It’s been a while since I’ve written here. The years didn’t go by unnoticed, nor did I rush towards posting here again because I had a lot to sift through before I could approach writing for myself again. It’s impossible to show up at a blank page if I’m unable or unwilling to be vulnerable in it. Writing in general (but especially here) is so intimately connected to the openness of my heart and I had to go on something of a journey before I could let life flow through me again.
Last weekend I found a heart while on a hike after asking for a sign to help me understand how to move forward on my path helping others, whether here or through my art. And as Life/Spirit/The Universe has a way of doing: it delivered. I felt inspired to share more so as a carryover from my photopoetry, perhaps this is a kind of photopoetic encounter with the hearts and light that met me on the trail.
Many more hearts found me throughout the weekend, and I was reminded of how it felt to be exactly where I needed to be even if I didn’t have all the answers or the full picture of “how”.
It’s important to share in a much-longer-than-what-will-be-normal post about a significant change I’ve made since writing here last. There was so much healing that took place over the past few years and it’s hard to encapsulate how that feels in 800 words so I’m using all the words instead.
I had more coming out to do before my heart could open up again. I know I don’t owe anyone this part of my journey but I’m sharing some here because it’s part of how I started to “hear” the hearts again. It feels dishonest to start anywhere else. I also want readers to understand that I’m trans without pretense, and I’m here to tell stories about my life that don’t hedge around who I am in it. Will everything be about transitioning? Heck no. But I’m also not going to avoid talking about this part of me if it’s relevant. I read my last post and the word hate came up so much. It’s really how I felt at that point: screwed over, and passed up by the Universe for the good stuff. I was pushed to find the good stuff in me, and my transness instead of continuing to look outside of me. And I’m forever appreciative for it. On that note, here’s the rest of the story of stepping back into my heart space…
Awareness as the doorway
I’d known since I was a kid that I was very gender non-conforming. Thankfully, in my pre-teens, my Mom let me dress in boys clothes and ran with it because it’s what I felt the most comfortable in, even though people were insistent on pushing femininity upon me in a way that confused gender with personal value in the world (and that working in corporate environments in my 20’s reinforced). I had to sit down and have a conversation with the discomfort that went beyond body image issues, and related to something much deeper. The collective inertia of the pandemic forced me to face what couldn’t be outrun anymore: I am a trans person.
I watched Lucas Silveira’s Instagram video about his transition and cried myself to sleep that night in the first real release of big emotion I’d had in a long time. Less than the video itself was the caption where he thanked the person that was for enduring so he could be who he is today. The dam burst because I couldn’t keep the truth at bay anymore. I had to close my heart to so much of the world around me because it kept reflecting back the paths to the truth. I lost myself in the effort required to keep people from seeing all of me. On a daily basis I was performing a cisgender version of myself, hoping to achieve femininity sufficient to have value for the world around me because I knew that I wouldn’t meet that standard if I was myself. Being my most “tender and true self” (as Glennon Doyle puts it in her book Love Warrior) was not someone the world showed me it valued because of how aggressively it met the trans parts of me when they slipped out.
I kept looking outside of myself for validation and approval, which turned into a way of being that eventually turned into the way I made my life. I had moments of connection, where I found hearts and had incredible synchronicities but it never met with the larger, trans part of me so it always stopped short of reaching the core.
Transphobia (especially the subtle kind) taught me that there was something fundamentally flawed about my identity that made it impossible to love me, twisting the beauty of who I was, into so much harm. It spilled over into other areas of my life where I believed I was roundly not okay, deserving, or worthy. Depression and anxiety made tremendous sense because how can you not feel that inward facing anger and fear when you’re balancing the weight of cisnorms and expectations on your shoulders? It contextualized PTSD, and triggers so that I could actually deal with them and integrate the compassion I needed so badly. Coming out and transitioning didn’t magically solve everything, and I’m still calling myself into a gentle awareness of my own nonsense every day. Unapologetically transitioning though, allowed me to stand in my power again and be comforted by the peace of the present moment because I’m not running from myself anymore. I could see love in the world connecting everything, but I seldom let it in. All I could do was watch it, but now it’s easier to witness it as it moves through the world and in others because I know that it’s in me, too.
I spent a long time during pandemic closures taking in the weather on trails wherever I could, feeling a sense of peace about what I was beginning to let myself finally feel. It was a refuge to be among trees and a world that had no constructs to live up to who were known by something more than the unspoken assumptions that followed the gender the world may assign them. What would become the art form of photopoetry, birthed me through several seasons.
On being trans enough
I was led to a book called Yes, You Are Trans Enough: My Transition From Self-Loathing to Self-Love by Mia Violet. I read it multiple times trying to take it all in. More than once my stomach dropped while reading because I realized that I was standing before an altar that asked me only to show up before it. I didn’t need to show that I suffered enough to know peace. I didn’t need to playact femininity. Pain no longer justified joy. I was just allowed joy. Period. Do you know what the freedom to exist, and just be feels like when you’ve denied yourself that freedom for as long as you can remember? It is beyond words. I was standing outside of my life looking in at it, and experiencing a compassion for myself and my journey that I hadn’t let in before.
The book made it impossible to pretend because someone put words to the feeling: I am a trans person who wants to transition. Knowing that I didn’t have to be trans or transition in a specific way meant that I could be trans too, because I was trans the whole time (not just when people validated my identity). It was a profound awareness. When I finally surrendered, the whole world lit up, even though it was terrifying. I could intellectualize being at ease in my own skin but I never embodied the understanding until I began the process. It opened up an awareness that people could know my truth and that there was so much joy in letting people see all of me. I heard the phrase “lightness of being” a lot over the summer and it distilled the essence of the coming out process since my last post here.
I read Untamed by Glennon Doyle for the first time last November (almost to the day of this post actually- wild!) and I had to read it slowly because it was so loud. I re-read it recently and so much of the book illuminated the processes that were giving me wings when all I could see was how I turned into a pile of pupal mess and mush. I didn’t know they were wings because all I saw was who I desperately tried to be falling apart in ways I couldn’t put back together. I thank goodness now that they were broken beyond repair because it meant I was about to be very clear with myself. I held so tightly to Glennon’s wisdom as I took the first steps across the threshold into my truth. I wrote the inset quote in particular on umpteen post-it notes because I wanted it embedded in every fibre of my being going forward.
The world became so much more available to me by allowing life to hold me in a tender embrace whispering “it’s about to get really amazing, but it’s okay to grieve”.
I’m also aware that it’s not without privilege that I look at my life and say “I didn’t come this far, just to come this far” and not many are afforded the ability to shift from survival mode into meaning-making, getting the chance to “thrive over 35“, the hashtag for which matters with very good reason.
Thresholds and freedom
Changing my name to Charlie, and coming out to family and friends, and at work were the final steps. The pieces clicked together, and though it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses it feels like the hard stuff is manageable because I’ve found strength and comfort in who I am. No one can take that away when you find it. When talking to friends about the first steps in coming out I said many times that I was scared, but that it didn’t matter what people thought anymore, because I know who I am and I can finally look in the mirror and say “I accept and love you” to all of me. Coming out is liberation from the idea of honesty about who you are, and stepping into truth. The difference is subtle and lives in the knowing marrow of your bones.
It took so much energy to hide my whole self and it feels like nothing short of liberation to see how much more of my energy is available for joy, being present to the people and life unfolding with me. I had to get honest about the way that going stealth stopped being healthy. And no, it doesn’t mean that trans people are lying about their identities before they come out. It’s the world that teaches trans people myriad ways to lie to ourselves, and perform a version of ourselves to meet its absolutely ridiculous standards of gender.
I realized how fully I was starting to show up in my life when people told me that they couldn’t imagine me being anyone other than Charlie and it felt so good to know that people get it: this is who I always was. I didn’t need the validation but it felt like the present moment was wrapping up the not-yet-out person I was in the past, in the confirmation that the world would be ready when I was ready to come out. I didn’t choose the name because of a particularly special meaning. It resonated, and my mom told me it was among the names she wanted to choose before any gender reveals. It’s also my Grampa’s brother’s name, and his playful energy is what I want to let lead in my life now that I’m not carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Now that I’m standing in my power with an open heart again, I’m finding more hearts (and people have already been sending them to me again). While I pursue my art further, I realized that hearts are so much a part of it and that there’s still something profound about the way that they bring a heart-centred awareness (literal and metaphorical) back into the day-to-day. It’s not about rising to meet some divine part of you, but letting it find you even if it’s as simple as gum shaped like a heart on a sidewalk steeped in the feeling of being guided and led by something bigger. It’s safe to let it all in.
I spent a few days writing this post because I wanted to get it right (coming out is still scary), and the acoustic version of the song Be Me by VINCINT came on my Spotify shuffle as the clock turned 1:11pm today. I’d never heard it before, and I haven’t watched the season of Queer Eye it belongs to so it was a delightful affirmation. It rang through my insides like a hymn through a brightly lit cathedral and the image of singing it to my transness in the mirror came to mind. Maybe it does the same for you, whether its your transness or some other part of you that you’ve left behind?
Thanks for giving me more of your attention than my posts usually ask for, so I could reintroduce myself.
I’m looking forward to the hearts and love to come, wherever that takes me and this Finding Hearts Project.
With hearts and much love,