By Grace Picante (a pseudonym)
I have known Grace for a number of years. She has been a dear colleague and intellectual interlocutor that has assisted me immeasurably by proofreading my translations. When I sent her the announcement about the launching of this site, she read the blog post I created called “What does the word queer mean anyway?” She wrote to me and told me that it reminded her of a time when she was attending a university, finishing her undergraduate degree, and there was so much talk about gender identity. She told me that she felt confused about all the terms and what they meant, so over time she went online and looked up Wikipedia entries to try and make sense of it all. She also wondered if she would find among those entries a description of her own sense of self. In that email, she went on to share some intimate details about herself, things I never would have imagined had crossed her mind. I was so impressed with what she shared that I asked her if she would be willing to share a part of it with our readers. She said, “Yes!” provided that we publish it with a pseudonym. It is an honor to be able to bring this story to you all, a story we have entitled, Translation of the Self Across Time. Please let us know your thoughts by commenting below. We invite you to dialogue with us.
My own identity journey evolved with unpredictable plot twists. At the age of four, the spirit of my deceased brother showed up as my constant companion. At times I was not sure where he ended and I began. I also heard the calm male voice of my spiritual guide then..
By age six, as a shy white girl living in suburbia, I fully accepted that I would be raised by the guide as a Plains Indian boy in a tribe of one. Feeling socially awkward in dresses, I could hardly wait to get home from school, put on jeans and play in the woods. I focused on my inner world, but also felt that the problems of the outer were somehow my responsibility. The invisible entity continued to watch over me through years of intense loneliness and anger (which thankfully I was able to fully overcome).
At eleven, fully expecting to become a man, I began intentionally lowering my voice. For about a year, guttural native-sounding chants poured out of my being, and then abruptly stopped. I figured I must be channeling the Lenni Lenape who had once walked those same Eastern woods. At twelve, the guide told me it was time to leave the woods, and find a way to be socially comfortable in the world. Although this was a difficult request, I accepted the challenge and obeyed. This was followed by a vivid dream/vision in which I was a confident Hindu girl ornately dressed for her wedding. Years later, I would understand that some of my past lives have apparently been a part of the present one. In any case, this exalted image of the feminine allowed me to fully embrace a new possibility. Initially I felt strong in this new identity, until at fourteen it was disrupted when I realized that from then on, males would mostly treat me as an object; more interested in my female body than my mind. Cut off from returning to the innocence of being either a girl or a boy, but needing to grow up, for decades I continued in a reluctant, mostly female, identity. It seemed necessary to hold back my full, true self in order to fit in socially.
There are too many chapters to tell between then and now, but I have arrived again at a similar place as I did at age seventeen, happily celibate after feeling unfulfilled from too many shallow relationships, strongly focused on an inner spiritual life with outward service to the people in my surroundings, and not feeling particularly female or male.
Now I feel more comfortable in my skin and in my soul. AMEN.