The year before COVID-19 arrived in New York, I felt like I was finally getting to live my life. Id come out as a transsexual woman, gone on hormones, made a few other changes, big and small. I was enjoying being out in the world.
On this most recent full moon in Virgo. Candles lit. Relaxing in a steamy bath drawn with Florida water, flowers, and herbs. Crystals placed purposely. The colossal weight of the fears of a repeat. The sounds of a rapidly beating heart. A loss of air, troubled breathing. The choking feeling of this current existence. Is it COVID? A seasonal cold? Too many bong rips? Anxiety again? The pandemic panic was setting in again. A new set of emotions not fully realized.
One of my earliest memories is climbing onto a telephone book atop a chair to reach the keys of an old broken piano in the basement/game room of my parents house. My sisters tell me that I would experiment, eventually learning to play by ear music I heard on the radio.
Id been preparing to start teaching portions of José Esteban Muñozs Cruising Utopia (2019) as news about the March 16 shootings here in Atlanta unfolded across social media and local networks. For those who might not have heard or remember very clearly, a white man attacked three different massage parlors and killed eight people, including six Asian women.
There was a video circulating of Sylvester which has been taken down now. Sylvester singing on a stage in an intensely coruscating gown. The dazzle was so extreme I lost my breath: Flares and scintillations looking like a chemical, alchemical reaction, and, of course, intimating light on water and caves, grottos both artificial and natural.
When I transitioned, I was no longer seen as somewhat-Asian-looking. I was whitened. The features that highlighted racial difference for othersmy short black hair erect, frontward, like a ball caps bill; bushy brows; a rounded face with apple cheekswere resignified when my hair grew into long tresses, my brows were tweezed, and the curvature of my face became a laudable feminine quality. The racist image of the Asian-American man helps me pass as a white woman.
“The New Normal” already is no longer new, it is The Normal. As women and femmes of trans experience, we already know what struggle is, but what we know more than anyone else is how to survive and endure. Living is not easy, but being alive, I hope, will come more naturally once we realize that we have the ultimate power to learn and grow from all this.
It felt so liberating to not have to compromise my joy for sustainability. By March, I had been cast as a feature dancer on Pose and began rehearsals. I found myself in a wardrobe fitting, apprehensive about the shoot seeing how nervous people were to shake hands. Every gig, production, appearance, interview, or public speaking engagement was canceled after that.
As far as gender and sex and all that, I havent got much to say. Though then again, you could look at my social media and see I never learned to shut up about it. This has really been a period of folding up wings I had only begun to spread. Thats ok, theyre collapsible.
Im lying in bed. Anxiety sticking to the sheets. I kind of like it here. Ive got everything I need in this square box of a room. Maybe all I ever really needed was a reason to stop and rest. Ive been running a race I was never meant to win for years. But nowstillness. Everything I have been working towards has halted. My gig at the Gettygone. My performance at the parkpostponed indefinitely. The sadness of losing it all lays on me like a weighted blanket.
As an artist, this pain and this journey into trans womanhood, and all the love this road has given me, has been the most precious gift of freedom I could have ever dreamed of.