, and many other journals.

Jan’s writing has won a number of contests and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize.

She lives in Oakland with her husband Hew Wolff, host of Berkeley BiFriendly.



Jan Steckel reads Gabriela Mistral