Finding Myself in Philly
A week ago, I attended the 2018 Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference. This was my first time going and I have to say it was an experience that everyone should have. There was so much for me to process. I was at the conference to work for Transgender Universe, as we shot some amazing interviews that will soon be up on the website if they are not up already. I met a ton of great people and came to some realizations about myself, who I am, and where I am going.
This is not the first time I have been in a place where I have been surrounded by my trans brothers and sisters, but this was the first time I was in a setting as large as this. And from the first day, I felt a presence of positivity that I have never been around before.
The first thing I noticed walking around the conference were my trans sisters and brothers of color, and the way we greeted each other both in the hallways and on the conference floor. As a group, we made it a point to acknowledge each other. Sometimes with a look or a wave, but most of the time with a “hello” or “you look amazing, I am glad you are here.” As I don’t have a lot of contact with my part of our community (something I would like to change as a woman of color), I need to have more people like myself in my life. Up until this point, I have shunned away from my sisters because of my past of having not been accepted by the African American community. Like so many other experiences I had at the conference, I know now that for me to move forward in life, I need to let go of the past and not be afraid of what happened before to take my life back.
"I STARTED TO LOOK AT MYSELF, INTO THE PARTS OF MY MIND WHERE I WAS SCARED TO LOOK BECAUSE I WAS AFRAID OF WHAT I MAY FIND."
Staying with that theme, I did meet some great people. Some in passing and some who I spent time with. People I feel I made a connection with. By connecting with them, I made an even more important connection with myself. I started to look at myself, into the parts of my mind where I was scared to look because I was afraid of what I may find. What I found is something I have danced around all my life, the person I am.
What I found was the scared kid who always knew they were different, who had a breast reduction at 13 years old. Who did just enough to get by in the background, and by doing so never took a chance. The person who when they reached High School, convinced themselves that they were living when they were just taking up space on this mud ball we call earth. I said once before that finding yourself could be a violent experience. It could if you are fighting the person you really are and instead trying to be the person you think you are.
"FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE, I WAS NOT KEEPING ANY PART OF ME HIDDEN AWAY. "
I remember the moment it happened, the moment I came to church, when the final wall came down in my mind of walls. We met a group of amazing trans men and women from North Carolina. I call them the “North Carolina Trans Mafia.” It was at dinner with them when over good food and more drinks than I care to remember, a feeling came to me. I had a feeling that I belong. That this is my community, they are my people, and that this was me at that moment in this place. For the first time in my life, I was not keeping any part of me hidden away. I knew right then that my life needs to change, that it’s now or never. I realized I have to take the leap I have been battling myself over. The only thing holding me back from living is myself holding onto a lie. I have been too scared to let go. So just like a simple light switch, the war I have been fighting for 44 years in my mind had ended. Not in a violent blaze of emotion, but in a fade to black moment like the end of a Star Trek episode.
So what now for me? I don’t know where the road ahead will lead, but I do know some of the stops I will make on the way. Transitioning: I don’t know what that looks like for me. The only thing I know I want to change right now is my chest, and that is just putting back what was supposed to be there in the first place. I know for some, the next step is hormones; something that I don’t want to do. Other than a few things, I am happy with who I am. For I am Victoria Elizabeth, a smart, creative, powerful trans person of color who is about to be unleashed upon the world.