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Dear Fish

Chamomile Harrison

Dear Fish,


I regret to inform you that you, in fact, do not exist. I know you must find this news surprising to say the least; I was certainly shocked when I found out. However, as strange as it may sound, I recently read a book on the matter of you existing and am quite convinced that you do not—exist that is.


I myself do not exist either. I am a trans woman, and, apparently, it is a general consensus that transgender people aren’t real. So, as someone with a bit of experience not existing, I have taken it upon myself to inform you of your status. I am sure that you were utterly unaware that you are not real, otherwise you would not be so rudely swimming about but instead leave that to animals that do exist, such as whales and dolphins. I know before I was so kindly informed that trans people do not exist, that I was happily going about my life as a transgender person and simply being an absolute queen. I would flaunt my gender by doing things like walking down the street or by sitting in class.


It was not until transphobes found it in their hearts to inform me that trans people do not exist and that it’s all in our heads that I started to go about remedying my mistake. I shudder to think that if no TERFs were to have messaged me unprompted on social media to explain how I do not exist as a trans woman, that I might still be going about enjoying my life, being confident in my identity, and overall having a jolly time. I am sure that now that I have informed you of the general consensus of your existence that you will do the same as I have and try your hardest to stop being what you are.


Now, I am sure you are thinking that there has surely been some mistake—that you in fact exist. You certainly are swimming about and living happily, are you not? I felt the same way when a TERF first declared that trans women do not exist because biological sex is either male

or female. I got defensive. I thought that I existed and that gender was different than sex. But the TERF kindly informed me that I was wrong. I am afraid the same is the case for you.


You see, the category of fish is different than that of other animals such as mammal or bird. Now, I am no expert in biology, but neither was the TERF, so I think I can continue. In a general sense of the matter, we define animals based on where they branch off on the tree of life. So, all mammals branched off the evolutionary tree some millions of years ago from a common ancestor. The same is true with birds or reptiles. However, the same does not apply to you, fish. You have all branched off many times, and no clear branch can be found on the tree of life to be labeled “fish.” Instead, a few confused humans came along and labeled almost anything in the water as fish. So, you see, most taxonomists agree that fish simply do not exist.


My experience with not existing comes in handy here. Similar to how some silly people saw a bunch of things swimming around that look like fish and mistakenly thought that fish exist, some people like me saw a bunch of people who did not feel like their gender and sex aligned and came up with the silly notion that trans people exist. It is easy to see how gender is constructed and changes over the years and from culture to culture, to look at the growing scientific evidence that suggests trans people exist, and the countless testimonies of trans people and conclude that trans people, in fact exist, but it would simply be an error to conclude that. As a middle-aged British author with no background in science but who wrote some children’s books once said, “sex is sex. No trans people.” I am paraphrasing of course. Someone as simple as you could not be expected to understand her highly technical arguments. This is the same way in which someone might catch a fish or go to an aquarium and see a bunch of fish and decide that fish do in fact exist. However, it simply is not the case. Even if a few old-fashioned biologists are behind and still believe you exist, most agree you do not. It is kind of like how all my doctors and psychologists, people who spent eight plus years in medical school learning about biology and psychology, all agree that I am a trans woman and should be allowed to transition. But what do they know? A vast number of transphobes agree that trans people do not exist. So they must be right. They are very smart like that.


It can be very hard not existing. I am the first to admit that. Back when I thought I existed, I was very happy in my life as a trans woman, but then I found out I am not real.  I can imagine you swimming around, being distressed as the sharks swim about trying to eat you, worried that you do not exist. It is very challenging. I face a similar situation whenever I use a public bathroom. Just wanting to mind my own business but a shark might swim around and tell me I don’t exist and that I need to get out of their bathroom before… but it is quite challenging. Whenever I am out in public people love to stare at me. I very well could be the first person that does not exist that they have seen. I am sure you are aware of this too, seeing as there are aquariums where people come to watch you as you swim about living your life. 


While it’s hard not existing, know that I am here for you. It is a challenging time and I

know the news must upset you. But you will get through this. Try not to worry about it too much and just be yourself. Keep on swimming and don’t worry too much what others think of you, my queer little fishes.




A Concerned Transgender

Chamomile Harrison is a young author who just received her BS in creative writing and psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Her work has previously appeared in The Abstract Elephant Magazine and The Muse. She hopes to use her writing to guide her in her career of advocacy

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