THE BODY OF A FROG A Memoir on Searching for Ways to Love an Unconventional Self


This project started as a prose poem, then became a flash essay, and is now an entire thesis. The prose poem, titled “An Unexpected Dialogue,” explored my thoughts and expectations on having my own biological child with my boyfriend, AJ. I’d never wanted to have my own child before writing that poem, even before meeting and spending a year with AJ, but when I felt that inkling of desire, the only way I knew I could begin to grapple with it was to write. I turned the poem into a flash essay with more scenes and fragmented thoughts on the idea of having my own kid one day, and by the end of it, I was contemplating the idea of my past, particularly the decisions I made regarding transitioning. Had the drugs I’ve been giving my body since 2017 ruined my chances at parenthood? I thought even deeper, considering my body as a whole and my relationship with it. I began to think of what it was before my transition, before female puberty even, and what it is now. I began to consider how this relation fluctuated and how it continues to do so, even to this day. Therefore, my thesis does just that– it considers my relationship with my own body and how I hold bodily autonomy over it. The body serves as a separate entity from the self, and fragments of their interaction, along with that of others, including puberty, society, boys, doctors, etc., are examined under a microscope. This thesis’s form was loosely based on Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. In her novella, Nelson has the same fragmented structure which focuses on her personal experiences in a relationship, but she also utilizes hints of research. Bluets teeters back and forth between informational and personal, and we skip around in time throughout. This thesis also has multiple layers of formatting. First, there is a main metaphor used throughout, which is that of the Mutable Rainfrog. This frog can change its body on a whim in order to ward off predators, so my thesis uses this frog as an avenue to consider my own body and how it changes to ward off its strongest predator: myself. After considering the frog, each section begins with a key scene, which are used to guide the reader through this selected time of my life chronologically; “To Hate a Smooth Body” begins with a scene of myself in third grade, when I found the first flaw with my body, “To Achieve Textured Skin (or Bodily Autonomy)” begins with my first attempt to correct flaws I saw amongst my body, “An Unsuccessful Texturing” begins with that first moment of doubt after taking more extreme measures to gain bodily autonomy, “Sex as Bodily Autonomy” begins with the night I lost my virginity, and the subsequent “relationship” that followed, and finally, “The Constant Predator” begins with a sexual escapade between my boyfriend’s body and my own. Within these sections, time skips around, and research is incorporated to make connections between my own experiences and body and grander, more societal, ideas, until finally, the thesis ends on a scene of observation– my boyfriend shows me a picture of myself, of my body, all dressed up for a wedding. He points out what he likes about the picture and about my body, and I agree, even if not whole-heartedly. This not-entirely-happy ending was very purposeful, and very vital to what I strive to achieve in Creative Nonfiction as a genre. The purpose of my writing is to explore the real and uncensored world. Even in my Letter of Intent for MSU, Mankato, I stated that my writing “explore[s] the world in all of its hidden truth via my controversial being and experiences because of it.” While enrolled in this Creative Writing program, I’ve had over seven essays and prose poems published, all of which speak towards this idea of exploring hidden truths as well. This thesis, though, I feel is the pinnacle of all those pieces. This thesis explores hidden truths related to society and me, such as hidden truths on the plastic surgery industry, on medical affirmation transgender care procedures, on relationships, on birth control, periods, and a multitude of others. Some of these truths are researched, and others are personal truths. This thesis is an expansion and growth of my writing abilities, all while still exploring a multitude of hidden truths that all revolve around one thing: the body. I chose to write about the body because everyone has one, but each of our bodies are still unique to us. My body had, and still has, so many stories to tell, and I know everyone else’s do too. I wanted this thesis to inspire others to consider their own bodies and the stories they hold, whether they be visible or not, good or bad. In her memoir Body Geographic, Barrie Jean Borich explores her own body through the eyes of experiences, family, and her partner. Borich (116) describes “a body that doesn’t fit into easy categories” as “an idea that’s harder to see… an identity that has obscure borders and is neither one thing nor another.” Additionally, Alison Bechdel (169) explores her sexuality and puberty in the graphic memoir Fun Home, where she even avoids writing the word menstruating; “I encoded the word menstruating according to the practice I’d learned in algebra of denoting complex or unknown quantities with letters.” Bodies hold stories, and no matter how unconventional or brutally honest they may be, our stories are important to tell.


Rachael Hanel

Committee Member

Michael Torres

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Program of Study

Creative Writing




Humanities and Social Sciences

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