“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud– Anaïs Nin
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
She comes to the window from a dream, pale and beaded with the night’s sweat like dew upon her brow. Here everything is still for a moment, the pale morning, the sun not yet peeking over the hills outside, the hum of the air and the business of moving about all pause for a breath, a heartbeat. Any small event will do, because in this moment, she took her first breath, and looked out to her first morning and everything familiar became new. Fear and excitement rose as she savored it all, the still, the muted gold of the hills, a new home perhaps, the pale morning, the dewy sweat of night’s fevered dream.
She had come at last.
Here comes the spring, my friends, where life awakens and breathes new air and hope opens its wings to take flight. Here come the rains and the showers, the cool winds of change, the growing of all things living. Today I share the growth that has been mine to hide and to nurture. To plant deep in the cold dirt of autumn’s fear and winter’s dormancy, to suffer and endure the snows of discontent and dysphoria. Here comes the spring of my life, when I finally have found the courage to take the risk to blossom and share with you, me. At last, me.
My name is Jessica Bruce, and I am proud to be a transgender woman. For years now I have hidden my growth in the garden of my own fear and trembling, buried in the snows and cold damp of ignorance and self-loathing. And though the seasons of our lives move as the seasons of the world do, now is the spring time in which I want to rejoice with you all the courage that allows all things to grow, and the courage that has brought me here.
And of course, it was not always like this. I discovered at an early age that I was not like my peers. I was a little too weird, a little too off, and though I learned that I should hide my weirdness, I never forgot it. When I became a young adult, I learned a word and I thought that word embodied all of my weirdness. I threw everything into that word, ignoring my own writing as I wrote that more than a few different words would be suffice to describe my story. So I went into life, hiding in plain sight and lying to myself at how well I could play the game, at how perfect the act was.
I knew who I was supposed to be playing, but I didn’t know the actor hired to play the role.
She fell down a hole when she was 10 years old. The episode was so embarrassing, the fear and panic she felt, the adults and older kids laughing at her. She bolted awake. Did that happen? Or was it another dream? What about the time that she thought she would run away from home because her bike was stolen? No, that was real, wasn’t it? Or the stories they would tell about her? The stories the stories the stories, how much of it was real? She was 15 and she thought, what if none of this real? What if I woke up from another dream and nothing is the same as I believe?
She was 23 and sobbing her eyes out after leaving a home she had ruined. She couldn’t admit it, she just knew that her best friend hated her, that they had fought, and she nearly hit him. Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way. She was an adult now, she thought. So she hid in video games and the internet for three years. Because she couldn’t understand why she didn’t feel like the adult she was supposed to be.
She was 32 now, and she was getting married. This is what people did, right? It didn’t invalidate her did it? The woman who stood near her didn’t know but then again, she didn’t know either. She said, yes, this is the life I want, and she meant it, she really did, and sometimes still does, but she knows that no lie can be lived forever, no matter how heartbreaking the end of it all can be.
She was 39 and waking up in a strange apartment, in a new country to a morning she had never greeted before. She had dreamt of driving across the Ross Island Bridge, on her way home from another day of a job she didn’t really like. Surely that was the dream, wasn’t it? Here in Asia, she was visibly queer, unafraid to be out, and yet, when she stumbled into the bathroom to stare at herself, she thought, maybe the dream hadn’t ended.
She was 43 and she bolted awake. She had this dream before, she was looking into the mirror and couldn’t see her reflection. But she knew it was a better version of her. Maybe it was who she was supposed to be. She liked to think it was. Someone in better shape, better looking, more courageous than her. She never was courageous, she told herself. But she woke in that pale morning and courage found her in the strangest place.
It found her in Folsom, California, of all places. In a Hampton hotel on the side of US-50. Of all the places. There, she woke for the first time from the dream that had plagued her life, that opaque mirror that she never had the courage to really look into. She looked, and for the first time, she saw herself, she heard her voice, and then she had heard her name.
Here comes the spring. Like flowers to the bloom, so too am I spreading out and wearing new colors and new shapes. I look at my body every day and I think about the clothes I wear and I say, “I love you, Jessica, you are beautiful,” and I mean it these days. I write these words and think about the phrases of my dreams, of the person who compared the good times by being better than the bad times, and I am weary of that person.
I step out in my new home and those butterflies of fear and excitement nearly take my breath away. I breathe in deep, the downtown buds of new growth and the winds that carry up from my hometown, with a teasing taste of salt that is not there. It makes me hungry and I go forth boldly, knowing that the thoughts of others are things that I cannot control, and no longer care to. Though the pandemic limits activity, this spring also brings about open air food and cafes and markets, and I begin to sample my new home, finally coming from my chrysalis.
There is a vulnerability in this newness, and I experience it nearly every day now as there are many ‘firsts’ but also many ‘seconds’ and ‘thirds’ and so forth, as I learn what it is to participate in this world as the woman I am, not the man I was “supposed to be.” And I would be remiss to say that I do not miss the man I pretended to be for all this time. He was a good man, a sensitive and well-thought and well-read and well-brought-up queer man who cared and never stopped trying and that is something that this world sorely needs more of. I worry sometimes if I am being selfish, denying everyone of him, who many have come to love, and in some ways, I loved as well.
And you might read that and wonder, is this doubt? Is this a second guessing? Is she perhaps not as genuine as she says? Well, those are fair questions, and to that I would say, do we all not doubt ourselves? Do we, each of ourselves, doubt that the path that makes us happy and makes us feel free and finally alive is truly what’s best? Are we not all held back by the fears of how our loved ones, our friends, our society, even, will see the real us? Well, if you’re not, good for you, I suppose, but I also pity you. Growth comes from adversary, from the cold dark and the flame. It comes after failure and ruin. Spring happens after winter, after all.
But most of all, growth comes from care and guidance and love. I love who I am, and who I am is not two distinct people or a series of before and after photos. I am not a woman who used to be a man, nor am I a woman who is less than a year old. I am a woman, a transgender woman, and I am starting to finally understand that I was not born with a ‘wrong’ body or lacking in any way that can be “fixed” with any procedure or drug; nor am I perfect the way I am. I am a woman who is just finding herself at 44 years of age. There are things about me, about my body, about my sexuality, about my outlook and philosophy, that I would like to change. Some I will. Some of those things, I will fail in doing so. And this is the really the most important thing that I want to say:
That’s alright. A living being is no less beautiful because it has flaws, least of all us humans with our follies. But the things that I’ve learned to think of as flaws are not flaws at all. This is a powerful lesson I am learning, and it has led me to a more complete understanding of myself. Which, if anything, is the point of all this.
So I stand here, my arms outstretched, my body still changing as it reaches for the warming sun, bursting forth from the winter of my dormancy into a new season of myself. I stand not for your gazing eyes though I do invite you to see. I stand proud, in love with myself for the first time in my life, and seeing the woman in the mirror I had been missing all along.
She smiled out the window as she greeted a new morning, already feeling the rising heat of her new home. The vestiges of her dream fell as reality and all it’s wants and needs imposed on her. She said to herself, “Boldly go,” with a smile and a chuckle, such are her ways. She turned back towards the real world, readying her first steps into it with as much grace as she knew.
She had come from a dream – a dream where she looked into a mirror and heard the euphoria of being called her name. So, Jessica smiled and made her dream a reality.