I am a foreign woman, in every definition of the word. I am all of the things that it evokes in feeling, memory and sound. I am a womanhood that exists on the outside of history, record, country, marriage and love.
In this blank space, at the edge of the world, I peered over. This is where I began my journey into more than womanhood, but into the creation of a new world, a place where women like me are loved.
The chasm in between the two is where I found myself, though it required a bit of a fall. I grew up thinking that the world was a place of great freedom. I came of age thinking that the world was one of great lack. How did we get here? Girls and little queer kids with eyes full of bright possibility at the wonder and mystery of life turn to women who recoil from living. If I had a daughter, how would I save her from the brutality of being shamed into acts of humility that deny her life?
I vastly underestimated that some people use a deeper understanding of you, not to love you more efficiently, but to hurt you more intimately.
When I first embraced myself and openly embarked on the journey of womanhood, albeit a queer one, I was excited about the prospect of what a more modern world would have to offer a Black trans woman. I kicked off the weight of my teen years -- experiences that rendered me both invisible and hypervisible -- and fearlessly led with exploratory pride in my multilayered identity. I truly believed that the only barrier the world had to loving women like me was a lack of understanding and misplaced memory. I believed that if I spoke truthfully enough that I could help set the world on the course of miracles. There was a robust history of women who had done the same and now was the turning point. This wasn’t untrue, however I vastly underestimated that some people use a deeper understanding of you, not to love you more efficiently, but to hurt you more intimately. And therefore, I learned to use discretion in where I place my energy.
This is a lesson I learned both romantically, professionally and in my own personal activism. Slowly, I began to realize that there is no convincing someone to love you and anyone who pretends that there is, by demanding the education of your pleading, is exploiting your need.
Whether it be people who love to watch you labor for love in the interest of their own validation, at best; or collective movements that are hellbent on misunderstanding you for nefarious political ends, at worst. You especially cannot convince the many people you meet as an “othered" woman, who waffle back and forth between obsession, desire, need and refusing you their heart because you are the "wrong type" of woman. Ultimately, there is freedom in not being able to convince anyone to love or accept you. Only then can you put down your arms and allow love to blossom wildly, where it wishes, rather than trying to bend the earth where its brutality denies you.
Venus, in fact, was teaching me: How not to pour my offerings into the plates of other people and their gods, but to pour the best of myself first in the temples of love in my own heart.
For so much of my life, it really felt like Venus, the Goddess of love herself, was really coming down to tell me, “You are just not that girl.” Slowly, I learned that Venus, in fact, was teaching me how not to pour my offerings into the plates of other people and their gods, but to pour the best of myself first in the temples of love in my own heart. Within this temple, I found my heart atop an altar rather than trying to find value within romantic relationships that finally validate the social markers of my womanhood. It is a grueling lesson in love, but one that each of us must learn in the journey back to our own humanity.
The biggest lesson I learned was that not even a legacy of colonialism and its present imperialism can deny my humanity. It can create material conditions that threaten my life and disrupt the systems that are for my survival, but it can not move me out of my own body and lay claim to my soul or birthright as a divine being on this planet. I do not have to fight for love. It endures within me. I do not have to shrink from desire, it is an expression of my hunger for living and emboldens me to be more alive. I do not have to carve acceptance out of my own blood, because I am never forgotten or alone, as long as I do not forget or abandon myself.
I do not have to fight for love. It endures within me.
Now, as a slightly more experienced woman, my values are the same. They are just more embodied. Being Black is more about the moments of private comfort that I truly embrace myself and find peace, instead of trying to bend the world to my will and shout it into loving me. Being a transgender woman is more about the recognition of what it means to be alive, instead of forcing myself into a static and restrictive ideal, and therefore receptive to the mystery of the feminine; to be trusting enough in that mystery to remain open, while confident enough to enforce boundaries without the fear of being abandoned for expressing human needs and desires. In this space life gives to me, though I don’t always understand or know what the final fruit will yield, I give life back with my offerings of creation in response to it.
My moments of embodied womanhood and humanity are now about looking at myself, not through the eyes of what is considered to have social value, but through my own eyes before I learned any of those things.
In the blossoming of this new world and in the creative act of opening its door, I invite you into more love. I invite you into seeing yourself, not through an imagination of lack and competition, where you “are” because others “are not.” I invite you into new eyes. I invite you into a feeling of “enoughness.” I invite you into strangeness, a place that never denies the contradiction of your need in response to the harshness of the world. I invite you into embodied being, a place where women like you are always loved because it is an undying act that will always find its way back home.
Read all of the stories in the Issa Rae: She Comes First editorial series here.
Featured Image: Ponomariova_Maria / Getty Images
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