The curls fell unto the checkered, linoleum floor with complete ease. After two years of carefully nurturing my hair, I witnessed it fall like fallen soldiers on a swift battlefield. There was no burial, no eulogy, nothing but a quick sweeping and an echoing plummet into the corner waste bin. I had condoned this massacre, and the casualties were far more than strands of hair being sliced off my head - I was murdering my femininity. I had given up.
Fear had come creeping back in. What if I don’t ‘pass’ well enough? What if I can’t travel, exist, and thrive in an affirming way? What if I am murdered for living and loving authentically? What if? What if?
I convinced myself, that transitioning had only been a desire to explore my femininity to a full capacity. I began reflecting the transphobia I have experienced, witnessed and feared - by internally inflicting it upon myself. I persuaded myself, as I had before, that self-sabotaged cloaked in pseudo-liberation was my savior. I was looking for permission from others in order to construct myself, and as one could guess, I did not find happiness in such a paradigm. Identity is fragile. An identity that is demonized and degraded by the greater populous is volatile. It is isolating, and if left without a strong sense of authentic self, it begins to deteriorate. This cycle only continues to unfold and eventually, you are left hollow, begging your soul for answers.
Those around me, watched me devolve rapidly. I no longer went by affirming pronouns. I no longer aligned my soul with my vessel. I found myself continually asking people the same questions. Do I seem happier? Do I look happier? Their answers - only interpreted by my outward appearance that I was - were my lifeline in believing I had made the right decision.
I opened the closet door and shoved myself back in. I believed the confines of a restrictive life were far more comforting than the alternatives: living in an uncomfortable world as myself, or not living at all. Still, months later, I was haunted by speaking with women. I became tortured by the presence of femininity. I could hear my echo in the curves of their bodies. I could see my reflection in their cascading hair. I could smell the lingering scent of encouraging femininity when they moved. There was a gaping crevice in my soul and I was unwilling to acknowledge why it was there, or that it was there at all.
Being Trans*, and even queer in any form further than Cis*, is frightening. It is suffocating, and at times, it is an internal battle as much as an external one. I was not prepared for such a formidable obstacle to my authentic happiness as myself. I am learning to undo those fears. I am learning to confront myself in the moments of utmost darkness, and tell myself I am loved. That I love myself enough, to hold me when there is only fear.
In this life, I desire nothing more than to be authentic. The road to authentic being is a difficult one. There are moments when the conviction is empowering, it is unbreakable, and it hinges on nothing but introspective resolution. For every moment of this, it seems there are outweighing times when the conviction is tested. In those periods, it is ok to lose yourself, in an effort to fully find the authenticity you fervently seek. I know it has shown me, though painful to experience, that losing my authentic being for the ‘acceptance’ or ‘comfort’ of others, did nothing but place anguish on my soul. I have no desire to ever return to that desolation. I leave this void of personhood with a mighty conviction, rejuvenated self-awareness, and powerful sense of purpose.
My hair will grow back. I will probably never cut it again. I am twenty. I hopefully have enough time to grow my curls to my feet and back. Things are hopefully just beginning for me. Things are shifting for communities like me. We are raising our voices, fighting for equity, and envision far brighter futures. We are shedding ourselves, to become our authentic beings. We are hopeful.
My name is a.j.k. o’donnell. I am transgender. I transcend gender. I bend it. I break it. I create it. I command it.
And I am still here.
Most Sincerely in Power and Authentic Being,
A.J.K. O’Donnell is an American activist, artist, and author of Nicoteane and Other Foolish Mistakes, Confessions of a Fearful Soul, and the collection This Void Beckons, releasing in 2018. More material about O’Donnell and contact information can be found at www.ajkodonnell.com. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.