By Jesse James
I come from violence; distorted love and binary.
Rape, abuse, neglect and coercion; all are defining elements of my experience. Unsafe spaces unfolded from dreams and love that no longer held itself enough. Strong women who knew not of their gifts nor their power; thus we let others steal them away.
I grew within a womb that knew its own joys, but one familiar with its own traumas, too. It was the world I was born into. A place where the constant cast of characters consisted of solely women; because all of the men had either died off—or had never learned to stick around in the first place.
Then there were those that (temporarily) did, who I wished hadn’t—remaining solely long enough in order to break us in.
It was here I grew to learn—to accept and expect—that love, more often than not, was a dangerous and frightening thing. That’s just the way things are for everyone though, right? There was a time where that was what I used to believe.
Entire generations of women throughout my family were cascading and spiraling through relationships of abuse. I was not above this either in my choices. And it hurts me to say that I remained in more of those than I care to remember (or count).
But it was enough to see myself become an abuser, too—for a time.
I came from love, yes. But it was the kind that knew not how to express it beyond efforts of material worth. We were all fragmented and fractured versions of ourselves; none of us whole enough to support one another properly. Having been abandoned and neglected and cast aside more than once, we didn’t understand what it was to show up, and thus we struggled; not only to feed our mouths and our bodies and our pockets—but to nourish our spirits and our connections to one another, too.
I don’t blame them; I know we all have our wounds to heal from. But I still don’t know what it means to feel safety in unconditional love either. It’s not that it is not offered to me now, but I am wary of the steps along the way to accepting it. More familiar though, is the feeling of awkwardness and uncertainty—the notion of distrust, and at times fear, when those three words come. Over and over again I come to question myself; “What is it that they want from me?”
I came from homes wherein I raised myself—but still spaces where I had no say. I was expected to be an adult while the real ones were away, but then stripped of my autonomy and independence whence home they would return. A place of near constant conflict and expectations—my roles quickly rose in waves above my head. I didn’t know how to do right from wrong, because who I was expected to be was constantly changing. I had no bearings to base myself in, and I knew not what my morality or character should actually be.
In time as this inconsistency continued with others, I thought that it was my job to conform myself to the roles they defined for me. I had little understanding of who I was supposed to be for myself. Now I come to each space ever evolving out of that confusion.
I came from having to fight for every breath and definition of self.
Thus I came from indecision. When every move I made had repercussions of war, it became a heavy weight for me to choose anything for myself. I never did stop choosing however—I never stopped defining things for myself—but it came with a greater distance of loneliness and time. Investing myself in any decision, it is now primarily me who weighs my own mind down with guilt. And with “No’s.”
It is here that I come from a place of exhaustion; of not wanting to fight anymore to be free.
I am so very tired. But it is here that I remind myself, too: I come from a line of strong women; all of which are slowly realizing our gifts.
We were born and remained as fighters, our shared existence to date. I will remain resilient, and I will survive just as they have.
I come now to the world as me.
Jesse James: (pronouns: they/them)24 year old Jesse James is a storyteller and creatrix of many things—an equal blend of mystical, myth & science. Owner of Artemisian Artes and a member/founder of The Creating Conscious Arts Collective, they use their voice to promote holistic wellness and inclusive activism/advocacy for the many causes they care about: poverty, disability, full-spectrum equity, anti-oppression movements, trans issues, environmentalism, as well as the violence/politics of Birth (to name a few). A lover of nature and of people; of adventure, and of raw reality—passionate about life and love itself. They adore working with herbs in making natural remedies, and concocting delicious kitchen alchemy is a second nature after breath. They worship the earth, thrive on art, and on forming meaningful connections with others. Their mission is to make that around them more beautiful, or at the very least, to help others see things that already were, in that way. You can find them on Facebook.
Editor: Dana Gornall