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As an older trans woman, out of my myriad of experiences over the years, some of which includes working with veterans, I have found there is much healing through accessing and processing grief. I believe that much of what is going on with our current climate of transphobia in many states can be helped by listening to one another with depth. More important is an understanding that letting go of a systemic ideology of the gender binary means grieving the loss of those systems that were not questioned 40 years ago. It means that there is much work and discomfort ahead, both individually and collectively from a societal perspective, to let go and find greater acceptance and compassion for the trans and non-binary communities.

My poem, “Grief” speaks to that mindset.




By Alicia Sainz Arballo


In the early evening

a group of aging veterans

make their way up

the hill.

Flanked by the young

who know little of the

elders’ past.


Shoulders slumped, heads down,

the path anything but inviting.


Not the arduousness of the climb,

but the task:


To unbury the moment of loss.

Relive the trauma, the pain.

and fear.

Then fight through that,

and allow themselves time to grieve.


As the stars begin to peak through

the darkening sky.




Graying, weathered, aching,

They choose a spot to lie

facing the heavens

and invite the energy of the blackness

to surround them.

The hardened dirt,

a welcome mat

keeping each from sinking

beyond the depths into a


feeling less,




they shout the names of those killed,

who fought beside them.


As the words leave their lips,

tears, then weeping,

bodies shaking.

Years of sadness and horror

locked away.


weighing each one down

with sickness, anger, and depression.


The youth surround them

laying their small hands on each.


their energy


the combined grief.


The last of them

pronouncing their loss,

streams of sadness

flowing down the corners

of their water filled eyes,

moistening the earth.


Gone now,

their pain


I say to myself


Is there a hill for us to climb?

A place to lay down,

yell at the stars

and let go?


Our perceptions of what has been,

For what is.


A child says to their mother

“I’m not a girl, I’m a boy.”


Let go….


A man says to his wife of 30 years,

“I’m a woman.”


Let go…..


A woman says to her girlfriends,

“I don’t feel like a woman, and I don’t feel like a man,

I’m not sure who I am.”


Let go….


Systems of gender that have held us as a society

without question

to understand the anger and fear,

and know grief is a path


where we may find a place of

stillness to

examine our feelings.


Where we may witness our discomfort,

our history of denial


and know,

without accessing this loss

and release,

allowing outstretched hands

to comfort what we’re afraid

may never be



Alicia Sainz Arballo is a transgender woman who started her medical transition at the age of 62 years old. She is a life long educator who worked for the Los Angeles Unified School district as a counselor and teacher for 36 years. She facilitated her school’s GSA club and provided teachers with professional developments to better navigate the needs of her school’s LGBTQIA+ community. She is also a musician, playing guitar since the age of six, and poet, recently participating in the “My Life is Poetry” workshop through Los Angeles LGBTQ center, and is working at publishing a chapbook on her coming out process. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music from California State University Northridge, and a Masters in Counseling from California Lutheran University. She continues to advocate for trans affirming health care for all ages.

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