Smith did not teach me to be whole. It taught me to be broken, to be empty like my mama before me, glorious in front of a bathroom mirror through the image she made for herself in America.
At this institution I have stared at blank walls, slept in, ate too little, threw up too much all in the name of “living” and “safe spaces”. Safe spaces do not exist for survivors of physical and emotional abuse. They do not exist for people targeted for their facial features, their disabilities, skin color, to how they speak and breathe every single day. I was not safe here, but I was not safe when I was born to a world that determined how I would live life through a gender a doctor gave me. And I continue to be bruised for all I carry from mental illness to queerness in both sexuality and gender. Not everyone at this so called “liberal” institution has been supportive, from administration to people I no longer call friends to those I have known for a long time, from before I moved to the U.S. even. But I thank them for showing me unkindness for that is how I learned to love even those who are unkind.
It was a lemonade stand for a Christian organization on campus where I tasted the sweetness and the bitterness of faith. The people like me have their own brokenness, their own insecurities and beliefs that sometimes stray from the glory and beauty of God. This university, to me, felt like my religion and others who hurt me in the name of their beliefs, some of which I internalized to the point of not only not loving myself, but also being unkind to myself and others. From the first-year dean who called me into her office after my taking a week’s leave without “following proper procedure” who said: “I wanted to make sure you were a real person” who pushed me to having a breakdown in her office over our unequal racial dynamics and devaluing my grief over losing my yeye, to the professor senior year who I asked to give trigger warnings when assigning readings with graphic domestic abuse who said “you are safe here” without promising trigger warnings in the future because “this course is full of violence” when that wasn’t the truth, I thank you anyway.
Despite everything, I survived. I survived and carry the scars, scrapes, bruises that go far beyond the skin. I am living proof, living evidence. And I speak so I can hear myself in all my glory and beauty. I speak at the expense of being misunderstood. And I thank those who hear my story and stand with me, pray with me, love with me. I cherish all those who I love and are brave enough to love me back. You are more than enough.
*Inspired by a friend and fellow Senior Weaving Voices monologue participant’s blog post, along with my beloved writers Audre Lorde and Rupi Kaur