“I have such an intricate relationship with my shell I don’t even know where to begin…we have survived drug exposure in utero, 6 orthopedic surgeries, non consensual sexual reassignment, “gender confirmation” surgeries, sexual assault, 2 eating disorders, and permanently disabling injuries sustained due to racial profiling… Now while one of those things could kill a person or break their spirit my body prevails day in day out and I am perpetually astonished by the 9 lives I’ve been granted by it.
At this point in my life I can honestly say my body is the only thing that’s mine– the only thing I truthfully own, which I’m sure is a very odd notion for people to entertain as it’s pretty rudimentary to say ‘my body is mine’ however for the majority of my life I treated my body as if it were a rental or crash test dummy; more often than not I navigated the world under the delusion that one day the original owner of my body would approach me and ask for it back or that I could damage it so badly it’d be useless. I know now that some of this was my own doing but a lot was institutional oppression at work like misogyny, classism, ableism, transphobia, fatphobia, and the pervasive anti-queerness in and surrounding media visibility.
My body and I have never been closer than we are now but our road from estrangement has been paved destroyed repaved bulldozed and finally re-paved with the help of medical interventions. I was born here in SF in '88 during the height of the AIDS and crack epidemics both of which not only impacted me but my relationship to ALL bodies. I was born exposed to high doses of crack, heroin, and opiates by my birth mom and I spent the first days of my life detoxing / being prepared for death, my body being what it is though I miraculously cleared the drugs and survived despite being under 4lbs at which point I was placed with my forever family when I was 9 days old— luckily I skipped out on most of the treachery that being a foster kid entails but my family as amazing as they are were far from perfect when it came from helping me avoid traumatic experiences; as a kid I developed OCD after witnessing more than a dozen AIDS related deaths of my mothers gay male friends (she worked in theater and nightlife so she could be around during the day). I guess in my own school aged little kid mind I had convinced myself if I could keep the world clean it would be OK.
It got pretty bad around age 9 I would compulsively wash my hands to the point of rawness (my hands look way older than they should as a result) I’d count my food a certain number of times as I chewed and if I lost count or didn’t like the number I’d spit it out or just eat more food. I got shamed a lot for my ticks in school so I found ways to hide them I began picking at my skin and body hair. To this day I still have scars from that and a permanent bald spot on my crotch that sexual partners sometimes inquire about and I have to make up some excuse as to why there’s a circle of hair missing because “oh I have OCD and it was really bad in my childhood” isn’t the sexiest thing to say to someone. These days my symptoms are manageable instead of daily hindrances they only flair in high stress situations despite that though my body still carries that history I still actively struggle on high stress days to keep from popping white heads for hours or tweezing out half my body hair.
I live with a rarely diagnosed hereditary condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome I was born with it and lived with it undiagnosed for 25 years which is amazing considering that the injuries I sustained over that time were so plentiful that at one point I was questioned by authorities as to whether my family was abusing me or not. For people with EDS doing the simplest tasks can result in major injury for instance I’ve torn ankle ligaments getting up to retrieve ketchup at a burger joint, in college an authority figure attempting detain me essentially tore my trapzieus from my body and as a result my career as a professional photographer was cut short after my shoulder injury became debilitating, most recently I sliced my hand open turning off the shower so badly it required 4 stitches. My body bends weirdly unnatural positions feel natural and turning a doorknob too far can mean a dislocated wrist. To many this body would be a curse but for me its a puzzle… Having diminished collagen makes me Humpty Dumpty and sometimes I even imagine my body being pulled apart by its own molecular activity but I’ve always kept trudging along playing in a highly selective soccer league, competitively dancing on a state and national levels, amateur bodybuilding, judo, swimming.
I keep active to stay alive in my body.
My face and I have a weird relationship… I was a model and actress as a kid like a legit one I was on barbie and cabbage kid boxes, fast food and theme park commercials, Mervyn’s and Target billboards I auditioned right along side of the likes of Tia and Tamera, the Smollett family, and once even beat out both Olsen twins for a casting! no one ever really pushed me to do it but I asked to because it was a way for me to embody femininity and still know it was an act, I could go be girly for a few hours and use the money I made to buy boys underwear or video games in retrospect I know for a fact this was gender dysphoria but then it seemed cute to my family. I was a beautiful girl and I began to place a lot of value on my face since my body betrayed me daily but around 1st puberty my skin got bad and I lost touch with reality since the one feature that defined me was defying me I began to starve myself and developed anorexia following a dance teacher’s comments about my skin and body at one point I weighed nearly 20lbs less than what I should’ve and yet my family had no idea. As I got older the disease warped into a binge eating disorder because being received as a masculine queer woman caused me a lot of harassment I felt if I were larger men would stop trying to make me straight or stop harassing men and the sick thing is it was true I ballooned up to nearly 200lbs and people left me alone not just men though ALL people. At which point I developed a drinking problem and an awful attitude it sucks because those were my formative years and I’m sure people still believe that person was and is me but its not it’s who I was when I was hurting.
In 2010 I was tired of hurting so I ran away to Portland, OR to transition it was rough but I did it no hand outs no money no people I knew around I rallied and saw my body into a new era all on my own and eventually returned to SF a new person and a new man.
I also returned to some interesting news upon attempting to get a new birth certificate I was made aware I was assigned male not female at birth although my body appeared female to me there’s some haziness around whether or not I was born female or born intersex and reassigned without permission because I was basically govt property till I was taken home at 9 days old for awhile I hated my body again fearing that I could’ve had the male life I always wanted from birth had a doctor not played god with my body but now I don’t care I’m so thankful for the 22 years I had as a girl a teen and young woman.
I have a secret history and when people find out I am trans one of three things typically occurs they ask about my genitals, they attempt to stroke my ego by saying they didn’t know (which is actually super rude), or they feel sorry for me being trapped in the wrong body ironically I don’t feel trapped I feel so free in my body freer than most non trans people because my body and I have lived through so much at 27 that there’s nothing but awe and love for it stretch marks, scars, bald spots, white hairs, acne and all.”