It gets better …

A local woman’s poem about how she became who she is

Over the past few years, Jovi Radtke has become a regular voice at rallies for marriage equality, events to benefit the local homeless community, and “everywhere she can find a mic.”

Over the past few years, Jovi Radtke has become a regular voice at rallies for marriage equality, events to benefit the local homeless community, and “everywhere she can find a mic.”

Photo By photo courtesy Marci S. Burba

Jovi Radtke is in her own words, a “queer, activist, humanist, writer—hoping to spread as much love through this world that a pen and paper will allow”
More of Jovi Radtke’s work can be found at
The author read this spoken-word poem earlier in the month at a GLBTQ “Service of Remembrance” at St. John’s Lutheran Church. She brought the crowd to tears—and then to their feet in a standing ovation.

At 11 years old, I believed in magic.

Like I could catch falling stars in a mason jar, carry the construction of the Colosseum in my shirt pocket, paint a storm sky to life with daylight on dark thundering nights while breathing in ocean water and exhaling the sea.

You see, at 11 years old, I found me: rustic bred sin beneath the skin of a prepubescent lesbian.

11 … and I was already learning how to turn salt-water tears into Acid Rain. How to forecast the storm clouds directly over the future crowds of hate and let it pour down until we’re all decayed bones exposed. Our identical fiber framework showing that beneath each personal porcelain mask, we’re all the same. We’re all stripped liquid vinegar and baking soda compound just waiting to explode into being, with magma thick flowing through the veins on hard days until it reaches the only place hate can’t penetrate: our hearts.

The heart is a volcano; meant to live dormant, hibernate through the seasons until you need it.

And at 12 years old, I learned how to breathe in volcanic ash, the first time someone asked if I was a boy or a girl. In a world suffocating from needing one or the other, stereotyped black and white canvases of people painted to look normal; rotting carcasses of 2-dimensional beings seeing through the construction fences of their own white picket lives, while inside resides the half empty glasses from the times they spent denying themselves a sense of self by wearing society’s sketched on easel faces the way I wore myself.

But at 13, I was bullied into believing there was something wrong with me.

Shrapnel stuck deep like tattoo ink from the soprano-toned screams of school hall violence—I practiced silence—I perfected hiding quiet behind their ignorant closet doors—praying they wouldn’t find me. Praying, that if they did, they’d like me if I could just try to be more like them.

If I could just die, then I could be born again into an honest body—because at 13, I learned how to lie …

… to myself.

And every day after was a game of Russian Roulette with Reality, as I would hide me—deep seated and scared—in straight-layered disguises supplied by their guidance, for the sake of being perceived as normal.

For the sake of being left alone.

For the sake of feeling like just another.



Just another … kid.

So, I did. I wore their painted on faces, their social claustrophobia, their selfish noose-induced need to eradicate anything different.

I wore their ignorance until my bones became a wax figurine not belonging to me.

And on those post school afternoons, the alone in the walk home was the only time I’d let Reality’s trigger finger win. I’d give in to those thoughts never lost but hidden in the hours of public education. I was myself for 30 minutes a day. Where I was made to crave the time zone of being alone. Where I could find peace in being me.

Where I could find that piece of me I kept secret believing that conformity would work for me and just maybe by pretending to be something I’m not, the taunts would stop.

I was wrong.

Years passed—and I was harassed enough into thinking they were right and in each class I found myself trying to listen in someone else’s skin, but the only lesson strong enough not to overlook wasn’t from a teacher or a book, but came in the form of machete sharp stares at my short hair, with their conforming pointing fingers wanting to lynch my differences from street lights just like the KKK hung humanity from trees.

Visions of burnt fire crosses and my knees became too weak to pretend to walk any further in their shoes—and my sin bred skin too strong lose myself in their white sheet attire. So, I retired my disguise, melted the wax holding the mold of my bones hostage because I’d rather be crucified for liking girls then left alive for hating anybody.

Truth is: no matter how hard I tried to rewrite my fiber, reconstruct my brain waves, or straight color-code my DNA, I’m gay—I was born this way. And the only crucifix I will ever build will be for my addictive need to be their cookie cutter color of normal.

At 17, I was proud to learn that I’m not a paint-by-numbers product of Monet. When I came out GAY, it was like a rabbit pulled from the hats of magicians, but the beauty wasn’t in the magic, it was in that innocent animal held captive being set free.

At 17, I set myself free and for me, it got better. Better to know myself and trust that I’ll never be like them.

Better to know that when you weather the frostbit bones of the cold alone, of the razor sharp stages of life that feel like knives are trying hard to carve out the volcano in your chest every time the moon sets and morning comes, inviting in another day, and inside the sunrise you swear you can find the source of time forcing you to endure the same pain all over again.

It gets better …

The moment you let in the warming effect of being whoever you are, you’ll find a kind of surprising rich freedom, like shoving your hands deep in the sand and pulling up fistfuls of diamonds. Finding that if you clutch self-love tight enough into your palms, the only tangible grasp that matters is how you see yourself. How you see the truth in knowing you’re different only for the way you love, only for your outright ability to love because it scares them into hiding inside hollowed out cloaked hate, terrorized by the stains of broken belts pelting self induced bullet wounds to their own characters, because some just aren’t strong enough to know what LOVE or a SENSE OF SELF means.

Believe me, it gets better …

When you see your very first sunrise through your new set of free eyes, it paints scenes of hope where life resides inside the journey of being whoever you are LOUD enough to eclipse the entire sky and you’ll find you’re not alone anymore. You’ll find that catching falling stars in a mason jar is a type of magic practical at any age; the outrageous part of life is surviving long enough to remember how.

At 28 years old, right now, I still believe in magic.