UTERIA by BETHANY HENRY GEMMELL
Uteria, my darling, are you okay? I’m not.
When we first met, I was not expecting you. You could have called ahead. Well – yeah – okay – you did. I just did not know the signs back then. At that time, your existence confused me. By that point, the only explanation for why you were here was that I was becoming a woman. My
God, the agony! As Mum came rushing in with a hot water bottle while I was writhing on her bed, she said, “That’s what you are now, my darling! A woman!” She reaffirms that sentiment when I tell her the contrary. I think she’s now the one confused. The world and she tell me that I am in fact that. They say as long as you exist with me, Uteria, that I will always be a woman. No wonder some men get rid of you.
The thing is, though, I am fine with you here, Uteria. I don’t know a world without your monthly visit. Some people, who are not necessarily women, just menstruate! The idea of my being a woman shredded away year by year since your first visit.
Like an egg in that follicular phase, the notion of my being a man in truth had been developing in the background long before I realised it. It was not yet open nor taking centre-stage, but there it was for at least twelve years. I remember at thirteen not feeling an inherent connection to the labels girl and woman. They were hollow, Uteria. Meaningless. Mere lifeless placeholders.
If I called myself a girl or a woman back then, I was not lying, I was just upholding a myth.
Everyone used to say that there were gods on the mountain top. It was an accepted reality. “You don’t believe there are gods on the mountain top? You must be stupid! You must be confused!”
I bleed, therefore I am. Right?
At the age of twenty-five, Uteria, I climbed that mountain to look. All I saw was just grass and rocks and sky.
Well – unlike how you prepare the womb – there was no soft lining to gently catch me and keep me safe when realisation of my inherent manhood hit me. I did not know the realisation was going to strike me in July 2020 on my bedroom floor. God, it was hard! I cried for an hour. I was told I was a woman but if my being in truth a man felt so right, how come it felt so wrong? I reflected on my history: I used to cry when I wore dresses; I hated being given make-up for gifts; I wanted to play with my brother’s toys.
Thus, Uteria, like the luteal stage, the egg appears. Womanhood breaks away. My feelings of manhood keep developing in the background as I grow. There is cushy lining for those feelings now.
And so, the cycle continues.
Bethany Henry Gemmell (they/them) is a London-based Northern educator and writer. In the past couple of years, they have written for the Royal Court Theatre’s Listen Local project, for Wild Forest Theatre’s production Turning Tables which debuted in the 2021 E17 Festival, and for different festivals like One Egg No Batter’s 24-Hour Play challenge and the Playwriting Collective’s Love and Survival production which was held at Tower Theatre. So far, their accomplishments in theatre include: firstly, co-founding Wild Forest Theatre and being one of its artistic directors and, secondly, being recently shortlisted for The Queens of Cups’ New Moon Monologues twice and for Leading Light Collective’s Dear Mother Nature project. Consistently, their writing has been positively received and has amassed keen interest from audiences in workshops and readings. In their writing, they like to play with a multi-media approach to story-telling and they focus on different themes such as autism, relationships between family and friends, growth and self-reflection, true crime and scandal, and the trans experience. When they are not writing, they are painting, playing sports, completing puzzles, finishing their Human Rights Masters degree, and volunteering for charities. They have previously written under Bethany J. Gemmell and Patrick Henry Gemmell and their Twitter handle is: @hengemmell