The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: BABE by Dorothy Chan

This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Solstice Black, is from BABE by Dorothy Chan, released by Diode Editions in 2021. 

A Poem About Killing Off Your Homophobic Characters


I swear, the homophobic women my brother loves are one
recurring character in the soap opera of my life, where the actress
is replaced mid-season, and no one notices.

She doesn’t have a fan base. But of course, every show needs a villain

(or two), and the writers are writing their way out of her storyline,
because no one needs a homophobic villain. It’s television at its laziest,

And I think about how my brother’s current wife paints me as a
villain—a bad Chinese girl because I will never worship a man
simply for existing.

I don’t have time for that.

Boys worship me,

And don’t get me started on how movie villains are often coded gay,

As in you can’t be both queer and good on screen,

As in I love my gay villains but where are my gay heroes,

As in, let me tell you this, kids: brains and cunning
>>>>>>>>>>>>> (to infinity) brawns, and who wouldn’t want a
dungeon, an eel sidekick, purple eyeshadow with winged liner and
a fur coat, curves for days, a serpent staff, and your own musical
number so you can grind until there’s no tomorrow for your grand
entrance, as you crash a party at the king’s castle,

And curse his baby just because you’re a little bored on a Thursday,

And because gender reveal parties are the true evil of the world,

And I want to be sexy Satan in fishnets eating all your cake,
popping all your balloons.


If life really is a soap opera, then I demand an evil twin. I want to hug her.

					Let’s take over the world, body double.

I remember how growing up, I dreamt of having an older sister
rather than an older brother, because an older sister would shame
me less—would not make fun of my growing body—

Would not ask me about my sexual orientation out of nowhere at a
stoplight in Washington DC.
Would not assume the worst of any sexual orientation that wasn’t straight.

Would not say, “[Insert wife #1’s name here] was wondering,” as if
my orientation is a source of heterosexual entertainment,

Because of course, bisexual women are just so funny for existing,

Because of course, it’s okay to pry into a woman’s business if she’s bisexual.

My brother and I haven’t talked in over a year.

I don’t miss him.


My name is Dorothy,

And I love laughing over how my parents unintentionally named
me after the Wizard of Oz character,

As in the Hays Code era term, “friend of Dorothy,” meaning gay man,

As in remember Scarecrow’s line, “Of course some people go both ways,”

As in Scarecrow is my favorite Batman villain (besides all the
sapphic women) because he’s a professor,

As in some depictions, he’s the villain with the best voice and oh so smooth,

As in give a girl enough books, and she’ll turn queer,

As in no, I’ll never be a good Chinese girl who worships a man just
for existing,

As in, I’ll wear the Dorothy outfit for sex. But I’m not Dorothy. I’m all
the witches in one, depending on my mood that day.

My parents were going for “gift of god.” I can be both. I can be
all—even if god doesn’t exist.

Photo courtesy of Bill Hoepner, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

Dorothy Chan (she/they) is the author of most recently, BABE (Diode Editions, 2021), Revenge of the Asian Woman (Diode Editions, 2019), and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Centerfold (Spork Press, 2018). They were a 2020 and 2014 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship finalist, a 2020 finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Bisexual Poetry, and a 2019 recipient of the Philip Freund Prize in Creative Writing from Cornell University. Their work has appeared in POETRYThe American Poetry Review, Academy of American Poets, and elsewhere. Chan is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Editor Emeritus of Hobart, Book Reviews Co-Editor of Pleiades, and Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Honey Literary Inc., a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization.

Solstice Black (she/they) is a queer poet and novelist living in the Pacific Northwest. They are currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in ChautauquaThe Fantastic Other, and A Forest of Words, among others. They hope to pursue an MFA in creative writing and a BFA in visual art in the next few years. Her cat is both her greatest joy and torment.


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