35 is an age and number I just hadn’t ever thought about.  When you are young, you never think about getting old, and that is certainly true when it comes to black folx of the trans community.  The life expectancy of black trans womxn in the South is 35 (with that number being slightly lower in places like Texas, which is considered the epicenter of murders of black trans womxn.)


In the earlier days of my journey, I didn’t have glimpses into the future; not having encountered womxn who were older and more matured and had been along the path I was treading.  Besides the resources I had or was able to come across, I really had no clue what the future had in store for me. 


Now, on my birthday, I have been blessed and fortunate both to not only have reached an age that some womxn of trans experience have not been able to, as well as being able to meet, encounter, engage, and learn from black womxn of trans experience who were older. 


Now, looking back as a (slightly) older woman, what would I tell my younger self; that younger black girl who was just coming into her womxnhood?  What words of wisdom and encouragement would I instill in that little wide-eyed ingenue? 


“Dear Joelle, 



I know you are trying to do it all; taking the world on with every chance you get.  While it is admirable and pretty damn amazing that you are working 12+ hours while trying to live your best leisurely life, you cannot and will not be able to do it all.  And that’s okay.  You don’t owe any one anything but yourself.  


And take it easy on yourself.  While it seems like it’s smooth sailing, the path you are just starting to embark is about to be the most challenging and complex rollercoaster of a journey you will ever be on.  Hell, 10/15 years later, I am STILL on that journey trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  



I don’t say that to scare you; I say that to give weight and importance to every step you take and every decision you make.  But you, Joelle, are a strong ass womxn.  You will walk those steps with the confidence of your privileged cisgender counterparts.  And even though there will be times that will be hard, times that would break others, you never become broken (even if you crack just a little.)  You get up everyday, get dressed all the way up, and with your head held high, take the world on like a heavyweight boxer in round seven.  


Also, make sure you stop and smell the roses!  Cause all this working yourself to death and these 12, 14, 16 hours days… NOT WORTH IT.  Make sure you try to enjoy life just a little bit (or a lot) more.  Know your worth, and know that you don’t need to work three times as hard to prove yourself to any boss or manager.  Let go of the notion that if you work that much harder or do that much more, that you will get the accolades, respect, and recognition you deserve.  The truth is they will never give it to you.  And it’s not okay at all.  But, I want you to know that and be okay with it.  It doesn’t take away from your awesomeness and the fact that you are a “bad bitch”.  It will always be their loss.  


And speaking of losses, let me tell you something about love.  Now girl, you will love.  Oh; will you love!  The way you love is so deep, consuming, passionate; you love hard for any you choice to open your heart to.  But the sad thing is many will not be ready for the type of love you have to give or the type of womxn you are.  Hell, you don’t even truly know the type of womxn you are and the power your love possesses.  You will lose though.  Not just romantic love, but friendships as well.  You will see and experience more sadness and sorrow than you would have thought.  It’s gonna be rough, and hard.  But you will experience so much of what you don’t want and you will come out on the other side of it with a clear definition of the type of love you desire and want.  


Will it get easier?  Will it get better?  Is it all worth it?  


Easier?  No.  

Better?  Well, that’s all about perspective and how you look it. 

Is it all worth it?  I can honestly say that the bad and the sadness will always give way to something better, and brighter.  


You got this, baby girl. 

Enjoy your day, and remember to always stand in your light, and your “bad bitch”ness.”


–       Joelle