Thanks to my new friend Meta Commerse, I was brought face-to-face with this quote by Iyanla Vanzant, named one of the 100 most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine in 2000 – “When you stand up and share your story in an empowering way, your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.”
A significant number of trans-women (nobody knows for sure, but experience tells me it may be a majority) choose to merge as seamlessly as possible into femininity (however that is being defined) at the end of transition. People stop attending trans events, do not want to be referred to as trans, lose any impetus for trans activism.
I can appreciate this and I will never tell another what her journey should look like, especially based on mine. I speak entirely for myself. But when I speak of myself, I do so frequently as a proud transwoman who will not stop fighting for transgender rights and who will not stop trying to build bridges with the rest of the world. Why?
Every time I tell my story, I heal. I heal from the misunderstandings and injustices of this culture. I can’t stop doing this because I don’t dare stop healing. Every now and then somebody criticizes me for always talking trans stuff. I don’t think I do, but if I did, it’s because I know I heal every time my story hits daylight.
As it so happens, I’m also a recovering alcoholic and a quite public one at that. I gave up large portions of my anonymity when I decided to write this blog. Why on earth would I do that? The same reason. When I talk publicly about my addiction, every time I introduce myself as “Hi, I’m Denise and I’m an alcoholic”, some rift in my soul heals over. Sometimes a large one, sometimes a little one, but healing happens without exception.
The consequences of my struggle with gender identity and alcohol have been at times explosively public. Such is my life. I do not regret the past. But I trust by becoming vulnerable in the public sphere I previously abused, somebody else is healed as well.
I was shocked really by the reaction that I got when I preached on Mother’s Day last. The depth of others’ emotions caught me flat-footed. I’ve been watching others with gender struggles rise up with renewed strength. I’ve learned of others who have resonated with my addiction struggle and step out of the shadow of secrecy and shame.
This does NOT happen because I am such an inspiring speaker…or writer, for that matter. I do my best but really… these changes are testimony to the power of one person telling her story in a public sphere without even realizing the full depth of what she was doing.
When I finish this stage of transition and journey, I’m not going to stop talking about my sisters and brothers who struggle for authentic identity. I’m always going to share my hope with those afflicted with disease of addiction. I just can’t stop.