Yesterday. Today.

Yesterday marks the day. January 18, 2019. The day I was checked into the ER at Presbyterian. The same day I had come back from Boston with a suitcase full of clothes and a mind full of distressing thoughts. The same day I somehow made it to my grandma’s house, where I dropped off my bag and waited for my aunt. This would be the first time since St. Catherine’s that someone would be with me. The first time in a long time that someone would access a window into the world that was psychiatric emergencies. 

When we got to the ER, everything was taken away from me. Notably, my backpack that contained a book or two, pens, the Bible, and my headphones. I was allowed to keep the Bible. I didn’t think to pack a few clothes. My brain was too disorganized to think of anything besides what my mom calls the seven famous words. I was placed into a room, similar to that of a jail cell. Stripped down bear with white walls and nothing but a small bed. Later my aunt would call this room the “me and you must never part” room, because these moments we shared felt as if I were Nettie and she was Celie from the Color Purple. We sat, her on the outside, me on the inside with walls oceans wide between us for hours. Hours during which blood and urine were taken. Hours during which many people asked, “So what brings you in?” So many times that I had memorized a default response. Hours after which it was determined that I need to be hospitalized, yet again. Stay # 3 within 2 months, stay number 5 within a lifetime. Quite the track record. At last, my aunt was allowed to come in. She asked if I was okay and gave me a hug goodbye. And then like Nettie I went and journeyed towards my own sort of Africa- a foreign, faraway place, for a time period that only God knew. 

My next stop was CPEP- Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program. CPEP was nicer, more welcoming. The walls were painted blue; one had a tv on it. There was a refrigerator with food and beverages, and a place to shower, and things to color or do puzzles with. I mainly stayed in my room. Lying in bed staring up to the ceiling, thinking the infamous thoughts. A nurse came in to check on me every fifteen minutes. During one of these checks, the string in my Bible was detected. They had to cut the string out of my Bible. The Bible I had brought the week after I was discharged from St. Catherine’s with birthday money. That Bible represented a new start and now it was severed, just like I believed my chances to survive were. 

Within a few hours, I was told that the ambulance was here. I was being transferred to Westchester as per my request. I asked that I stay within New York Presbyterian and not be transferred to another hospital, even if it meant going to Westchester. It was night time then, maybe 7 or 8 o’clock. The ambulance ride was unremarkable. At the end, they wheeled me in and lowered the stretcher. I let my legs hang down and then I stepped off. Here I was. In Africa. A place I would call home for the next few months. 

Next up, another round of questioning and physical examinations and doctors, nurse practitioners, and social workers- the whole bunch of them. By the time I got to the unit, it was probably about 10. I was greeted by a nurse and a mental health worker. My blood pressure was taken, my weight, and a body map. I was assigned to a room with a stranger, as is customary. I was too tired to worry. I got into bed and quickly went to sleep.

Today marks the day. January 19, 2019. The day my mother and aunt first came to visit me at Westchester. The day they saw me clad in blue paper scrubs, smelling of must due to not being able to take a shower. The day they brought my toiletries and a few clothes. The day they spent about two hours just being with me and talking to me. The day they once again said goodbye and went home, leaving me there as they would many times.

 Yesterday marks the day. January 18, 2020. One year post my admission to Presbyterian. It starts off at 7:45 am. I get up and get ready for a doctor’s appointment, putting my leggings on underneath my sweatpants so that I can go to the gym afterwards. At the doctor’s, I’m reminded of the physical scars of my battle. The tiger like stripes that line my forearm that I show as a last resort as the nurse struggles to find a vein for blood work. The dreaded number on the scale from weight gain. 

At the gym, I try to distract myself from thinking about what this day meant and what it means now. I blast Jesus is Born through my headphones. “Lord I love you more than anything. Lord I love you more than anything.”On the elliptical, I push my legs up and down as hard as I can. On the rower, I pull and pull. On the treadmill, I put the incline all the way up. I’m trying to have a good workout, but I’m still somewhat distracted. I want to start running. But I stop midway. I can’t do this. I just can’t do this right now. Last year, I was in the hospital on this day. I’m still trying to process it all. I don’t know how to feel. Happy. Sad. Confused. Relieved. So many different feelings over something some people might forget. 

Mom picks me up. She asks how my workout was. I say okay. Could have been better. That’s me; always discounting my efforts and wanting more. We get home. I make us my favorite strawberry banana peanut butter smoothie. I take a shower. Next thing I know, I’m asleep for most of the day. Sleeping away the thoughts about what this day means. Trying not to process. Slightly worried that this tiredness I’ve been feeling may be the start of another episode. 4:00pm. Time to go to work. Work. Home. TV. Then I’m sleeping again. 

Today marks the day. January 20, 2020. One year post the day after my admission to Presbyterian. It takes me a while to get out of bed. For a minute, I contemplate not going to church. Then I think about how good God has been and get out of my bed. I also think about my post church Whole Foods trip that is a highlight of my week. I get in the shower. Get dressed. Make up my bed. Brush my teeth. Wait for the rest of my family and then off to church we are. I feel kind of weird. Not like myself. Still processing what everything means. The ride to church is a quiet one.

The message is entitled “Get up, You Ain’t Dead”. PT talks about the story of the religious leader who asked Jesus to awaken his daughter from death. He talked about silencing the noise. Silencing the noise of doubt. Silencing the voices in your head. The ones that say the seven infamous words. That message was for me. He talked about not listening to the devil’s funeral music. I can’t count how many times I listened to “This Woman’s Work”, the Maxwell edition when I was depressed. That message was for me.  He talked about getting up and knowing that as long as you have breath in your lungs, God has a purpose and a plan for your life. God has the ability to do anything as long as you have the faith to believe. That message was for me.

Yesterday marks the day. The day that I was admitted to Presbyterian.

Today marks the day. The day after I was admitted to Presbyterian.

Both days mark the start of a long journey. A journey that I am still processing. A journey I don’t know how to feel about. A journey I sometimes can’t find the words to say about. But I do know one thing, through it all God and my aunt’s spirit were carrying me. So many times, I saw one set of footprints. So many times, I lost my faith and my hope. But God, You were carrying me. Auntie, you were carrying me.

Today marks the day. January 19, 2020. The day that I decide to silence the voices. The day that I decide to silence the fear. The day that I decide to walk in faith and not by sight. The day that I realize that my life has a purpose and a plan. The day I start writing that movie that’s been burning inside of me.

Sacrifices and Giving Thanks

The other day I was talking to a friend about my medication induced weight gain. Yes, I have gained weight. And yes, I am talking about it. Weight is a topic frequently kept “hush hush”. Mostly only spoken of in regards to weight loss, as dieting and the quest to be skinny are common topics of conversation, especially among women. But the issue of gaining weight or being overweight is seldom discussed, except when it comes to extremes like the stories on My 600lb Life. 

I am not ashamed to say that I have gained some weight. Maybe a little embarrassed, I have to admit. Gaining weight or being overweight is often associated with a lack of self-control and self-discipline, a stigma I don’t want to be associated with or find to be part of my truth. However, I think it is very important to discuss the issue of medication induced weight gain as most medications come with side effects. Especially the ones that work.

Side effects are just another card dealt to us dealing with mental illness, or any illness requiring medication for that fact. In the past, I have tolerated medication pretty well. But also, in the past, I have taken medications that had little to no effect on my symptoms. Hence the term treatment resistant depression. Two medications have had the greatest impact on my symptoms, and with both side effects were included. A medication I used to take made me extremely tired, restless, and stiff. Yet my suicidal thoughts had mostly went away. After a few months on the drug, I realized that I rather manage the thoughts than manage the side effects, which took weeks to wear off. 

With the new medication I am on, I’ve experienced an increase in mood and a decrease in obsessions and compulsions. I’ve been feeling great! Writing again, laughing and smiling just to laugh and smile, feeling like the self without depression. I’ve been feeling like me. But feeling like me comes with a price, a sacrifice. Weight gain. For some others, feeling like themselves may come with other sacrifices like insomnia, sexual disfunction, loss of appetite, nausea, drowsiness, and the list goes on and on. One of the hardest parts of mental illness and seeking treatment is deciding which sacrifices are worth it, which aren’t, and often times choosing between the lesser of two evils. 

In the end, I started talking to my friend about how life is all about sacrifice. In life, you can’t have it all. There are gains and losses, ups and downs. Sacrifice. An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy. That’s what life is, and in this holiday season, I’ve discovered that’s what being thankful is too. Sacrifice. Realizing all the sacrifices in your life- the ones you have made, the ones made for you, the ones you will never have to make. 

So here are 7 (my second favorite number) things that I am grateful for:

1. God, Jesus, and My Faith

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. For His life, the forgiveness of all my sins and imperfections was exchanged. And now I have a duty to present myself as a living sacrifice unto God. (Romans 12:1) For me, this means embodying my favorite scripture, John 11:4. Despite the challenges of my mental illness, I will endure and not die. This part of my life will strengthen my testimony and glorify God. Just the act of having faith is a sacrifice as you give up doubt and despair in acceptance of God’s love. In some places and times, there was and is the added sacrifice of persecution. So, I am very grateful for the right to practice my faith.

2. Family and Friends

For this one, I almost have no words. I can never repay these people for their love and support, especially during this trying year. From visiting me in the hospital, just hanging, writing me encouraging cards and emails, calling, bringing food, praying, texting, sharing their own stories of struggles. So many things. So many sacrifices made to give me love. So, shout-out to my people: Tara, Cody, Thalia, Zia, Mikayla, Laura, Eileen, Alana, Chelsea, Feliciano, Ms. Cecille, Ms. Mary, Ms. Lucy, Ms. Cynthia, Bianca, Aunt Lorita, Auntie, Gram, Dad, Bryce, Mom, and anyone that my mind but not my heart has forgotten to mention.

3. Food, Water, Clothing

One often taken for granted. Something I’ve never wanted for. But for some, all they want for. For some, these are their sacrifices. Not buying groceries to keep the lights on. The people in Flint, Michigan. A parent wearing a worn-out pair of shoes to save money for their child’s field trip. And that’s here in the U.S, not even to mention third world countries. Be grateful. I sure am.

4. Education

A gift that can never be lost or given away. A gift given to me by my parents. Despite not being rich, they afforded to give my brother and I a private education. I am grateful for the schools that I went to and how they have shaped who I am today. Just the experience of going to schools with much richer classmates made evident how much of a sacrifice my parents were making. Very humbling. I also am thankful that I have received an easily accessible education despite my race and gender. And that I experienced some caring teachers that sometimes made sacrifices such as buying supplies and necessities for students.

5. My Treatment Team

Past and present. These individuals have sacrificed much to preserve my life and my spirit during difficult times. Financial responsibility for their education and training. Their time. Their feelings, opinions, and judgements to be unbiased listeners and evaluators. Without these people, I don’t think I would still be here. I am so grateful for the sacrifices they make to do their jobs, and do them well.

6. Home/Shelter

My parents made many sacrifices in order to move to the house that is the only place I have ever called home. It has never been easy for them as they were products of low-income projects apartments and the urban lifestyle. But because of their sacrifices, I have a place to call home. I do not take that for granted. Some have not a home or even a shelter. It truly is the little things in life that matter most. 

I am also grateful for being home for the holidays with my family. For half of this year, I was in the hospital, yearning for home. Some days I just wanted to give up treatments so I could sleep in my own bed. Or be in my own room that was filled with books, music, and pens! Pens are such a luxury to those who have been in a psychiatric unit. Especially for me, as I have a bit of an obsession with office supplies. I hope you don’t take for granted being home for the holidays.

7. My Life/ Being Me

Today, I shouldn’t be alive. I should have died at age 18. But thank God for giving me the strength to live another 3 years despite battling mental illness. I will keep fighting as hard as I can to not let my life be sacrificed to mental illness. Because we all deserve to live. We all deserve to be happy. We all deserve to be ourselves. Including me. And it’s pretty cool being me. The way my brain works with all of its quirks. The things that make me laugh, smile, and, on rare occasions, flap with excitement. The great support system of family and friends that I’ve been blessed with. My love for books and writing. All the things I have to be grateful for. Life is good.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you remember during this holiday season all the things, big and small, that you have to be grateful for. And with all the good holiday food, I hope you don’t gain too much weight. But if you do, that’s okay too. It’s always a perfect time to practice self-compassion. 

An Adventure

Jump in front of it.

It was a moving train. The speaker was my brain. To be clear, let me say it again, the speaker was my brain. God only knows how many times I’ve been asked if the speaker was a voice. It’s not a voice. Sometimes professionals have even told me that I am hearing a voice or a hallucination instead of my own thoughts. That’s incorrect. It is my own thoughts. And truly, does it even matter? Both are disturbing. Both are distortions and distracting and dark and disorienting and distressing. Just in case you needed other “d” words to describe suicidal thoughts and voices. Okay, small rant over.

Some might say my brain is fucked up. And sometimes I might agree, but I would add that it is in an interesting, kind of brilliant like way. You see, it is like there is a constant theatrical experience going on in my mind. A play or a musical depending on the moment. My brain like a stage, my thoughts like a full cast, the interactions between them a full-length script showcasing different personalities and ways of speaking and all sorts of conflict. So, cue our next character. 

Bud, is that a good idea? No, that’s not a good idea. Come on, you’re doing a great job. You just have to get to grandma’s house.

I really was doing a great job. I had ridden the LIRR from Deer Park to Jamaica. I had ridden the E train to 63rdstreet. Pause. If you know the subway system, you are probably thinking, 63rdstreet? Yes, 63rdstreet. The E turned into the F; and I didn’t freak out. I remained calm. I had walked up the five blocks of people laden city streets from 63rdto 68thstreet, arriving at Hunter College. I had navigated a building I was unfamiliar with to take an exam that I felt anxious and unprepared for. I had taken the 6 train to the L train to Morgan Ave in Brooklyn. I had navigated an unfamiliar area to arrive at an unfamiliar restaurant that served an unfamiliar type of food. Pause. The restaurant was dimly lit with a great playlist, served an all vegan menu, and had shelves of books covering the walls. A haven for Makaylas. Play. I had walked through this unfamiliar area for about 20 minutes so that I could allow myself to enjoy a vegan donut, despite always coming down on myself about weight and eating concerns. I had done a lot. For me, that is.

Some might be sitting back saying whoop dee do, you successfully commuted to several places. You successfully used Google maps and dealt with people and tried new things. Congratulations, you are an adult. To those people I say, “Yes, I am an adult. Thank you for noticing. Now, let me educate you about something.” I am an adult with indivisible differences. My brain has special neurons that program my dendrites and axons to have OCD and ASD. Yes, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I am on the autism spectrum. Omg. Shocker, right? But that’s for another blog post. 

My brain has many rules and not many exceptions. I violated all of those rules. I dealt with bright lights (Fluorescents are the devil), overwhelming smells, sounds so loud that even my noise cancelling headphones couldn’t block them out. I dealt with a change in routine and a change of plans. As a person who lives off of ramen noodles, popcorn, and chips and has lived off saltines in the past, I ate Ethiopian food. 7, again I say 7, sample dishes of Ethiopian food. My extremely predicable, precautious brain guided my feet through an unfamiliar neighborhood. I had done a lot. For me, that is. And I just wanted to end the day off by visiting my grandma. 

Now I stood on the edge of a platform at the Montrose Avenue station, watching the L train race towards me. The time was 5:00pm. Rush hour. Many others stood on that same platform with me, with their bodies that took up space and their germs that silently corrupted the air. The thought of this made my breaths sudden and shallow. 

Deep breath, bud. Deep breaths.

The L train passes me by. One character of my brain sighs at the missed opportunity. Another cheers as if celebrating yet another victory. The train comes to a stop. People huddle towards the door, towards me. Their feet shuffle into the train. Their bodies take up space, my personal space, and continue to crowd in until I have none. This is rush hour. A nightmare for Makaylas. 

I hate you go fucking kill yourself.

Deep breaths, bud. You’re doing great. Just close your eyes and focus on the music. Remember 14th street get off, transfer to the F. Stop number 7. You love the number 7.

“Gloria, Gloria, I think they got your number. Gloria, I think they got the alias, Gloria, that you’ve been living under, Gloria. But you really don’t remember, was it something that they said? All the voices in your head calling, Gloria?” (Gloria, Laura Branigan)

My eyes are closed. My mind wide open, taking in the music. My brain, synapses and all, grooving along to the thumps of the drums and the jumps of my anxiety as the stations go by. 

Grand St. 

I hate you go fucking kill yourself.

Graham Ave. Lorimer St.

I hate you go fucking kill yourself.

“Come on, Eileen. Oh, I swear, what he means, at this moment, you mean everything. You in that dress. My thoughts I confess, verge on dirty. Ah, come on, Eileen.”  (Come on Eileen, Dexys Midnight Runners)

Bedford Ave. 1stAve. 

I hate you go fucking kill yourself. I hate you go fucking kill yourself.

“Easy, ready, willing, overtime. Where does it stop? Where do you dare me to draw the line? You’ve got the body, now you want my soul. Don’t even think about it. Say no go.” (I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), Hall and Oates)

3rdAve. 14thstreet.

I get off the train, shuffling my feet just as the person ahead and the person ahead does. There are so many people. So many bodies, so little space, so many germs. I need a fight song, something to focus on as I move through this Amazon. I pull out my cell phone. I scroll faster than the traffic moves, down the 80’s playlist I’ve been obsessed with for the past week. I see the song I’ve played dozens of times, obviously one of my favorites. I press play and turn my headphones up. 

“Holding back the years. Thinking of the fear I’ve had so long. When somebody hears, listen to the fear that’s gone. Strangled by the wishes of pater, hoping for the arms of mater, get to me the sooner or later.” (Holding Back the Years, Simply Red)

I walk up the stairs. Take in a breath of air. I can finally breathe and feel space around me. I look around for signs indicating the F line. There are none. I walk to another area, where I see a crowd of people heading towards, no signs. I come to a conclusion; the F line doesn’t stop at this station despite google maps telling me so. Another change in plans. I’m less equip to deal with it than before. Now I’ve dealt with more fluorescents, people, sounds, smells. I’m in a state of sensory overload, and now I have to change my plans. I feel my breath being taken away and my heart starting to race. Anxiety is starting to take over. The fingers of my left hand start to dance, contacting the palm of my hand then jumping off as if a hot dance floor. Repeatedly. Stimming.

Stop fucking stimming. You look like an idiot. I hate you go fucking kill yourself. I hate you go fucking kill yourself.

My fingers continue to dance. Stimming. Self-stimulating behavior. It’s supposed to make me feel better. What’s the point if it doesn’t make me feel better? I reach for the thick coiled mass that is my hair. I grab hard and pull.

Bud, don’t pull your hair. Rake don’t pull.

I take my fingers and comb my hair to the left with my fingers. Repeatedly. Stimming. Hoping to ease some of my anxiety.

It’s okay bud. We will just go the same way that we came. Go take the 6 train. 

I take a deep breath then walk over to the 6 train. More people. More fluorescents. More rats. The fingers of my left hand start to dance. I see the train fast approaching.

Jump in front of it. I hate you go fucking kill yourself.

I’ll keep holding on. I’ll keep holding on. I’ll keep holding on.” (Holding Back the Years, Simply Red)

I ignore those thoughts. Thoughts-0. Makayla- I don’t know how many. I’ve lost count. I board the train. People squeeze and squish in. There is no such thing as personal space on a train during rush hour. I smell people’s body scent, feel the germs of their coughs, feel the texture of their clothing. It feels like all of me is being violated. I feel so overwhelmed. So overwhelmed that I would bang my head against something hard and near if I wasn’t afraid of being taken back to the hospital.

It’s okay, bud. You’re doing great. Just focus on the music. Sing along in your head.

“It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you. There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do. I bless the rains down in Africa. Gonna take some time to do the things we never had.” (Africa, Toto)

Fast-forward. Lexington and 68thstreet. Hunter College. Time to walk the busy city streets down to 63rd. I need another fight song. I scroll through my 80’s playlist once again, finally choosing another favorite, turning my headphones all the way up. 

“I gotta take a little time, a little time to think things over.” 

69thstreet. Shit, I went the wrong way. My fingers start to dance.

I hate you go fucking kill yourself. I hate you go fucking kill yourself. I hate you go fucking kill yourself. 

It’s okay, bud. It’s okay. Just turn around. You’re doing great.

I turn around. Keep walking. Because that’s all that you can do. Keep walking. 68thstreet. 

“I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me. I wanna feel what love is. I know you can show me.” (I Want to Know What Love Is, Foreigner)

67thstreet. 66thstreet.  65thstreet. I grab the thick coiled mass that is my hair. Grab hard and pull.

Rake, don’t pull, bud. Focus on the music.

“I’m so excited. And I just can’t hide it. I’m about to lose control, and I think I like it.”

I’m about to lose control, and I don’t like it. I’m about to lose control, and I don’t like it. I comb my hair to the left with my fingers. Repeatedly. Stimming.

64thstreet. 63rdstreet.

Thank God. I’m here. Just one more step to this journey. 

I walk down the stairs. Take off my backpack. Pull out my wallet. Pull out my metro card. Swipe myself in. Put back on my backpack and keep walking. I’m so jittery that I’m practically running. But I’m still moving. Because that’s all you can do. Keep moving.

Fast-forward. Another crowded subway train. More fluorescents, more people, more germs, more rats. More music. Roosevelt Island. 21stQueensbridge. Grandma’s house.

When I got out of the car at 12:18pm, the start of my journey/ adventure into the boroughs, I turned away from the 80’s for a while and celebrated the release of the movie Love Jones on Netflix. I played this song from its soundtrack. 

“They say I’m hopeless. Hmmmmhmmmm. As a penny with a hole in it, penny with a, penny with a hole in it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They say I’m no less. No less, no less, no less, no less. Than up to my head in it.”

Some say I’m hopeless as a penny with a hole in it. Some say I’m no less than up to my head in it. I have so many labels that people consider indicators of my abilities. OCD. ASD. Major Depression. GAD. Some people think I should just stay in situations that don’t upset me or trigger any bad thoughts or emotions. I disagree. That’s not living. Life is experiencing a range of different emotions. Life is experiencing climbing up some pretty steep mountains and then enjoying the view from the peaks. I want to live despite the negative thoughts I have to deal with every single day. So I am going to keep on climbing. Because that’s all I can do. Keep on climbing. And I’m going to keep listening to my music and having fight songs to get me through. Like this 80’s classic: 

“It’s the eye of the tiger. It’s the thrill of the fight. Rising up to the challenge of our rivals. And the last known survivor stocks his prey in the night. And he’s watching us all with the eye of the tiger.”

We’ve all got the eye of the tiger. I’m going to keep fighting. You too. Keep fighting, my friends. 

Woman, Man, Human

Here’s what happened today. As my family and I walked into church, it came. The urge. I had to pee. And as anyone on medication would tell you, when the urge comes it’s a lot harder to hold it. We were already 20 minutes late for service. OCD brain feared that if they went in without me, I wouldn’t be able to find them amongst the audience. Then I would have to sit by myself, unable to focus on anything else but the worry over whether or not they were okay. But the urge was here and I knew I had to go. So as my family walked into the dimly lit sanctuary, I continued into the light on toward the bathroom. The bathroom which was clearly marked women’s. I reached for the handle of the door to the women’s bathroom and then for a second, I hesitated. Should I knock or just go in? Was it a single use bathroom or was it one that many people could use at a time? What if I walked in on someone and embarrassed both of us? I took a breath. Sometimes just one breath is enough to shut up OCD brain. As I twisted the handle and pushed open the door my decision was made, I would just walk in. But then I heard a voice. And by the context of what the person was saying, the person was talking to me. 

“The men’s bathroom is over here.”

I continued walking into the women’s bathroom. As I grabbed the handle of the stall, I heard the door open again. The person had opened the door.  

“Man.”

I turned around, as if caught in the act. Eye contact was a no, so I looked directly at the person’s chest, his chest. I assume his eyes looked directly at my chest too, at my breasts. 

He closed the door. 

I continued my business in the women’s bathroom. Then headed into the sanctuary, where I quickly found my family in the last row. Since we were late, it was already time for the message. The title screen came up on the projector.

“THE SHAME GAME”

How ironic. A lot of people think I should feel some type away about my encounter this morning. About being mistaken for a man. Some might think I should feel disturbed or angry or hurt, maybe even feel ashamed of myself. Ashamed for presenting myself in a way that made my gender at least ambiguous and at most the opposite of what it is “supposed” to be. But I didn’t feel any of these negative emotions. All I felt was the urge towards reflection. 

For some my gender is a guessing game. I remember this summer being asked if I was a boy or a girl. When I said girl, I heard exclamations of yes and I knew it. For some my gender appears to be male. For some my gender appears to be female. It depends.

I look at myself in the mirror. I feel my body in the shower. I think, “How can anyone not think I am woman?” I see the bulging in my chest. I feel the weight of my breasts. I see the curvature in my hips and my thighs. I feel my hips somehow joining as my thighs rub together. I see the small bushel of black curly hair covering my vagina. It feels warm and coarse. I think, “I am a woman. This is what a woman looks like.” But is it? 

For a few weeks, I was in a partial program. There I met two transgender males. I remember one day one of the patients coming up to both of them and saying, “You guys are transgender. I would have never been able to tell. You look like regular men.” The transgender males thanked the patient for his compliment, saying they appreciated it and it meant a lot to them. But something about this interaction “rubbed me the wrong way”. 

What does a man look like? What does a woman look like? We are learning that it depends. A man can have breasts and a vagina. A woman could have a penis and facial hair. What matters most when it comes to gender is how a person feels and identifies. Gender is a construct and we have the right to choose how we fit into it. 

Many disagree with what I am saying, especially as someone who identifies as a Christian. How can I say that trans is beautiful and Jesus is Lord at the same time? How can I agree that a man can be born biologically a woman and still believe with my heart and soul that God does not make mistakes? To be honest, I am still figuring it out. It is hard. One thing I do know is that God created the human mind and the human heart. He knows our pains and our sorrows. He died on the cross to save us from a life of darkness and despair. Did you know that members of the LGBTQ community are four times as likely to attempt or commit suicide? I can imagine that statistic is because they cannot express their true selves and feel accepted. That is a life of darkness and despair.

As for me, my name is Makayla LeAnne Williams, and I am a woman. I am a woman whether I am wearing tight leggings or baggy jeans. I am a woman whether I am growing my hair out or rocking my adorable teeny-weeny afro. I am woman whether I decide to have children or not. I am a woman whether I marry a man or not. I am a woman. I am not ashamed for how I choose to express or not express my femininity. I am not ashamed for how I choose to express myself as a human being. Whether I identifies myself with she/her/hers or he/him/his or they/them/theirs, I will not be ashamed. I will not allow the construct of gender to define me nor will allow any type of shame. 

My name is Makayla LeAnne Williams. My pronouns are she/her/hers. I am a human of this earth.