There I was. A hot summer night in Toronto, after The Meal Trans Social at the 519 (the local LGBTQ+ Community Centre). On my way back to the Transitional housing shelter that had taken me in on my darkest moment (when life throws you around a little and you find yourself needing help and learning from it).
I was standing in front of the announcement board. I had been thinking on trying art therapy in any form, to help me work through my struggles as a trans person – to try something different other than pills. I was interested in a writing workshop because I remembered trying to write as a child and always failed to keep up due to the lack of skills and mostly all the uncertainty that surrounded me. However, I do remember the joy I felt when writing my feelings down – that feeling of release and new perspective.
In the past, I had inquired about writing boot camps, but they seemed all out of my price range.
But that day, I saw the light. Sister Writes was offering a free workshop for Trans People. My mood completely turned 180 – it was great news – although the deadline was approaching and I felt afraid there wouldn’t be any spots left. I had to try.
Soon enough I landed a spot! Then the first workshop day came and I was so excited and nervous.
I entered the room and, not knowing how it would go or what to expect, I was welcomed by a very nice and warm female with a bright smile. I was shocked! I never imagined a writer could look so chic and sophisticated. I thought to myself, “Sister! You’ve Got It Going on!”
Throughout the afternoon, we were treated like royalty. I (and I think many of the other ladies) felt safe and appreciated. We started warming up with writing exercises right off the bat. Yet I felt a bit afraid – afraid to disappoint or not being able to match some of the other ladies that had some writing experience. But I got over it quickly…
And that’s when magic started manifesting. Suddenly there was no right or wrong.
(We did many exercises…like free writing: we were given a random word or subject and 5 to 10 minutes to write. Then whoever felt comfortable would share which gave me even more inspiration. Another time we wrote a small piece using our five senses, and I started writing a story about my mother back home in Honduras. Soon enough I felt as if was connecting with my past and my ancestors and words that sounded like poetry started flowing into my brain…as if sent from another world).
During the duration of the course, we met different writers from the trans and cis community (Gwen Benaway, Lauren Kirshner, Morgan M. Page, Cate Cayley).
I felt so happy that finally somebody was reaching out to my community and being inclusive of all types of women. And Sister Writes became one of the few things I looked forward to every week, with life still being so unstable.
But it was not easy trying to keep up with something like this when you’re homeless and broken inside. It was certainly a challenge for me in the beginning to include all this new writing habits and exercises in my life when my mind was all over the place fighting depression and not having a comfortable place for me to write.
But it has been so rewarding and therapeutic in the end. They do mean it when they say when there’s a will there’s a way.
There are days that I feel that if it hadn’t been for Sister Writes workshops, things would have been certainly worse for me. Being Trans is the hardest thing you can be in this world although I believe being a female in general is almost just as hard. And even with all that, I don’t think I would change me as I am perfectly happy and at peace with myself.
Depression and mental health issues can be a life companion to many, but I refused to let that happen to me. I knew deep inside my soul there was a whisper that said, “Hey Sister, write. Let it out, you could help others too. Tell your story and help others find inspiration in it, show other people that they are not alone with similar struggles, let them see the world through your eyes. Speak up sister!”
I finished the course feeling more empowered than ever. My self-esteem is higher now knowing I was able to finish something very important that had been in my mind for so long.
I remember the joy I felt when I heard that our stories would be published in a magazine. I was so nervous to read at the launch in front of a crowd of familiar and unfamiliar faces. But as I heard the other women read I was so touched by all I heard that I completely forgot about my nerves. I think we all felt so proud of ourselves and learned so much from each other (trans and cis community) that there was no division, we were writers – together.
What I have learned is that the most important thing is to write for yourself. If you start with yourself, you will write something that is priceless. I want to create a beautiful record of the times I lived as a trans person when the world is still yet to normalize trans people. One day the world will be much different and hopefully more inclusive and peaceful. This fight for Trans rights needs to be acknowledged and remembered.
So hey sister, write!
-By Xica. A Sister Writes participant, Xica is also a popular performer in Toronto.