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Body Sovereignty and the Housing of the Liminal Vessel

A vegetable garden in the backyard of the MSH shared home. Photographed by Lucy Garrett/Vogue

Almost kicked out of my great aunt’s house for taking hormones at 18.

Having to lie through my teeth with caution.

In order to be housed until I graduated out of high school.

All I wanted was to have autonomy for my body.

I want to honor what my body wants at the moment.

Now as I think of the trauma, it fades in and out like a fog on a sunny morning.

Even what hurt me the most was how my father blamed me and told me that it was my fault that I got myself into that situation in the first place,

that I made my great aunt mad and disappointed in me.

I wanted her to see me for who I am, and I was saddened by her decisions and her reactions to my own autonomy.

I still love and appreciate her now with all of my heart.

Even when she did what she did. I still want her in my life.

The experience that my vessel went through was terrifying and traumatizing. I had to walk around in high school with a backpack and suitcase all day, and even explain to teachers that I was on the verge of being kicked out of my great aunt’s house. I had to make a decision with my great aunt, either I stop the hormones and still live with her, or I honor the hormones and be somewhere else.

I found a way, but it wasn’t an easy way. I had to lie in order to stay housed and feel alive. I had to create an illusion with my body. The illusion of the Pre-T self, lowering the dosage to slow the process of my transformation. Hiding my soon-to-be robust voice with high-pitched melodies. Create a smooth surface of my skin that no hair has inhabited.

It broke my heart to lie with my tongue to my own great aunt. Who housed me when my own parents weren't able to house me. I did not want to do it but I fear the realities and possibilities. If I was in the streets, my vessel would have been taken advantage of, my vessel would have been raped, molested, and violated by strange men in the streets and in the city shelters. I would have been denied housing because of my own transfaggot existence. I’ve heard stories of trans and nonbinary people having their bodies destroyed and broken by the patriarchal offenders in the community and of the state.

Hell, trans and nonbinary people like me are less likely to get housed and be in stable and safe environments. In Alameda County, if we see the data from the End Homelessness website in 2019. Trans people tend to experience unsheltered homelessness at a higher percentage than cis people. In Alameda County, 81 percent of the cis people was unsheltered while 19 percent were sheltered from 2017 to 2019. In contrast, 93 percent of the trans people were unsheltered while 7 percent were sheltered in 2019 in Alameda County.

Since 2017, trans and nonbinary people have gradually became more vulnerable to housing instability and the violence of poverty and capitalism.

There is hope as the trans housing liberation movement has been growing for decades from New York with the STAR mother ancestors Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, to the South with My Sistah’s House in Memphis, Tennessee. Along with other beautiful housing and sheltering medicines.

In the Vogue article on the trans housing liberation movement in the South, Kayla Gore, the co-founder of My Sistah’s House, explained, “Trans-led initiatives have always been in existence in some form. It’s just that now with the global pandemic and the uprising, there’s more attention on vulnerable communities, especially within the Black community, prioritizing trans folks.”

Kayla Gore in the structure that is being developed into a duplex for the next My Sistah’s House tiny house. Photographed by Lucy Garrett/Vogue

In the same article above, Mariah Moore, one of the founders of House of Tulip in New Orleans, Louisiana mentions that “as a Black trans woman, I never knew the racism that existed in zoning laws. There are all these hurdles put in place that prevent folks from being able to provide the support that marginalized folks need and deserve,” she says. “We’re still trying to build out a road to homeownership through an infrastructure that helps our community members become self-sustainable.”

Mariah Moore at House of Tulip’s one-year anniversary celebration in New Orleans on June 26. Photographed by Annie Flanagan/Vogue

The Covid pandemic also has been the capitalistic factor of housing instability within the trans and nonbinary community, especially within trans communities of color across the States. In the USA Today article on the trans housing liberation movement in the South, it is said that, “For the transgender community, especially those of color, preexisting barriers and ongoing discrimination have compounded challenges in the middle of a raging pandemic and economic crisis. Approximately 19% of transgender people and 26% of transgender people of color became unemployed because of COVID-19, compared to 12% of the general U.S. population.”

It all comes to the reality that transphobia is one of the many spawn that is birthed from the legacy and the cult of whyte supremacy and colonization. In the eyes of colonizers and perpetrators of violence, transness is non-existent. For us, it is our existence.

The legacy of creating a home for us, by us. It brings me back to the moment where I was almost kicked out for honoring my body, even if there were risks. I was willing to take the risk to honor my vessel. This hurt my potential love and trust for my Aunt Vickie. But, once I was able to start the healing process of my family lineage. She is family in my eyes again.

I still want her in my life, she now understands more gradually about how I exist. It is a process, it is a journey. I now think of a home where the liminal vessel can be housed once more.

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