Monica Roberts Essay Contest 2021 Grand Prize Winner
By: Tiana Bolden
Of all my trials and tribulations, remaining in a state of joy, within this body I’m supposed to call mine, is the hardest. And no, it’s not the chronic pain, or sensitivity to the environment or my outward appearance that makes it difficult. It’s the existing. Existing in a time-space that is so resistant to my innate yearning to be more. More than man. More than woman, more than human.
For me, breaking down the binaries within myself was only the beginning. I was never that which you call woman, and if I wasn’t a “woman”, then my only other option seemed to be “man”. And at the time, “man” was just another seed in my head that I did not want to water. Once I fully realized these binaries, I saw them everywhere. Good, bad, off, on, high, low, black, white. It was like my whole world was ruled by binaries. And it affected more than just my body. I was made to start questioning these things at a soul level. Why do these binaries exist? Where do they come from? Where do I fit in? Am I even meant to fit in?
I should be used to not fitting everywhere, from being mixed, and never really having family around me that I could completely relate to. To living my childhood and teen years as a military brat, moving from place to place, never really having one spot feel like my home. This constant bouncing around of my inner and outer worlds has taught me to be content with this state of restlessness. This restlessness is what became home to me. So when I initially began to question my gender, I watered this feeling. I fed into this belief that I didn’t fit anywhere. I believed that even if I did decide to delve more into these deeper parts of myself, even if I did decide to brightly shine my light and show the world just who I could be, there wouldn’t be space for it. No one would want to see it. It would be squashed and swatted at and turned away. Believed no one wanted to really see me. “They will all think I’m doing too much”. “They aren’t ready for my truth.” These were the things I told myself based on my observations that were rooted in this feeling, this garden of restlessness I created.
I told myself these things so that I didn’t have to give up my “comfort” in this garden of restlessness I chose to call home. I had been tending flowers here for years, I was cutting my grass to look just like my neighbors, checking my mail, and filing the messages I received from the outside world on the daily. It was quaint. It was familiar. It was the place I returned to because it’s what I knew. But within my newfound realizations of the falsehood of the binary, I was beginning to outgrow my previously comfortable garden.
The breaking down of these binaries within myself didn’t just change my mindset. It touched my soul. I saw a completely new side of myself. The side that wasn’t restless. It was this part of me that remained untouched from the grasps of “shes and hes” and “good and evil.” This me, that remained unbothered in the seat of my soul. Was smiling. This person had been grounded in their place before any rules, customs, or learned behaviors ever got to them. This person inside me loved and cried and shined so bright. My little garden started to not only seem cramped, but dark as well. And yet I was still watering it.
I had dreamed of this day. This day where I see the light in myself, when I get to know me and love and care for my truth. But why, why now was I hesitant? Here I was, within grasp, already experiencing some of the joys and wonders of being full. So why do I still feed this melancholy, cramped, dying garden. Why am I still watering plants that have no more room to grow?
The light of my truth is bright. So much so that to peer into it is painful. It seems as though my eyes are closed, and I feel this warmth from all around me, but I grasp at the air for something stable, anything familiar. But there is nothing. Everything is new and fresh. Unknown and almost secretive, like a layer of rich, damp soil. Its nutrients gathered and preserved from my many ancestors. I take a few deep breaths. This is the space where I decide what being me really means.
My journey of understanding gender has given me so much more than I ever imagined. Releasing these ideas that were set in motion hundreds of years ago has awakened nearly thirty years of life within me. Thirty years of seeds just waiting to be watered. Seeds for growing my appearance, seeds for connecting to others, seeds for my relationship to the Earth, seeds for my relationship to my body. To my ancestors body. Entirely new ways of growing into the world. My world, that I now have the confidence and curiosity and drive to create for myself.
I have learned that I was born with space made for me on this earth, and that I do not have to find it outside of myself. My space is within this physical body, but it does not have to be limited to this physical body. I ultimately exist within myself. My garden is precious and secret and mine to keep. Anything I choose to share with others is just a piece. Maybe in the form of a wreath, or a bouquet. Or even a single rose. Little by little as I tend to my garden and let it grow and expand, I can share the rare plants. The flowers that maybe can’t be found anywhere else, the fruits that have a taste which cannot be bought. The more beautiful, unique and vibrant seeds I plant, the more free I feel into my expression. The more I learn about the different colors, shapes, tones, and vibrations I can exist as, in this world.
For me, Being Trans is the invitation to look deeper into myself. To see and to hold my purest state of being, and to nurture it no matter what outside forces say. It’s the realization that choosing me. Choosing my life, is the lesson and the gift that I was brought upon this planet to savor.