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    Fig Authentic: Arta Brito

    This passage was written by Arta Brito expressing their experience of transitioning.


    It was really beautiful when I accepted myself as a trans woman, accepted how I want to function in society—how I want people to treat me. It was a long journey of self-reflection and self-discovery, but when I finally came face-to-face with my inner truth and accepted who I am, I was able to establish and respect certain boundaries I had for myself which aligned with my internal identity. So I was, for the first time in my life, experiencing happiness. Real, genuine happiness.

    Respecting myself enough to be feminine and to express my femininity allowed me to identify and have people around me treat me the way I want to be treated—as a woman, or as a trans woman. Because that is my gender expression.


    And to understand it’s okay—that there’s nothing wrong with that—is very validating. It is healthy for me to express MY self freely and have my needs met by my friends, family, and loved ones. To realize that was an ‘okay’ thing for me to do was really just so thrilling.


    You know when you’re a kid, and you can’t sleep because Christmas is coming? And you CANNOT sleep the whole night? Imagine that, but you’re discovering it’s okay to be yourself for the FIRST time in a world you’ve lived in and have coped with. A world where every day—for 28 years—you accept some ‘shape’ you were handed that doesn’t quite fit. You ‘accept’ this because  it’s more convenient for you and for the people around you. Finally, after a lifetime, you realize you can refuse that shape. You can step into your own truth, a world where you can be you…at last.


    When that realization hit me, there were waves of emotions—depression, and then excitement, then depression, then  excitement. Recognizing I’m trans left me stuck between these two, deep feelings that were very genuine. I began acknowledging that I’m also someone who is more on the spectrum of nonbinary or gender nonconforming. Coming to terms with my gender expression was incredibly eye-opening. I was elated at this discovery but also really saddened. I’d just never felt comfortable enough or safe enough to be who I truly am. Growing up, I had numerous experiences of being traumatized by the amount of misogyny in the world. How rude and mean people were, how homophobic and transphobic people were—it scared me. It was this fear and lack of safety that kept my truth hidden. That realization was…well, it was a lot.


    Before all of this, I was very judgmental of other people. Even other trans people. You’re just terrified your whole life, and you’re trying to show the world that you’re not, in order to function ‘properly’ in society. This experience has humbled me. The world hasn’t cared much for people who are trans. Thankfully that’s changing. We mustn’t put people in boxes. We need to stop being hypercritical. We must practice kindness. We MUST.


    Up until now, I used art as a way to survive. It was a very sophisticated distraction from dealing with my inner struggle. For a long time, I was making art because I didn’t really have my own voice. Art gave me a sense of purpose. It built my self-esteem and my community. It gave me this ‘glossy exterior’—art was my shield.


    I used painting and drawing as a coping mechanism. And because of that, my art didn’t have a clear message. What was my art about? What does my art stand for? Who am I as an artist? Now I know.


    “Art gave me a sense of purpose. It built my self-esteem and my community.”


    I want my artwork to be about this experience—self-love, loving others, and acceptance!


    It’s been a lifelong journey getting here. As with all journeys, there are always bumps along the way. Through self-reflection and self-love, I continue to learn. Finally, my future excites me. And if sharing my truth can help one person, then my struggles will have been well worth it.


    Follow along on Instagram @artabrito

    This page is sponsored by BSCC Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center provides a vibrant, inclusive space in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley for all of the region’s LGBTQ+ residents. Learn more at BradburySullivan, and follow them on social media at @BSCLehighValley!