Over the last several weeks, I’ve examined my Two Spirit identity and decided just what that means to me. Mostly, it’s been an exercise in defining my female half after 46 years of denying her existence. I can’t explain it, but the name Jessica immediately came to mind and felt instantly comfortable. I wanted to understand how much different my life has been absent her moderating tone. We missed out on a lifetime of feeling safe, soft and secure in our own skin.

My third grade year was when my behavior took a dramatic turn for the worse, not entirely unexpected given what I had been through the previous summer. While I had long been the class clown and filled to the brim with creative energy, I was never disruptive or disrespectful. I was both now, in spades, with an accompanying detour into delinquent behavior, mostly in the form of shoplifting and vandalism but that would intensify a few years later. The years after that? I was unmoored from my primary anchoring influence and a lodestone for narcissists and sociopaths of all shapes and sizes, so you do the math.

Chaos would be a kind way to describe my life until I joined the Navy. The person I feel sorry for the most, other than Jessica, is my mom. She was dealt a bad hand long before we came into the picture, yet overcame it and thrived despite that past. To have her herculean efforts sabotaged by her oldest “son” because I didn’t know just how traumatizing that summer was to me isn’t something anyone could anticipate or alleviate. She spent most of my childhood doing anything and everything she could think of to “fix” me but that was an impossible task without a dad in the picture. I couldn’t be fixed until I fixed myself.

Who could have guessed that would take four decades? Jessica probably did, but I wasn’t listening.

Not listening would become my Achilles Heel for far too long. A supreme irony for a writer. Listening and understanding became my superpower in later years, for the most part, but prior to putting on the uniform, I had been deaf to anything even remotely resembling logic or nuance. It was all instinctive overreaction to every trigger. I’ve only recently learned to process before responding, often staying silent instead. I’ve become comfortable in keeping my thoughts to myself unless it’s absolutely necessary to share. It’s amazing the amount of words I’ve wasted without actually communicating a single thing.

Looking back over the last five years, it occurs to me that I was really addressing the symptoms of my underlying fissure rather than fixing the fissure itself. It wasn’t until my kid realized they were nonbinary nearly two years ago that I truly started to look for the cause of my distress. I started growing my hair out to show my kid that their decision to stop cutting their hair was perfectly legit. I bought pink shoes and skinny jeans and started to lean in on androgyny when I was on stage singing karaoke. I slowly peeled away the hyper-masculine perversion I’d harbored most of my life. The more people asked me if I was gay (I’m not) the closer I felt to fine.

It’s been nearly a month since I realized I’m nonbinary. Discovering the other half of my identity desperately waiting to be seen and breathed to life was an unexpected bonus. This isn’t about denying my “maleness” as much as it’s about integrating my divine feminine into a more functional and fabulous human with equal access to the positive traits of both genders. It’s about a unification. Does that mean “Jessica” is another person living inside my head? No. She’s more of a vibe than a voice. She’s an important layer of contextual understanding when it comes to navigating our movement through the world. She’s quite literally my peace of mind.

What comes next for us is anyone’s guess, but I suspect our life will continue to blossom in new and unexpected ways. Stay tuned!