Title: The Limitations of the Polish Language
Warnings: Dysphoria, brief discussion of sex
Summary: Polska is female, but they are not.
Notes: Thank you to Saucy on Tumblr for some help! Originally from the Kink Meme.
Only slightly self-indulgement.
That is the Polish language’s gender-neutral pronoun. Ono—a word which, translated into the English language, means it.
That is what Poland is. Poland, the representation of the Republic of Poland, is nothing more than an it in the eyes of their people.
Poland drinks their tea, the liquid scalding their throat as they try to take their mind off their chest. Tears spring into their eyes, and they struggle to gulp the burning tea. It’s four forty-five. Another half-hour and Lithuania should be back home from work.
Deciding that they can’t take this anymore, Poland pours the rest of their tea in the sink and heads upstairs. Their work clothes itch their skin, their pants reminding them of genitals that should not—cannot—be there and their shirt clinging to their chest. They unbutton their shirt before they reach the door and pull on something looser. A V-cut pastel blouse with small daisies on the sleeve. They change their pants into a short pink skirt.
Yet despite changing their clothes to reflect what they’re feels inside, the itch doesn’t go away. It remains, searing into a burn, and the mirror across the room tempts them to smash it into a million pieces.
Poland puts their head in their hands and sits on the bed, their back facing the mirror. Lithuania once said that their clothing choices made them look like a women, but woman never sat right with them. They are not a woman. They do not feel like a women. They do not feel like a man either.
I am an it.
They bury their head in their pillow and try to think. To try to find some positive outlook in this. Their boss can’t fire them (how can you fire a nation?), but their coworkers would treat them with disdain. They saw their looks when some of their more eccentric habits came to light, and they knew that they’re not very well liked.
So, okay, maybe I won’t be able to talk about it at work.
But what about their friends, other nations? Surely, one or two out of the nearly 200 of them might feel the same as they do. Some might even know what’s wrong with them. They’ve felt this way for centuries, and has confided to Italy about it on so many occasions.
“That’s really weird . I don’t think I’ve ever heard something like that before.” Italy told them once at a café in Florence. “So, you’re not a boy and you’re not a girl? I don’t know much about that. Does Lithuania know?”
Lithuania—who he shares a bed with, who kisses them on the forehead when they’re feeling down, who pulls the covers off them when it’s Sunday and they have to go to Mass, who spends extra time praying after Communion when his people are facing a financial or economic problem—how would he react to this? He spent two years debating whether or not to sleep with Poland if it would be an enormous infraction against the religion he joined a hundred years before. They can’t see Lithuania outright rejecting them—after all this is Lithuania. But he will be confused. He still gets confused when Poland crossdresses.
The front door opens and a “Poland, I’m home,” echoes through the house.
Poland flinches. Polska is female, but they are not.
“Hey, Liet.” Hey, Liet, you just caught me right in the middle of feeling disgusted with my body. How was your day?
They go to the top of the stairs. “You’re home early.”
“Had less paperwork to file than I thought.” Lithuania takes off his jacket and hangs it on the coat rack. “Warm for January.”
Lithuania looks up. “Err, was it casual day at work?”
“Oh, this?” Poland gestures to their outfit. “I just wanted to change out of my work clothes as soon as I got home.”
Lithuania shrugs. Bless him, he knows better than to question Poland’s habits.
“What would you like for dinner?”
“I-I was thinking we could go out tonight. There’s a Moldavian winery near Ujazdowski I wanna try out.”
Lithuania smiles slightly. “I appreciate the gesture but we already went out on Friday. I don’t like spending this much money on food.”
“Ha ha right…”
Lithuania tilts his head to the side. “Are you alright?”
“Fine. I’m fine,” Poland says flippantly. “So…dinner?”
“Yes, dinner. We should have Polish food today, I made Lithuanian yesterday.” Lithuania enters the kitchen, and Poland follows him. Lithuania opens the fridge. “Or we could have leftovers.”
Poland’s skirt brushes against their groin and they wince. “On second thought, I’m, like, not that hungry.”
Lithuania raises an eyebrow at them, and he closes the fridge door. “Is something wrong?”
“N-No, not at all.”
Lithuania sighs and walks towards them. “I’ve know you for over 500 years. I know when something’s wrong. Talk to me.”
Poland stays quiet. Ordinarily, they would blabber on and on about their problem until Lithuania would get sick of it. But this, how could they possibly know how Lithuania would react to it?
“Does Lithuania know?”
“You’re not gonna like it.”
Lithuania frowns. “Did you spend all of your President’s spare money again?”
Poland sputters. “No, no! And that happened one time!”
“Oh thank God, because that was a mess in itself.” Lithuania shakes his head and takes his hands. “What’s wrong, Poland?”
The gentle way the words leave his lips make Poland’s eyes water, and they look down. They close their eyes. If Lithuania’s words are harsh, they don’t want to see his face.
“I’m not a man.”
Lithuania’s hands let go of theirs.
Poland’s eyes are still shut. The soft and sweet and understanding tone Lithuania adopted a few moments ago has been replaced by one full of shock and confusion.
“What do you mean you’re not a man?” Lithuania continues.
Poland’s lips quiver. If they break now, they would never be able to finish their explanation.
“I’m not—I’m not a man.”
“What do you mean you’re not a man?” Lithuania repeats. “Are you a woman? Does this have to do with your crossdressing—?”
“No!” Poland snaps, finally opening their eyes. Lithuania’s hand is gripping a chair, and he is looking at Poland as if they had grown a second head. Despite the look of disbelief on Lithuania’s face, Poland can’t back down. “I’m neither.”
“Nei—What?” Lithuania exclaims again. “What are you talking about? I’m very confused. You’ve been a man your whole life.”
“No, I haven’t,” Poland says firmly. “I’ve felt this way for centuries. Believe me, I know what I am.”
Lithuania shook his head. “This is preposterous. You can’t be neither a man nor a woman. That’s impossible.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Poland inches forward. Okay, well, this couldn’t have been the worst reaction from Lithuania, but it is nowhere near positive. “I not a man or woman. I’m neither.”
“Is your cross-dressing confusing you?” Lithuania says. “You’ve never said anything like this before.”
“No!” Poland yells. Why can’t he see? “It has nothing to do with how I dress. It has to do with—It has to do with what’s in here .” Poland points to their head.
Lithuania stares at them. “You need psychiatric help?” he offers.
“Oh my God, forget it.” Poland stomps out of the kitchen. They should’ve known that Lithuania would act like this. Stupid, old-fashioned Lithuania.
“I’m genuinely confused.” Lithuania follows them to the living room. “What do you mean you’re neither a man or woman? How is that even possible?”
Poland whirls on him. “I’m just not, okay? You clearly have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“No, I don’t because you’ve barely explained anything. How are you not a man when you have the body of one? Are you transsexual?”
“No, I’m…” Poland blinks. “…Yes, in a way? I don’t know if that word applies to me.”
“I still don’t understand.” Lithuania sits down on the couch. “How are you neither? What is going on?”
Poland sighs, biting their lip.
“It’s like…Like my body doesn’t feel like my own. There’s something off with how my mind sees my body and how it actually is.” Yes, yes, that was a good explanation about those feelings of disconnect. Poland snaps their fingers to keep their tempo. “My mind doesn’t think my body is how it’s supposed to be.”
Lithuania sighs and puts a hand over his face. “So, what? You’re neither a man or a woman so you’re…just what, neuter?”
“I guess. That’s what Italy told me.”
Lithuania gulps. “Italy?” he says, his voice shaking. “You’ve been talking to Italy about this?”
“Well…yeah he’s my friend.”
Lithuania stares at him for a few moments and shakes his head. “But that can’t be possible,” he growls. Poland flinches at the venom in his voice. “I mean…” He stands up and goes over to a bookshelf. Poland has a sinking feeling about the book he’s getting. “If you were a woman then…well, that makes more sense than this.” He gestures towards Poland before pulling out a thick, recognizable book and setting it on the coffee table.
“The Bible? Really?” A shiver runs down Poland’s spine. As if they didn’t already have enough to deal with, Lithuania is going to start throwing religious arguments at them.
“It says nothing about being neuter in here.” Lithuania flips through the first pages. “Here in Genesis: ‘So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’ We’re also human, just as much as we are nations.”
Poland sits on the couch in the place where Lithuania sat moments before, facing a creeping realization that they pushed out of their mind until now. Poland is one of the most Catholic countries in the world, consistently having one of the highest church-going populations in Europe. How could this be in anyway compatible with what the church teaches? What could they possibly do about this?
Then again, the Church also preached that homosexuality was wrong and yet…
“We already had this conversation 500 years ago,” Poland says.
“How?” Lithuania puts the Bible back on the shelf.
Poland raises an eyebrow. “‘Oh no, Poland!” they adopt a dramatic Lithuania voice. “‘We shouldn’t give into our carnal desires! This is a grave sin against nature.’”
Lithuania’s red face shouldn’t give them any satisfaction, but it does.
“That was completely different,” Lithuania says quietly, “and you know it.”
“No it’s not!” Poland insists. “We both thought we were going to Hell until I convinced you—”
“Our feelings were something that neither of us could change,” Lithuania continues in the same cold tone. “They grew naturally.”
“This is natural.” Poland stands up. “I don’t know what else I’m supposed to say to you if you’re not going to accept this.”
“What am I supposed to do even if I did?” Lithuania raises his hands in the air.
“Just…support me or something! More than just ‘Gee, Poland, the Bible doesn’t say—’”
“I don’t know what to say.” Lithuania sits back down, this time in a chair by the fireplace. “I’ve known you for over 700 years and now you’re just telling me that you’re neither a man or a woman.”
That last line turns on a light bulb in Poland’s mind, and they lower their voice. “What do you mean?”
“I mean if Italy probably knows—”
“You’re…You’re jealous?” There’s a side of Lithuania they haven’t seen.
“No, I’m not just—” Lithuania raises his hands before resting them in his lap. “First you spring this news on me and then—” He shakes his head. “I just can’t believe this.”
“Are you jealous that I told Italy before I told you?” Poland asks softly. That would explain his change from being genuinely confused to hurling the Bible at them.
“I wouldn’t be jealous of Italy,” Lithuania says. “It’s just—” He puts his head in his hands and groans loudly.
Poland huffs. “Liet, come on.”
“If you’re so confused about your gender then…then why did you wait such a long time to tell me?” Lithuania lifts his head from his hands. “I could’ve helped you instead of you just saying ‘Liet, I have no gender.’”
So it was the Italy thing. “You’re upset because I decided to tell Italy and not you.”
“What if I am? I get so worried about you and all your antics and—”
Poland blinks. “Just admit it. You’re jealous that I told Italy before you.”
“Okay, fine.” Lithuania spread his arms wide. “I live here with you and you never considered telling me until now.”
“You expect me to tell you everything instead of telling my friends?” Poland stands up, incensed. “You don’t control me!”
“No, I don’t, and I don’t want to.” Lithuania stands up as well, glaring at Poland. “I know that you go to Hungary and Italy and Ukraine and others with things that you’re not comfortable telling me with and that’s fine. But this? We sleep together for God’s sake.”
“You’re wondering why I never trusted you with this, and we’re having this argument right now? You know who I went to when I first thought I had feelings for you?” Poland says.
Lithuania says nothing and sits back down.
“Hungary. I went to Hungary because I had no idea what to do, and you’d get so angry if I told you about what I was feeling. This is the same.” They take a deep breath. “I know how Catholic we both are, and how we both go to Church on Sundays. I seriously had no idea what you’d do if you found out about this.”
Lithuania doesn’t speak. He thoughtfully looks at Poland. They wonder about the thoughts going in Lithuania’s head and the realization that his best friend has no gender. Poland closes their eyes, as if waiting for the guillotine to fall. Lithuania is Lithuania—the kind and gentle nation who did everything for Poland, even if at times they didn’t deserve it.
“Please say something.”
“I still don’t understand—”
Poland yells. “Kurwa.”
“Hold on, please let me finish.” Poland falls silent.
Lithuania looks at Poland. “I don’t understand how you’re…genderless or whatever. I don’t think I ever will. But I—” He scratches the back of his head. “I know why you waited until now to tell me. I thought that with everything we’ve gone through together, you would tell me everything before you confided in anyone else. I’m sorry, Poland. I shouldn’t have gotten that angry.”
Poland sighs at the tension deflating in the room. “Liet, it’s okay.” Their mind brings up a memory from the 1920s, of a newly independent Lithuania in a bathtub with scars and scabs all over his back. “I know that there are things you’re not comfortable telling me either. Not until you’re ready.”
Lithuania looks down. “Thank you. Oh, Poland, I feel so ashamed. I never should have brought religion into it.” He shifts himself around the coffee table until he is next to Poland, taking their hands. “I’m so sorry. Even if you don’t have a gender, I know that God loves you no matter what.”
Poland lets out a choked sob and buries their head in Lithuania’s shirt. “G-God, thank you.” They whimper as Lithuania’s arms curl around them and hold them close.
“It’s okay,” Lithuania murmurs. “Poland, it’s okay.” He put his hands on Poland’s shoulders and tilts their face upwards. “I still don’t understand this gender business but I’ll try to support you however I can.”
Poland sighs and sniffles. “Thanks.” This has gone so so much better than expected. They look up at Lithuania and blurts out the next lines. “I don’t know what to do if this gets out. I feel completely disconnected from my body a lot, and I really don’t know what to do about it. I can’t think of any precedence for this at all. I feel really really awful when people use he for me but I don’t want them to call me an it either. I don’t know what to do about anything.”
“Okay, okay, okay,” Lithuania says quickly. “Why don’t we take this one step at a time and try to find out more about how you feel?” His voice slows, and he rubs Poland’s arms. “We’ll figure something out.”
“Thanks so much again, Liet.”
Lithuania detaches himself from Poland and takes his scarf off the coat rack. “We can discuss this over dinner. We don’t need reservations for that winery, right?”
Poland smiles and follows him to the coat rack “I don’t think it’s going to be busy on a Wednesday night. Wait, we can’t discuss it over dinner. What if someone overhears us?”
Lithuania responds in his native language. “Then we’ll talk in Lithuanian. Just to warn you, you’re still wearing a skirt and blouse.”
Poland shrugs and pulls on their jacket. “To be honest, I put it on because I was feeling disconnected earlier today but I still want to keep it on.” They zip up.
“Shall we?” Lithuania holds out his hand.
Poland takes it with a smile. “Of course.”