Healthy Form of Communication: How a Visit from an Ex-Boyfriend Got me Together


Image: GETTY

About two years ago, Spirit told me that 2019 would be the period of deconstruction, when time, people, places, and situations that once monopolized our energy will begin distancing themselves from us (with and without our assistance). This is one of the reasons why the arrival of the perigean moon (known as the Supermoon) was symbolic. Aside from the fact that it was the biggest moon of the year, it was also one of most powerful energetically.

The Supermoon watched the Earth for three nights, allowing practitioners like me to take full advantage of the energy by performing rituals to release the toxicity acting as spiritual barriers. For three nights, I worked with my Spirit Team to cleanse my subconscious mind of negative thinking, to conjure finances into my life (Spirit planted Chloe x Hallie’s “Everywhere” into my mind during that particular ritual) while reconnecting with ancestors from who have protected me from the worst of people’s intentions.

But it was the third and final night of the Supermoon ritual that stuck with me as I was encouraged by Spirit to reevaluate my concept of love, sex, and relationships.

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New Phone, Who Dis?: An Explanation for My Month Long Absence

October 22.

When my gaze stopped on the date and time of my last entry, I was shocked, if not extremely embarrassed. It’s been almost two months since I shared my Coming Out story. Since I completed the ritual that involved making amends to my old self. But it was that long since my frame harbored the energy mandatory to sit in front of this laptop.

Why? Because I was recovering from top surgery during the second part of November. Yes. You read right. And here’s the story.


The night after I assured Meeka that I would never abandon her, I received an email from my lawyer announcing that my appeal to my insurance company was approved. Then two days after, I caught a phone call from the surgeon’s office about setting up an appointment to undergo top surgery. I’d soon find pieces of mail with my name on it, white envelopes protecting confirmation letters. Instructions on where to park on the day of the surgery. Which physician to call to report drain measurements.

While some trans folks become anxious or even dysphoric as the day of their surgery pulls closer,others are both relieved, celebratory, and/or composed. I was in the latter category. I was under the impression that I was going to have to wait until January to be approved. But after everything was cleared (courtesy of my Spirit Team) I found myself staring at the chest knowing that my body will further solidify my identity as well as my being.

On November 14 at 8:45a.m., my housemate Tobi and I arrived at Rochester General Hospital to check in. By 10:45a.m., I was led to the O.R. (in a hospital gown and cap) to become the person I am meant to be. Because I’ve been through a major surgery before, I wasn’t overcome by panic. I just stretched myself out on the operating table and inhaled medication that would essentially disconnect me from the world for three hours.

When my eyes finally fluttered open, I fought the lingering effects of the anesthesia, unafraid, but not wanting to shut out my surroundings again. My first thought was my chest: What did it look like? Are my breasts gone? I peeked down at the center of the gown covering my new designer chest. They were gone. They were gone and so was the emotional and energetic burden from the sexual abuse that leeched itself onto Meeka’s breasts. I also noticed the plastic drains collecting fluid from my new chest, watching it flow through the tube in a drug-induced awe.


Me flexin’ in my hospital gown after surgery

I was then wheeled to my recovery room, where I watched a marathon of Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath, drank cranberry juice, and ate graham crackers. I muted Leah’s recount of religious abuse as Tobi walked into my room, bringing with him the bags of clothes I assumed I needed. I told him that the food was nasty, that I needed Ben &Jerry’s in my life, and that the excruciating pain I thought I’d endure for the next two months was non-existent. After a few minutes of keeping me company, he left for work and left me with Leah and my budding hatred towards Scientology.

When the episodes began to loop, I walked around the hospital unit because the anxiety of staying in a new environment was slightly overwhelming.  Plus, the drains pinned to my hospital gown (and the fear of yanking them out accidentally) annoyed me. I stayed in the hospital overnight, roaming the unit during the zombie shift while catching glimpses of my new self in the window.

When my friend Milo drove me the next morning, I was so wired from the desire to work. My energy level was high and unhindered by physical pain, so I recorded an episode for my podcast, The Bow Tie Psychic. I learned, however, that exhaustion can reveal itself in other ways: I stuttered throughout the entire episode, an indication that I was mentally tired. This also meant that writing for the most part was not an option.

I documented my frustration with my depleted energy on Facebook, only to be told (thankfully) that the work will still be available when I recovered. “Now is the time to rest” was the words of wisdom typed in the Comments section.

So I took everyone’s suggestion and rested to the best of my ability, allowed myself to binge watch Narcos: Mexico and read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I conversed with friends via Facebook and my family via texting. On Saturdays, I fed my ancestors and listened to them enjoy the food I prepared for them. And when I didn’t have the stamina to perform any longer, I slept in the armchair for hours with my feet up as my cats, Tobias and Shadow Moon rested on top of me.

And that, my Dear Reader, is one of the reasons why I’m just now getting back to you (aside from the fact that the cord to my laptop decided to take its last round, but I digress). Meanwhile, my new chest has earned me a nickname from Tobi: New Phone, Who Dis?

Me looking like baked mac and cheese wearing one of my favorite shirts after surgery.

Since the surgery, I’ve been asking myself “What now? What legacy am I to carve for myself now that I have this second chance?”  After meditating, I realize I am now officially ready to recite stories I was once too afraid to put on paper. I’m now reevaluating the meaning of success, what it means to me,and what that entails. I now wish to redefine my sexual expression in a way that isn’t harmful to me. I am now challenging myself to overcome my fear of judgement. And most importantly, I now walk the world comfortable in my own skin. When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a handsome individual with a body that is officially theirs.

When Two Become One: Embracing My Masculine and Feminine Energy

Coming Out


I remember this moment.

I held my phone in my hands, sitting on a former housemate’s couch as the light shining from the screen illuminated my face. I typed out sentence after sentence for what would become my Coming Out status. Apprehension and exhilaration warmed my skin while I imagined the questions and comments I’d knew would arise about what I just posted. Over a hundred of my friends flooded my thread, congratulating me on my coming out while others were happy to meet me again.

Before I even logged into Facebook, I called my parents and my brother Sherman to inform them of my being Agender Trans masculine. My father was the first person I reached out to. Though supportive, he seemed more confused if anything.

“So what do I call you?” Dad asked innocently. “Are you my son? “My daughter?”

“I’m your child,” I replied, not knowing how else to answer that question but relieved he asked it nonetheless.

My mother’s reaction was the complete opposite of ecstatic (and I didn’t expect anything different). “My plate is full” were her words spoken through my phone.

“That’s dope,” Sherman responded, his tone laced with a quiet excitement. “I’m happy for you.”

That night, I continued to bask in the glow of my arrival as Javi Mason and the support I received. And so much have changed since then—so much that I began writing this narrative with a stream of consciousness that flowed from pen to paper. I seriously didn’t know what crossroad to turn on. Then I realized that the best option was to focus on what I’ve learned spiritually within the course of a year.

The lesson I learned is that there isn’t one way to express one’s gender identity. Soon after coming out, I sifted through my drawers and ripped out the women’s clothing that once draped over my body. They were soon replaced by garments that screamed their masculinity—slacks, button down shirts, ties, bow ties. I also knew I wanted to be on testosterone, so I immediately made an appointment to see Dr. Shaefer and was able have a consultation with him a couple of months after. During our initial meeting at Trillium health, he asked me why I wanted to be on T. My exact words were:

“I want to look as masculine as humanly possible.”

In the past, the only type of trans men I’ve seen were those who passed as cis males. In fact, I didn’t know very many trans people who had no interest in medically transitioning (I can count on one hand how many friends have not gone that route). But my desire to pass didn’t derive from wishing to be viewed as a man (I am very Agender). I harbored a strong desire to reject every sliver of femininity occupying space within my body, hoping that the testosterone purged it somehow. I’ve been known as a “cis woman” for too long and felt that my outward appearance was reflecting a lie I no longer supported.

When my voice starts deepening, I thought to myself as I massaged the gel onto my thighs, people will hear the difference between Meeka and Javi. At least that was the plan.

Flashes of the person I was becoming reeled through my mind everyday and I soon recognized the distinctions between the “cis woman” I lived as and the person that lived quietly within. The mustache that naturally grew above my upper lip became more pronounced. A week or so later what I thought was a sore throat turned out to be the subtle deepening of my voice. After experiencing little to no intense emotion or libido since having my hysterectomy in August 2017, I suddenly felt the return of both (while my emotional state remains at a normal level, my sex drive elevated and still remains, uh, healthy).

Even my mental health changed for the better. The emptiness I once felt in the center of my chest was replaced by a wholeness that was awarded to me when I began living as my authentic self. The depression and anxiety that enveloped me since childhood vanished. As a result, my confidence rose from the debris of uncertainty and it was apparent to those who met eyes with me.

“You even feel different,” said one friend when they embraced me for the first time in months.

Though my friend’s assessment was accurate, there was this nagging suspicion that some part of me was missing energetically. Like I was still pretending to be someone I wasn’t. Meanwhile, I am still rejecting any association with femininity in the fear of being misgendered. And I actually thought I was doing better without it considering that I even tackled certain projects (a blog, a new podcast) without a crippling fear.

I asked Spirit what was going on and why was this happening. The response I received made me extremely uncomfortable: I am both masculine and feminine spiritually and I am to embrace this fact.

I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t even trying to hear it because acting feminine, from my perspective, only contributed to the misgendering I endured on the regular. At the same time, I had no intention of passing at this point and only wished to have top surgery. So I figured I’d express my feminine side every once in a blue moon by wearing nail polish. But even that wasn’t enough as felt the energetic pull becoming increasingly evident.

It wasn’t until I have done work with my spiritual mentor, Nahkila Isha’ that I realized what had happened.

It occurred on the night I came out; The moment I realized I was trans, something inside me split in half and was snatched out of me. I remember looking down at my hands and blinking as if I didn’t recognize my body or who I was. I thought nothing of it at first, believing this experience to be normal for all trans people who were freshly out of the closet. But as time sailed on, I noticed that the feeling remained regardless of me appreciating myself.

The reason why the split happened because I was rejecting Meeka. To me, she embodied fear, depression, and anxiety in its purist. She thrived on the approval of others—men in particular—and would contemplate suicide if she even suspected rejection. In her mind, nothing she did or said was close to good enough. Because of the Attention Deficit Disorder being untreated the majority of her life, she considered herself the weakest link despite her best efforts. She was the one who was severely abused, sexually assaulted, and ridiculed—not me. She acted out inappropriately simply out of the fear of being abandoned—I didn’t. So when the energetic split did occur, I (Javi) had a clean slate on which to build an entire history. I am not exaggerating when I state that I’ve transformed into a different human being.

But by distancing myself from Meeka, I was distancing myself from kindness, patience, creativity. A person who loved unconditionally until she was hurt enough, someone who fought for what she believed in and who gave people the benefit of the doubt. She had a childlike wonder to her that I could never possess on my own, but I had the logic that kept us both out of harm’s way.

Most importantly, Meeka is and will always be my feminine energy. Without her, I am not completely whole and by, rejecting her, I am rejecting a part of myself. I’d also be dishonoring the one that has protected me from significant harm for so many years. By walking away from her simply because of my desire to carve my name into the world’s history book, I’m abandoning her and that is something I will not do to her—not after all she’s been through.

So through meditation, I told her I was sorry. I told her that she is extremely important to me, and that she and I are the very same. Because together, we are one person with both masculine and feminine energy, one who loves beautiful people, places. We call each other out and we reign each other in when necessary. Neither one of us is trapped by the past. We share our stories to empower ourselves and other trans and queer people who’ve experienced trauma—regardless of the severity.  Since then, we “emerged” so to speak and the sensation once experienced was relinquished.

When I first arrived as Javi, I was under the impression that I was to be masculine twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That I can be a new person without ever having to address the past I seriously wanted to push deep into the corners of my mind. But what I’ve learned over the year is that, for me, it’s not possible without vanquishing the one who kept us both alive for this long. It’s because of Meeka that I’m here and finally whole, which is the reason why I am free.




Cutting the Invisible Piece of String

On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, I severed all ties with my mother.

The time for this moment to happen was approaching, peeking around the corner as if waiting for the opportunity for either one or the other to cut the invisible piece of string. Since coming out to her in October 2017, Mom’s resentment towards my trans masculine identity revealed itself a few times: while I was recording a live video, she greeted me with my old name in the comments. When I deleted it, she continued via Messenger, vowing to never accept what I am doing because she gave birth to a baby girl. Afterwards, the Woman’s Week memes popped into my inbox occasionally, along with “I love you much.”

I often employed the high levels of tolerance thirty minute of meditation awarded me, ignoring her obvious dismissal of my gender identity. In fact, I expected nothing different from her when she responded to my coming out with the words: “I don’t feel too well…with your brother being locked up, my plate is already full.” But even after that, the hopeful, naïve aspect of me extended Mom the benefit of the doubt by thinking that she would at least see the benefits of me living my truth. By recognizing how much happier I’ve become, by seeing it when I’d come back to Springfield after a years’ long hiatus.

But what occurred on September 18 was the unfortunate truth she had no intention of changing her mind.

I remember my spirit being grayed that night by the fact that I had failed to raise the funds required for my top surgery, realizing that my GoFundMe campaign was no match for the ones organized by those with high social capital. This was only compounded by my gender dysphoria and the fact that I grew tired of fighting with my insurance company. So I announced on my Facebook page that I was ending my fundraiser, thanked those who contributed, and that refunds would be distributed as soon as possible.

Soon after the announcement was posted, the Messenger notification bell caught my attention.  I looked down on my phone and saw my mother’s profile picture, her smile stretched as she waited for my response.  After I tapped on the bubble holding her picture, I was led to a private message featuring “God loves you” type memes shaded with carnation pink hearts and ribbons.  Above them was the message:

“I look at you and I am very proud of you! After so many battles faced some lost, defeated others, I believe you are a Warrior. You are standing there and with great strength, no one will bring you down! HAPPY WOMAN’S WEEK! Send this to a woman you admire!”

The moment my gaze stopped on those words, the wall I built to shield myself from her non-verbal jabs crumbled onto the kitchen table. Between my dysphoria and the failed fundraiser, my tolerance for yet another chain message from Mom dissipated—especially since I was aware that she read my status about me distributing refunds.

An exasperated groan rumbled out of me while I squeezed my eyes shut.  “Are you serious, Mom?” I bellowed at no one as I buried my face in my hands, feeling warm tears trickle from tired, closed eyes.

My housemate Tobi, who is informed of my mother’s toxicity, bee lined into the kitchen from the living room and wrapped his arms around me.  “Just block her messages and walk away from the phone,” he advised softly. “Just put the phone down and walk away.”

I followed Tobi’s instructions and spent the rest of the night listening to ASMR tying and watching My Haunted House on YouTube just to temper my nerves.

The next day, I sent my mother a message regarding my wishes to not speak to her.  For the first couple of days, I experienced chest pains and depression from the very thought of being “motherless.” But it was not long before the depression transformed itself into a resentment that I couldn’t wrap my head around.  After meditating on the reaction, I now understood why.

It was wasn’t her decision to not accept my transition that bothered me (if anything, I expected Mom to read every post regarding my transness with a combination of embarrassment and silent condescension). What crawled under my skin was the continual disrespect towards me now despite how she treated me when I was living as a “female” child. More than by my aunt Joyce, more than by the bullies in my grandmother’s neighborhood and the school playground, the bulk of the torment inflicted upon me was initiated by my own mother. This was the same woman who was supposed to raise my spirits, to uphold me and always tell me that I was more to her than the universe that stretched above our heads. Instead I was forced to compete with the Christian God, the men, and the church—the three entities that caught my mother’s attention the same way a fisherman would a trout.

This is also the same mother that literally threatened to cut my eyes out when I threw her a cold stare after she called me stupid. Who compared me to a White bitch because I wanted the room I shared with my brother Sherman to myself for only a moment. Who accused me of being inflicted with “Beatle sins” because I preferred the Fab Four over Shirley Caesar. Who slapped me in the face and said that I loved the Devil when, by that time, I stopped believing in anything other than what was before my own eyes.  It is because of my mother that I rarely trust older Black women—Christian ones in particular.

Yet after everything she has done, Mom has the audacity to not relinquish her efforts to exterminate my spirit.

In fact, I now recognize that my mom doesn’t just take issue with my trans identity but my entire existence in general. I’ve always had a suspicion that she never liked me, that she secretly blamed me for having to place her dreams on the shelf. I remember her yelling at me about “having to do laundry everyday” and how she “could’ve gone to Brazil” if it weren’t for me. I just stood there, feeling powerless and not even knowing where Brazil was, but figured it was far from Springfield.

And even as an adult, I don’t understand. Aside from the fact that I never asked to be here, I fail to comprehend why she can’t recognize that I am not her antagonist, but the complete opposite.  More than ever I desire for my mother to succeed in life, to see her Inner Light and enjoy her own existence.  To embrace her own identity without diminishing those of her children.  When my mother isn’t possessed with the desire to control, her somber, yet observational humor released from me a laughter that often ricocheted off the walls. When we did have conversations on the phone, I recognized the pain in her voice when she spoke about her lack of resources, the hurt when Joe doesn’t wish to see her when she visits him at the County jail.  Even through her humor I heard the loneliness dripping from her tongue.  During those vulnerable moments, she was the mother I’ve always desired to raise me.  At one point, our relationship was mended to where I forgave her for the trauma caused and her support was apparent.

But after I transitioned, it was as if the bridge we constructed was torched by her own disapproval of me and she reverted back to emotional manipulation.  She resorted to sliding Christian subliminal messages and false female admiration memes into my DMs. Or conspiracy theories about deaths in the family that never occurred to generate conversation with children who chose to love her from a far.  Even as I write these words, I realize that the mother I imagined myself being raised by doesn’t exist and the one who raised me only taught me what I’m not willing to tolerate. So to maintain my own inner peace, I chose to cut the thin string that held us together and walk away from the illusion of having a supportive mother.




The Quiet Storm: My Story About Pastor Rogers

On Friday, August 30, the homegoing of legendary singer and activist Aretha Franklin aired on Black Entertainment Television.

I managed to avoid the five-hour long service (I rarely harbor the spoons to watch anything involving someone’s passing for that long).  I instead scrolled through Blackbook for updates about the homegoing, entertained by the humorous, yet respectful statuses and captions typed beneath photos of the #ArethaFranklinHomegoing tweets that softened the blow of her death.  But the plethora of world-famous politicians, celebrities, and recording artists paying their respects to the Queen Mother of Soul and Radical Blackness were eclipsed by the controversy surrounding Pop artist Ariana Grande—at least online anyway.  While some Black women noticed how former President Bill Clinton and Reverend Jesse Jackson fixated on the young woman performing “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman),” others who didn’t even know who she was now bent their fingers over their laptop keyboards to measure the length of her dress with their respectability politics.

But the incident that ignited the fury throughout the interwebs featured a pastor groping the pop artist at the pulpit.  Grande attempted to pull herself away from him, feigning politeness with a strained smile to contain her discomfort.  But this only encouraged the pastor to draw her closer without rousing suspicion, tossing a joke about Grande’s name while pressing two digits against the side her breast.  The congregation and Black female bodied individuals watching BET witnessed this sexual violation.  Within minutes, think pieces appeared in my newsfeed about how sexual abuse is sewn into the history of Black churches.  Black women came forward with their own accounts of being victimized by church leaders and how it was swept under the pews.  How they were blamed.  As I read these testimonies, I was reminded of my own encounters with a church leader named Pastor Rogers.

Pastor Rogers was a traveling church leader from Mississippi who occasionally trundled into Springfield, Illinois to preach the Good Word at yet another church my mother migrated us to.  When I saw him on the pulpit for the first time, I noticed that he was different from the other Sunday pastors.  While their voices trembled and boomed through the bodies of their congregants, his exuded with strength interwoven with serenity and conviction.  He rarely leapt into the air, stomped, or cued the organist to play an affirming note, but paced back and forth, holding the mic in one hand while the other was tucked away in the pocket of his ironed trousers.  His sepia shaded skin was devoid of imperfections and he seemed content with his round body; his thin, gold rimmed glasses shielded eyes the color of a starless night.

As a teen who resented the Religious Industrial Complex, I found myself admiring Pastor Rogers.  To me, he was a human manifestation of a quiet thunderstorm that was long overdue, his charismatic energy washing away my misgivings regarding Christianity. Even my mother (who rarely extended her trust to others) admired him to some extent—so much so that she made it a point to announce his arrival to me and my brother Sherman (aka Choo).  In return, he extended genuine warmth towards us, embracing me with long hugs, smiles, and “I’m so glad to see you.” His attentiveness was a breath of fresh air, temporarily filling the emptiness conceived by my own father’s absence.

I recalled the excitement I felt when Mom informed me that Pastor Rogers wanted to spend his spare time with me and Choo.  She allowed him to take us to McDonald’s for dinner—something that was unheard of and few and far in between.  Though I was at least fifteen at the time, the five-year-old in me was more honored by the fact that someone wanted to spend time with me—of all people.

I remember the three of us occupying a booth in the McDonald’s on South Grand Avenue, surrounded by junk food and our own chatter.  While I enjoyed my cheeseburger and small order of fries, I noticed Pastor Rogers watching me from the corner of my eye.  I ate in silence, wondering why he was staring at me.  Was I eating too fast?  Did I do something to make myself look nasty like I always did? Entire theories regarding my conduct swirled around in my mind and I found myself conducting an internal investigation.

My thoughts were put on pause when the church leader suddenly slipped my hand into his.  I automatically turned my eyes onto him, not understanding what even encouraged this random gesture.

“How are you doing?” he asked, kindness coating his every word.

“I’m ok,” I replied calmly, still confused as to why he was holding my hand.

“That’s good.  Your mom said you wanted a new pair of shoes.  What kind of shoes would you like?”  His stare rarely left me as he spoke.

I never recalled having a discussion with my mom about needing new shoes, so I figured this was one had between her and Pastor Rogers.  Still I felt obligated to give him some type of response.  “Converse sneakers.”

Pastor Rogers shook his bald head, his tongue sucking on his teeth.  “See?  You gonna make me mad.”  He then smiled warmly while his grip on my hand tightened slightly.  “Cold hands with a warm heart.  I have Shermeekas everywhere I go.”

I continued to lock eyes with him, the confusion now transformed into a discomfort crawling up my throat.  At this point, I’ve been exposed to sex enough to know what he meant:  He “collected” young female bodied children like me—the ones who are fatherless, semi-fatherless, lonely.  Outcasts sculpted with breasts and vaginas admired by men like him, our vulnerabilities manipulated just so they will prove how “special” we are.  And all we had to do was get past a small dinner at McDonald’s.  And promise not to tell anyone.

My soul yearned to withdraw from this imminent danger imprisoning my hand and ascend towards, through the ceiling.  To float above the restaurant and move among the clouds illuminated by stars and air pollution until I finally reached home.  But I couldn’t leave Choo, who sat innocently across from me eating the food that was packed in his Happy Meal.

When we were dropped off, I wanted to scrub my whole entire spirit clean of that man’s ill intentions. My misinterpretation of his compassion.  I wanted to tell my mother about what occurred but didn’t possess the vocabulary necessary to describe the severity of the violation.  In fact, I questioned whether the encounter was even real; for all I knew, the nature of our exchange was a figment of my own imagination.  But it had to be real because the vignette between me and Pastor Rogers clung onto the corners of my mind like a fly trapped in a spider web.  The energy from his hand was imprinted onto mine for quite some time before I mentally scrubbed it clean.

A year dropped and flown before Pastor Rogers visited Springfield again.  By this time, I was sixteen and experimenting with makeup because I figured that that was all female bodied people did at my age.  I remember my face being distorted with foundation and eye shadow, a smooth mahogany hue decorating my lips.  My body itched to peel off the black skirt and silk green blouse that draped over my body, but I wanted to look “presentable.”

What I didn’t realize was that my costume caught the attention of Pastor Rogers, who was sitting in one of the break rooms.  When I quietly approached the threshold of the door, his head hung down as if he were contemplating his life decisions.  But he somehow heard me and looked up, his gaze frozen onto me.

A soft, knowing grin stretched his lips.  “If I were just a few decades older,” he said, the unadulterated lust smearing the words rolling from his mouth, complemented with a gaze that backed me away from the threshold.

I returned to the front of the church, the sensation of being molested with a sentence drenching my skin.  All I wanted to do was rush home, tear the flesh off my bones, and step into another vessel before I threw my old one in the dumpster standing in the back alley.  I was tired.  Tired of being the target of someone else’s sexual gratification.  Of someone else’s selfishness.  Of Pastor Rogers’s selfishness.  I wanted him to leave and wipe me from his very memory so he wouldn’t think to come searching for me. When he returned as an overcast, I’d be safe under my blankets as he showered the earth with raindrops that stung like wasps.

A week after I mentally registered Pastor Rogers as a sex offender, Mom told me that he invited me and my brother to stay at his home in Mississippi for the entire summer.  I swiftly declined, disappointingly aware that his objectives were far from innocent. By the grace of Spirit, Mom didn’t push the issue and I was able to shove the invitation deep into the closet of my mind. Years later, I confessed to my mom why I wanted nothing to do with the church leader that occasionally visited the Midwest to bless us with the Good Word. She listened while I told her about his behavior towards the sixteen-year-old me, never pointing fingers or interrogating me with unnecessary questions about my conduct.  She believed me, which I am grateful for.

I don’t know what came of Pastor Rogers.  I only heard through the grapevine that he was banned from the church at which I initially met him—the reason remaining unknown to me.  I won’t allow myself to feed into any of my own suspicions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if his chickens finally came home to roost.  And for the sake of the young female bodied teens who crossed paths with his cruel intentions, I truly hope so.






Haunted: The Other Reason Why I Want Top Surgery

September is around the corner.

After next week, we’ll be at the month of pumpkin spice latte and apple crisp season.  Ceramic human skulls will share entire store aisles with witch puppets on brooms, the ones that cackle when the red button installed in their backs is pushed by the tip of a curious finger.  The moon will wax and wane in a sky that darkens the earth an hour earlier than what we humans are accustomed to, the wind and descending temperature encouraging many to tug the air conditioner out of the window until further notice.

When I was a child, I didn’t care too much for Autumn—if at all.  It was too close to Winter, to me having to replace my worn-out sneakers or the soles of my bare feet with chunky snow boots that left prints in the white cold powder (I still feel that was even as an adult).  This time in my life, my perception of the fall Equinox has completely shifted—but because my patience for the holidays has returned.  It is because the changing months bring me closer to January 10, 2019.

This is the day that I am officially eligible for gender reassignment surgery—or top surgery.  In non-cis lay man terms, this means I will have my breasts removed.  Though I can get the procedure at any point, January 10 is when Medicaid will fund it without much authorization outside of documentation from Trillium Health.  It is then that I can finally disconnect from the dysphoria that plagues me on a regular basis.  Until that moment arrives, until I’m lying in a hospital bed in a hospital gown while recovering from the fog of anesthesia, I’m stuck with gender markers I no longer connect with.  In fact, I never have and I must be honest about this part of my personal history regarding gender and my breasts.  And since they aren’t going anywhere soon, I choose to at least reflect on when the disconnection began.

It all started when I was nine years of age when my breasts swelled into existence.  My young mind didn’t understand the magnitude of such a significant change and I figured that they were just another part of me, another development that would be explained if I were to ask someone who knew better.  So when I pulled on my pink tank top, I thought nothing about how much the fabric clung onto my newest additions.

I was one step out of my room when Mom approached me.  Her sight stopped on my chest, her critical gaze sweeping across my tank top.  She then looked at me, the seriousness staining her face.

“You got breasts now,” Mom pointed out, her voice stern. “And I can see through your shirt.  If a man see that, they’re gonna want to touch you and try to rape you!”

As she spoke, the volume of her voice rose while her stare grew colder.  She stood over me, the shadows draping over half her face and shoulders, making her appear sinister.  Possessed.  Meanwhile, my attention shot down towards the center of my tank top, the bulbs of flesh stretching the fabric.  Images of grown men reeled through my mind, their extended arms attached to hands eager to caress my breasts, smiling while exposing teeth that were cracked and rotted.  I spun around and hurried to my dresser, snatched open the middle drawer and yanked out a t-shirt.  After I quickly pulled it over my head, I felt my breath become steady as the strangers in my head disappeared.  When I faced my mother once again, she nodded her head as a ghost of a smile traced her lips.

“Much better,” she complimented before she turned and walked away.

That one moment was far from an isolated one.  The possibility of sexual violence associated with my breasts was brought to my attention on more than one occasion.  According to my mother, someone was always attempting to or fantasizing about “touching me” or “raping me.”  And I often responded by shielding my breasts with my arms.  But what she failed to understand was that my perpetrators weren’t hypothetical males.  It was her sister, my aunt Joyce, who introduced me to pornographic videos before introducing me to her full body.  Or some of the children living in the projects where my father used to work (one girl actually pulled one of my breasts out of my shirt—even when I asked her not to).

The curiosity and sexualization of my breasts didn’t stop at my childhood.  Men and women fixated on them even when I tumbled into adulthood.  They were the first part of me kissed during sex.  The first part of me people admired quietly when I wore low-cut blouse on a night out.  The first part that brought out the kindness of men when I worked the front desk at the university library. This only continued because I didn’t know of any other options.  At this point, I knew I wasn’t straight, but also fell into the cis-identity trap by thinking that all female-bodied women were to act sexual simply because of the body parts they were born with.

The irony was that I was most comfortable with my body when my chest was close to non-existent, hidden beneath flowy shirts worn with bell bottom jeans.  A sigh of relief came from not being mistaken for high femme behaviorisms, only wearing heels and makeup on the night of the blue moon.

My coming out in 2017 made sense; my masculinity felt as natural as the shade of my skin and I immediately reset myself energetically and psychologically.  But I still had my old body—those two lumps on my chest that I never asked for.  As time dragged on, the contempt towards my breasts intensified—so much so that I requested that they be removed earlier than required by my insurance company.  My dysphoria elevated when my insurance company denied my request because I’ve only been on testosterone for eight months.  Though I am in the middle of an appeal, the chances of Excellus budging are slim.

So here I am, giving myself the permission to confront the monster—the other reason why I want my breasts removed as soon as possible.

Since they were sexualized since the day they were formed, I began to believe that my breasts were the only aspect of me that either brought happiness to or pleasure for someone else.  Since I craved the attention that didn’t involved me being yelled at or ridiculed, I allowed people to sexualize me, regardless of how much I disgusted I felt. I assumed that, as a “woman,” sexualization and being sexualized because of my breasts was all I was good for.  And it was always followed by an overwhelming sense of shame.

My breasts are a constant reminder of the sexual humiliation I put myself through in the quest to find true acceptance.  Of the sexual abuse I endured as a child by a family member who concealed her intentions with humor while providing a false sense of protection.  Because it was often ridiculed and molested, I rarely felt connected to my body and having my breasts blamed for someone else’s conduct made it worse.  So with them gone, my body will never again be used as a scapegoat.  And I will no longer have gender markers that remind me of the trauma I endured.  The top surgery will do more than allow me to live comfortably with my body.  It will allow me to move forward and on with my life as me.

In other words, I will no longer be haunted.  Instead, I will finally be free.



Center of Attention

This is a piece I wrote WAY before I came out.  I’ve been struggling with body image lately because of my chest dysphoria and been thinking of ways to eliminate my discomfort (I’ll be writing a piece about this soon).  But I wanted to post something before too much went by and found this.  I hope your enjoy it and that it resonates with you.  Peace.


As a child, I loved summer.

No—I craved it.  For me, that meant homework, teachers, and early morning risings to board the pencil yellow bus were a distant memory for three months.  Until August, freedom was a luxury I savored for the most part—especially when I was permitted open space in the field behind my grandmother’s back yard.

The field was my go-to spot in the 1980s back home in Springfield, Illinois, where I was born, raised, and allowed to play as long as I was monitored by the older children.  When them, I played baseball, Tag, Track and Field in this area, my feet feeling the soft blades of grass between my toes.  It was one of the few places where my body wasn’t usually the focal point of negative attention.

You see, I was a fat Black child—the only one in my immediate family—and I was often reminded of this.  Whenever I’d stuff food in my little mouth, family members stared at me with unspoken disgust.  My plump limbs were the punchlines for a variety of fat jokes made by cousins who displayed ill intent towards me.  When school was in session, I was called everything from “Hippo” to “The Ugliest Girl in School” both on the playground and the bus.  I also earned the reputation of eating more than my fair share of food during the lunch period.

It didn’t help matters that I was sexually abused by my aunt, who was a few years older than me.  Though she herself possessed a rotund frame, she made it a ritual to criticize me and my body because it didn’t resemble that of my cousin Denise, one known for her physical attractiveness.  There were times when I studied my body while standing in front of the mirror, tilting my head to the side slightly and struggling to discover whatever flaw I had so I can rid myself of it.  I did this every day for as long as I remember, the little version of me not understanding what the problem was.  Why my body was such a flaw to everyone else.

As I grew older, I began covering my body with pairs of jeans and t-shirts—regardless of how much sweat dampened my forehead and everywhere else.  Never again did I wear a tank top or swimsuit outside of my grandmother’s backyard.  I wouldn’t dare to—especially with my cousins in town.  At this time, I was fat and enduring middle school, so my body was not only ridiculed but physically assaulted by peers on a regular basis.  On top of that, it produced a foul older because it harbored a bacterial infection I didn’t realize I even had.  I thought it was the result of taking cold showers instead of the hot ones my family couldn’t afford to pay for.  It took a gynecology visit to discover the truth, but until then I fantasized about having a body similar to the popular and much thinner girls.  I no longer wanted the extra layers clinging onto my bones.  I wanted it gone.

So when Spring drifted into summer, I didn’t enjoy it anymore.  I found myself hiding in my room, not wanting nothing to do with the outside world.  When I did engage in a summer activity, it was in shorts and t-shirt and even that was short-lived.  Eventually, the shorts were replaced by jeans that screened my growing thighs. There were periods where I was thin enough for people to notice—men especially.  But the weight eventually crept back on, despite the many times I stuck tooth brushes and writing utensils down my throat, the number of meals I forfeited, and the amounts of empty carbs I eliminated.

I carried decades’ worth of taunts within me well into my twenties and early thirties, covering up my massive arms beneath thin cardigans, my legs with blue jeans or leggings.  The toxicity of the self-hatred I felt clung onto every muscle and layer of fat stored inside my body.  There were periods when I wished I were a different person in another life.  With another body.


Fast forward to 27 years old and living in Rochester, New York.

I am over 200 pounds (though you wouldn’t think so just by setting your eyes on me). As I said before, I carried years of body-shaming messages within me, on my shoulders, and back.  In my mind.  I was still wearing autumn wardrobe throughout the summer, uncomfortable due the humidity, yet safe from taunts pertaining to my body.

One day, I was in the Downtown Rochester area, heading towards Family Dollar to purchase something I needed.  I was wearing a cardigan over my black tank top as my tongue licked away the beads of sweat moistening my upper lip. The humidity was oppressive to say very least—so much so that even the shade failed to emit relief.  The only thought occupying my mind was getting to the store so I can enjoy the breeze of an air conditioner.

I was actually a few steps away from the store’s entrance when I heard someone ask “Aren’t you hot?”

I slowed my pace until I came to a complete stop, looking for the owner of the voice I believed was addressing me. My attention settled on an older woman with sepia shaded skin standing at the convenient store next to my destination.  She stared back at me, confusion wrinkling her face as if she had never seen anyone like me.  Here we go, I assumed.

“A little,” I said, downplaying my discomfort with a shy smile. “I don’t like the way my arms look, though.”

The stranger’s expression on her face softened slightly as she sucked on her teeth.  “Girl, it’s eighty degrees!  It’s too hot to care about what your arms look like.”  She then walked away, leaving me to look on with a quiet shock at her level of bluntness.

Yet she was right.  According to the weather report, the highest temperature was going to be about eighty degrees—possibly much more so with the humidity.  Plus, the dryness of my lips indicated that I was becoming dehydrated and needed something to drink soon.  And my sweating wasn’t helping matters.  Reluctantly, I peeled off my cardigan and gave permission the sun to touch my arms. I swept my gaze around the open streets and sidewalks to catch any condescending stares from on-lookers, all the while clinging onto my cotton fabric armor in case I had to hide again.  But the strangers only walked past me, solely focused on their own destinations and not paying me any mind.  If anything, I was an afterthought they avoided not out of disgust but because I stood in the middle of the sidewalk like a fool.

After my visit to Family Dollar, I started towards the St. Paul Street bus booth to board the next city bus heading home, water in hand, when I caught my reflection in a shop window.  I stopped and examined my frame—truly studied curvaceous hips, my thighs, my circular belly as I rested my hand on its center.  And then my eyes shifted to my arms—my untoned limbs constructed to cradle weeping children, embrace friends announcing the greatest achievement or most debilitating disappointment, arms associated with hands often prepared to either comfort or defend. I immediately noticed how the warmth brightened my skin, bringing out hints of ochre and sun-kissed orange as a golden shimmer enhanced the beauty that is my melanin.

It’s too hot to care about what your arms look like.

The woman’s message seeped into my mind, into my spirit as my reflection and I admired one another, drinking in the attention we both craved and now received. This is my body, I thought as the toxicity of childhood derision bled from my pores and into an invisible pool at my sneakered feet before disappearing into the concrete. My body belonged to me and not the ones who critiqued it, mocked it, or used it for their own selfish gratification. These curves, these breasts, feet, hands, neck, stomach, and the inner workings orchestrated to preserve my existence and despite its imperfections and build, are mine.

And they are beautiful.