Watching this tiny monkey savor an empty carton of fruity — an old time favorite mango drink — I can’t help but think about the trajectory of who I would be today, if my 12-year-old self had the words to understand our gender nonconformity.
At that time, I was in grief of losing the nonconformity childhood allowed, and in grief of losing a family member who raised me.
I was swallowed by so much guilt from a performance of femininity and supposed living that I didn’t realize I was forcing.
Every interaction felt like a lie, something left unsaid, a me-shaped vacuum that I didn’t know how to fill — an endless loop that became the only way of life.
How do you perceive an identity that stubbornly defines itself as loss? How do you trace the path back to yourself when each step is erased in fear of being found?
Guilt became a synonym for grief. I wasn’t just missing the person who raised me. I was missing the proximity I had to myself, that grew with sickness to become an unsolved loss of its own.
It took some breakdowns over the course of 10 years, to crack the concrete guilt and the cemented gender I’d internalized, but were never mine to keep.
As I started unlearning the movements, I started understanding that the guilt wasn’t necessarily coming from who I was. It came from not letting myself be, from the deception in attempting to become someone I wasn’t.
Still, time in transition feels so warped: What if I knew then, what I know now?
Would I have been less clumsy in my relationships with family and friends? Would I have had more energy to love? Would I have lived?
All I know is that starting from scratch meant borrowing confidence from my childhood self — they didn’t have the vocabulary, but an unspoken language that understood who we’ve always been from within.