A Journey toward Black Trans Womanhood

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t feel right in my body. There was also this sense of something was wrong and that became a sliding scale of “let me pretend everything was okay” to “I just want to hide away from everyone and everything.” At the time, I didn’t have the language for what was going on, or the tools to even process my emotions. As a kid, I was so far away from knowing that the vast umbrella of Transgender existed. It felt like I was all alone in the growing darkness of my feelings, and when it reached its peak, I did the most human thing — I made myself forget about it. However, one of the things I learned in life is that the truth will always find its way out and smack you hard.
Pushing the emotions aside, I had the illusion of everything was okay and I could just be a kid again…all around a big “yay,” but no. I found myself operating on autopilot for a while. Looking back the disconnect between my mind, emotions, and body was so painfully obvious, but tiny Friday made it her new normal.
My mind was numb, probably from all the anxiety and stress but it sought self soothing things like cartoons, sci-fi, etc. It sought a world away from where a little black AMAB kiddo was actually a little black trans girl because it was too wild of a situation to be true.The emotional burnout at that age was more than I could handle, so it all went behind the wall, double cemented and encased in a steel cage in order to get a small amount of relief, and that created a sort of mask that I wore in public on the south side of Chicago.
My body on the other hand had other ideas. With my mind and emotions going off in different directions that had nothing to do with the idea of womanhood, my body did in small ways. As a kid I would always sit at the girl’s tables for lunch, my small little friend group would primarily be filled with girls. My interest in women’s clothing became a daily study session. I couldn’t understand it at the time but it felt right, it was safe, and that was in short supply for me when it came to this part of my life. At this point you may be thinking that I was on my way to opening that door and embracing my truth.
Nope…believe me I wish it was that easy.
That true north my body was being directed to was also being noticed by a lot of people, and kids can be brutal when they don’t know better, and even the idea of a trans person was nowhere in their atmosphere, so as bad as the bullying got, it was from a place of ignorance. All and all, it pushed me to what was best for my survival — conform so the truth wouldn’t overwhelm me, and that became my existence until I became a full-on adult.
That steel cage and wall began to crumble with the help of therapy, it became easier to hold space for the truth, it was still uncomfortable but being able to sit with it didn’t send me in the opposite direction. I slowly began to feel that the gender I was assigned was a massive fail, and the door began to creak open. Then I heard a term new to my baby queer brain — nonbinary.
Exploring who I was as a nonbinary person allowed me to question my thoughts, assumptions, and understanding about gender. Everything was up for grabs, I could be whatever felt right in a beautiful chaotic storm of exploration, and that’s exactly what I did. The fun of it all was intoxicating, and I found a community that welcomed all the need to search for what worked for me, and for that time it was all I needed. Makeup became a way to uncover the beauty that was always there. Clothing became more than an armor from the world, it became art that allowed me to tell my story. However, that feeling that something was missing slowly came back, and in all of its familiarity, its secrets were easy to pick apart.
Within those moments, the pieces of my life began to fit into the puzzle without me giving extra energy. In the beginning, as a kid when I started to feel the truth before pushing it away, I gravitated toward the black women in my life — family, friends, teachers. Their strength, vulnerability, heart, and protection was a true north because it reminded me of who I was all along. All of this made what I have already been doing much more powerful because it was not coming from a place of exploration anymore. It now existed in a place of honest intention toward authenticity.
Everything was clicking, and it made opening up to my friends about the new-new pronouns a celebration, and for the very first time I wanted to celebrate myself, but I had to reconcile with an important piece that I honestly wanted to avoid. 2022 was a deadly year for trans and gender non conforming people in the U.S.,and trans women of color, especially black and latina trans women are disproportionately impacted by that violence.
There was no illusion that the level of violence was going to go away, and that fear that something could happen to me is something that stays with me and is added to the fear of something happening to me because I’m black and queer. There are some days where it gets the better of me and I need to step back to rest, and I honor those days just like I do with the days where no fear or anxiety can stop me from living my life. That is something that I have learned from all the women in my life, and I’m very grateful for that.