When it’s Trans Awareness Week and you are (finally!) Aware.


CW- Transphobia, graphic language.

Screengrab from Revolutionary Girl Utena.

I was not always aware that I am trans. I was always however aware that I am not cisgender. Even if I did not know nor had the right words to express the complexities of gender identity. This past week as social media became flooded with Trans-positive information and resources I came across a NB person explaining that they felt their entire life and it hit the proverbial nail on the head with me so hard I wanted to paraphrase it:

“Knowing if you are Transgender is like knowing if you are left-handed. People will put a pencil in your right hand and try to force you to write but you know that that just doesn’t feel right to you.”

(Note:I been looking high and low for where it came from, I consume a lot of content and did not save it. These aren’t my words nor ideas, so, if you know whom I can attribute this quote to, please comment below so I can make edits!)

For me it began with small steps. Like fashion choices, they always gave me the freedom to express my gender presentation/expression which paved the way to understand more about my own Identity. Much to my discomfort as a child, my mother socialized and raised me and my sisters to be very ‘feminine.’ I was labeled a tomboy at an early age and I learned (many times the hard way) that society did not accept that fully — Sometimes being targeted by school bullies, toxic masculinity indoctrinated boys that did not think “a girl belongs in…”(enter sport, play, subject) I was hellbent on proving ‘them’ wrong and for awhile excelled in sports and academics. Sometimes the blow of trans antagonism was given by family members or friends saying things that sends shivers down your spine and make your inner self cringe and hurt.

During sixth grade my grandmother, forever my ally and co-conspirator helped me become more comfortable in my self expression: (despite us not having the access to understand Transness and gender.) She took me school uniform shopping and changed my life! In my country we wear white tunics and big old blue bows. The ‘girl’ tunics button and tie in the back and look like a cross between a sailor uniform and a little dress. The ‘boys’ uniforms are simply a lab coat and bow.

She warned me that I might get made fun of at school for wearing a ‘boy’s’ uniform. To which I replied ‘I already get made fun of for being a boy anyways…’ So she purchased it. And I was so happy she did. That was one of the last lasting gifts my grandmother gave me: We were really poor in my country, and as far as I know there isn’t or wasn’t such things as ‘return policies’ for the small businesses where we shopped. She went out on a limb catering to my need to feel comfortable wearing what I wanted to wear in school and spent a lot of money. We did not know weather I was even allowed by the school to do what I imagined to be a bold move. We did know there was no written rule against it, so we went for it. All in all, there was no problems from the school and very few kids even took notice of the difference. But internally I felt comfortable and right and it made such a difference in my last year of primary school in my own country.

In the US during my teens I was delighted to wear my boyfriend's hoodies and sweatpants and call it a day and excuse it as ‘wearing my boyfriend’s clothes.’ Later in my twenties I began working as an artist and designer, which gave me the opportunity to work with other artist and designers. Because my aesthetics have always fluctuated from High Femme to Softboi, many times to my delight people would ask me to model their designs, both as a “boy and a girl.” I was introduced to terms like ‘androgynous’ and ‘gender fluidity.’ Discovering and becoming aware of Trans folks was a slow process for me, to understand my own trans identity even slower and harder as I was still part of a church that called anything outside of cisgender and heteronormative-ness a sure way to end up in hell. An abomination to God and his creation. I struggled with self hate both for my gender and my sexuality as well as internalized misogyny. I struggled with hating others well into their journey and seemingly happy and comfortable with themselves as well. As the saying goes that the biggest homophobes are Queer and the biggest Transphobes are Trans, and sometimes that is the case. Other times people are just brainwashed into believing and misreading ‘holy’ scriptures. And even more often people are trash and they just want to find something to hate other people for.

Transphobia as a whole is a settler-colonialist problem.

People of Color across the world celebrate and understand gender differently and have done so for centuries. The gender binary as we know it in America is a by product of the violent way in which Christianity imposed patriarchal gender roles and squashed our sacred practices and our sacred peoples to the point that even our own First Nations communities police and discriminate against us. But not so long ago as my beloved friend, fellow artist and indeed in so many ways a teacher to me, Xemiyulu Manibusan Tapepechul teaches is that Two Spirit People were revered for their deep wisdom and understanding.

Xemi has so much of it, and I highly recommend you to follow them: on FB/@XemiDaTwoSpirit and their hashtags #TwoSpiritsBelongHere

Part of the work of reclaiming our roots, decolonizing our lives and moving forward with our Existence as Resistance narratives which I truly believe are key ingredients to a successful Revolution, is to recognize the ways we have been taught and bought into the oppressive systems that settler-colonialism and white supremacy have violently ingrained in our communities and go against the grain.

Today is Trans Day of Remembrance.

A time where we mourn the loss of our own, we think of all the folks in our community whom we lost this year and every year since colonialism began plaguing our continents and violently subjecting us to their restrictive, backward, capitalistic ways of seeing the world. (Next story in this series will talk more about colonialism/capitalism as Thanksgiving is almost here.)

Trans folks especially Trans Femmes of Color are micro and macro aggressed against, targeted, harassed, detained and killed at an alarming rate.

There is still so much work to be done in our own communities.

This year my firstborn finally began feeling comfortable enough to ask that their pronouns be respected. I cannot imagine the type of parent I would be and the type of pain I would be inflicting on my own children had I stayed in that church and continued a path of cognitive dissonance in my own life. I am glad to be in this path of self acceptance, of autonomy and love. I am glad to be in this community. Last week my therapist gave me an excellent bunch of resources and a very good guide to share with my kid, I hope it helps you too:

Today I am thankful for the folks that paved the way to give me a voice to give me the words to better understand who I am and how I feel and present myself. To be more comfortable with myself than I have been in years. And to give me the grace to make mistakes, grow, self criticize and move forward.

Remember THIS: The liberation movements of the past were built on the backs of Trans People of Color and without us the liberation movements of the future will surely fail.



Reverend Leonina Arismendi žarković

Social Justice rants, sermons & personal essays.