Rising Through Trauma and Exploring the Depths of My Latinidad

In kindergarten my adoptive mom asked me if I wanted to wear a traditional Mexican dress to school because it was Cinco de Mayo; she said my biological father would have wanted me to be proud of this holiday. As an adult, I reflected on this moment as the first time I understood I was adopted and also, Mexican-American.

My adopted father, on the other hand, didn’t appreciate me telling people I was adopted and cringed when I mentioned I was mixed-race. He taught me that my identities were something shameful: that being brown was inherently inferior and being adopted was the result of rejection. Thus, I spent much of my childhood suppressing my racial identity and being ashamed that my biological parents put me up for adoption.

As a teenager, I was conscious of my brownness. At school, I remember wanting so badly to hangout with the Latinxs, the ones my skin reflected; but, I felt I didn’t belong there because my racial identity was like a dirty, family secret. As a transracial adoptee, I felt cultureless, like I belonged everywhere and nowhere. The feelings of unbelonging were only magnified when I realized I was queer.

After surviving years of physical abuse from my father who thought violence would cure my queerness, I made it out of Bakersfield and moved to Los Angeles at 18. There I attended college and, for the first time, found a group of people that made me feel safe and loved. My time in LA was mostly spent exploring my sexual and gender identities. It wasn’t until I moved to New York City and began working in the public school system with Latinx kids that I began addressing the pain surrounding my racial identity once again.

I think the trauma of physical violence as a teenager around my queerness made that part of my identity more urgent to heal and empower. NYC was the first place I recall being embraced by the Latinx community. I started going to QTPOC parties, I came out as Transgender, and in some ways I felt that I even “came out” as Xicanx after intentionally making a part of me that was once repressed, a proud pillar of my identity moving forward.

A couple years later, I moved to Oakland and was in a relationship with a partner that was deeply connected to her Nigerian ancestry. This sparked an insatiable need for me to dive deeper into my own ancestral heritage. I knew that I was brown, queer, and trans, but I needed to know more. So, I decided to move to Mexico: to connect deeper to the land of my ancestors, to take in the culture and the language, and to heal from a lifetime of internalized racism.

Recently, I spent 6 months in Mexico and learned enough Spanish to build a community founded on respect. I connected with the land and with my spiritual practice; I also worked with native plants and healing ceremonies. However, I experienced hostility towards my trans-masculinity and queerness. I also witnessed the kind of machismo I want to combat and avoid embodying. Furthermore, I have had to grapple with my own racial, class, and educational privilege within the Latinidad as a Xicanx Mestizx. Being adopted wasn’t my choice: there was trauma, there was unique “othering.” But, nevertheless, the experience gave me societal privilege many of my Latinx peers were never afforded.

As I’ve navigated the roadmap of identities I’ve embodied over the last decade, a major part of my healing journey has been supported by yoga, meditation, and therapy. Through these commitments to my self-care, I’ve developed a sense of awareness and compassion that has allowed me to take the risks necessary to explore my identities and traumas in depth.

I am still growing and changing. Still, I have never felt fuller or more certain of who I am and the path I want to pursue. We’re always in search of who we are in this big, confusing world that teaches us to be ashamed of our marginalized identities. However, I am learning that decolonization, reconnection, community building, and healing, can bring me closer to my story: which is the greatest home I will ever know in this transient lifetime.

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