I sit here in my mother’s kitchen, reflecting. This isn’t my childhood home. I’ve never had one of those. It’s the first time I’ve been home for the holidays since I left the island of Oahu to flee towards a home of my choosing on the island of Manhattan.
I sit here reflecting on the past year and marvel at how far I’ve traveled. Away from Hawaii. Away from the girl I was. Closer to the dreams that girl dreamt. No matter how far I travel, though, I realize that that girl is very much present. She’s very close to me.
I returned home for three weeks to recharge, unplug and reconnect. I’ve succeeded in reconnecting with those I love. We’ve giggled about the past, sharing stories we’ve reshaped in our own ways, ways that make remembering easier. I’ve failed in recharging, though. I did more work than I had planned on, even launching and managing the Storygiving Campaign. I’m steadily working on saying no (that’s why I asked for tips with #howicareforme), on realizing the work never ends but it is not my job to do all that’s asked of me.
I will soon leave Hawaii and embark on a voyage into even more public openness, journeying into storysharing in a deeper, rawer capacity. I still can’t believe I’ve written a book and it’ll soon be offered to the world. I broke down about this once. It was a month ago.
I was seated on a couch in downtown Manhattan in a “sister’s circle” with strangers. The fact that I didn’t know any of the women intimately likely made it easier for me to break myself open, to hold myself accountable to truth. I admitted that I was frightened. I admitted that I felt I needed to be perfect. To put up the brave face. A friend warned me, after reading my book, that I needed to let perfect go, embrace messiness.
Her words, “it’ll drive you mad,” followed me into that room, where for the first time, I allowed myself to say that I was frightened and that I’m learning to care for myself by being open about my fears. After my tearful breakthrough, a filmmaker in the group told me, “nothing is wrong with fear. stay strong my sister.”
I can sit with fear and be strong. I felt lighter after that realization. It allowed me to be vulnerable in shared space. With others. Not just in my words on my page, the space in which I am most comfortable. Unpacking my relationship to fear, vulnerability, truthtelling and perfection are duties I’m undertaking and anchoring myself in 2014.
With 2013 behind me, I’d like to use this space to hold myself accountable to my past as I press forward in the latest “new year.” Below is a summary of the events that shaped my past year:
- 2013 brought me to age 30, a milestone that I know many trans women who grew up/are growing up like I did don’t reach.
- I led conversations about being a critical fan and who gets called out (featuring Azealia Banks and Perez Hilton), how we police trans-ness (featuring B. Scott), healthcare for incarcerated trans people (featuring Chelsea Manning) and the gatekeeping of trans women of color’s stories (featuring Lovemme Corazon).
- I was invited to discuss trans issues on Melissa Harris-Perry and held movement stakeholders accountable to those of us existing in multiplicities. After Melissa Tweeted that I must become a #nerdland regular, I returned weeks later to discuss something other than my trans-ness: Scandal!
- I completed the final edits of my book, titled it Redefining Realness and revealed the cover, pushing folks to support its release by pre-ordering their copy.
- During a visit to Ohio State University, I met bell hooks, my conversation partner for a talk called “Gender Policing and the Politics of Defining Womanhood”. She read my book in one night and offered beautiful words of love for the cover. It was the catalyst of a growing friendship.
- I was named to the inaugural Trans 100, and invited to give the closing remarks at the celebration in Chicago. I was also named to the GOOD 100 and the OUT 100, in which I served Janet meets Whitney meets Diana realness.
- The Out List premiered on HBO, allowing me to tell my story as the only trans woman in the series of interviews alongside Wanda Sykes, Wade Davis, Ellen DeGeneres, Neil Patrick Harris and more.
- At a Empire State Pride Agenda rally, I met Barbara Smith, co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, and she thanked me for my leadership, giving me a signed copy of her book The Truth That Never Hurts. She then lent encouraging words of praise for my own book.
- I joined the board of directors at the Arcus Foundation and helped plan a convening of trans leaders, organizers and activists which was held in November.
- I presented my alma mater with a GLSEN Respect Award for GSA of the Year and attended a Pride reception at the White House, where President Obama addressed a crowd which included Jen Richards, Toni D’Orsay, Ayana Elliott, and Allyson Robinson.
- My heart broke after hearing about the death of Islan Nettles and I mourned alongside my sisters and siblings at her ill-planned vigil, which resulted in an open letter to my sisters and the formation of the Trans Women of Color Collective in New York City.
- I accepted the Catalyst Award at the ADCOLOR Awards in Beverly Hills and the Courage Award at the Anti-Violence Project‘s annual awards in New York City, a space I used to mourn Eyricka Morgan, a young trans woman I knew who was murdered.
- I took to the streets of New York to occupy the West Village with trans activists for Trans Day of Action and marched for Trayvon Martin, for all of us.
- I attended the naming ceremony for the Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice and shared space with Miss Major, reina gossett, Laverne Cox, KOKUMO and siblings.
- I was photographed by THE Bill Cunningham while attending the New York City Ballet Fall Gala. The photo ran in his Evening Hours column in the New York Times.
- When Mister Cee “admitted” to having sex with trans women, I wrote a piece about the stigma attached to dating trans women, an essay that was cited on Melissa Harris-Perry and framed my conversation with Laverne Cox, Marc Lamont Hill, Mychal Denzel Smith and Mark Anthony Neal on HuffPost Live.
- I welcomed even more love into my life when Cleo arrived. My baby boy, who was hurt with a broken leg in my care, quickly began tweeting @cockapoocleo.
- I broke my silence about my complicated relationship to Transgender Day of Remembrance after giving a talk with reina gossett and Monica Forrester in Toronto.
- I ended the year with an excerpt of my book published in Essence magazine, being named Women of the Year by Vitamin W and successfully launching the Redefining Realness Storygiving Campaign, which fulfilled 127 book orders from low-income trans folks – provided by 69 donations from community members, allies and supporters of Redefining Realness.