A Letter to a Frightened Child
You were born with a brain that is different from that of most other people. You perceive the world and process information in a manner that many will find unusual. You will sometimes feel the need to flap your arms and this will garner the unwanted attention of imitators. But there is nothing wrong with you or how you think or how you understand your surroundings. You are just different.
You were born inside of a body that was not the right fit for you. It will never be the right fit for you. It will change in ways that will make you self-conscious and you will always feel just a little off. You will feel both the unquenchable need to be seen and the reflexive compulsion to shield others from glimpsing that unutterable thing that is so wrong with you.
You will fill your body with poisons in the effort to flee all sensation. You will mistreat and alienate the very people who care most about you. You will run long distances in an attempt to forge a peace with this body of yours. You will fill it with nutrients in the hopes of restoring it. You will practice yoga and sit in meditation, searching for some way to accept this lived reality of being inside of these fleshy walls.
You will meet someone and tell her these things, in the only language that is available to you at the time. She will seek to understand and she will see you. You will seek to understand things about her and you will see her. And this will feel like the person you have waited your whole life to find.
You will lay your body next to hers in the hopes of making each other happy and physically expressing this notion of love that you two have cultivated. But it will not feel right. It will not feel right. She is the only one you want to lay next to, the only person whom you want close to you. But you are inside of a body that does not work and does not feel right. It will never feel right.
You will feel a devastating pain in not being the person she thought you were. She will not blame you, but you blame you. She will still care about you. But you will feel lost.
You were born into a society that will not understand you and is not quite ready to fully accept you. This is not your fault. You will feel like a stranger even in the most familiar places. You will suppress your emotions, contort your expectations, and reshape your will, all in the attempt to conform to the image that is implicitly demanded of you.
You will incarnate a mask that passes for a human face and you will lose things because of this. You will push certain natural inclinations of yours so deep inside of you that you will distrust your own ability to identify your wants and needs. You will strive for the likeness of a rich and meaningful existence, and you will allow others to tell you which desires, motivations, and concerns are acceptable and which are forbidden.
But you are not defective and that will be so hard to understand. But please do try to understand that and when you do, you must keep reminding yourself of that fact, again and again. You have needs and it will take so long before any of them are met. And this is not your fault.
You will become weighed down and nearly crushed by psychic tension and the secrecy of all the hiding that you have done. But remember that there remains, however well-concealed or dimmed it may be, a spark of recognition.
You will observe this spark and you will follow it and you will begin to notice more sparks. Slowly you will find a way to trust yourself again. And when this happens, you will want to reach out to that frightened child who wanted only to hide.
You will not know the words to say that might make any of this okay. You will want to comfort the child, but you will not know how. But each day you can at least remember that getting sick was not your fault, but getting well is your responsibility.
Originally published in Medium. Reprinted with permission. Bea, Mila. “A Letter to that Frightened Child: You don’t need to hide anymore.” Gender from the Trenches, Medium, October 26, 2021.
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About the Author
Mila Bea (she/her) is a thirtysomething autistic trans woman who has spent the last two decades on a tumultuous and circuitous path to self-acceptance. While nestled indoors she drinks coffee, reads books, and watches movies. While out of doors she explores the world on foot and finds adventures in the novel and the familiar.