Perfect Moment(s): My 25th Birthday

Content Warning: Death, Sexual Assault, and Rape.

It has been so long since I have written anything here. The last thing I wrote was in December. Three months later and the world feels so much different than my last post. There is a sort of haunting beauty with that revelation as I celebrate my 25th birthday.

Can you believe it? I have been on this earth for just a little over a quarter of a century. An accomplishment among the many that occurred this year. Yet, this year has also been particularly difficult for myself, so much has happened, and so many of them life-changing.

The first acomplishment I want to share is that I graduated with a Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in College Student Personnel from the University of Rhode Island. I am the second individual in my family to have a Master’s, the first being my mother. 

I was accepted into a doctorate program and decided to continue my educational journey at the University of Denver being mentored and advised by an amazing Laguna Pueblo and Diné professor, Dr. Chris A. Nelson. I am the first in my family to even be in a doctorate program. 

I had the honor of being a plenary session speaker at the Education Leaders of Color 2019 national convening in Virginia back in October speaking on the importance of representation and the impact that Black, Indigenous, and Educators of Color have on the educational system. 

I will be receiving an Honorable Mention for the Ford Predoctoral fellowship, a competitive research fellowship. Although I did not receive the actual fellowship, I am proud because I contracted the flu before I  submitted my application back in mid-December.

And so, here we are, ten months later highlighting events that were quite significant that I never really talked about on my blog. I was waiting for the perfect moment and it seemed like that moment never really came. I became quite busy with my summer job working with the Vice President of Campus Life and the Director of Student Support Services at Brown University developing a comprehensive curriculum on best practices for supporting Native American and/Indigenous students.

Then I had to figure out my move from Rhode Island to back home on the Navajo Nation and then onto Colorado to begin my doctoral program.

Perfect Moment(s)

So much change happened between May and September. It almost seems like a blur, yet the perfect moment to share on my blog never really manifested. I think I was avoiding sharing what I accomplished because it would have forced me to reflect on this year, and although that is the general theme of my birthday post, I did not want to think about this year.

I write that because there has been so much tragedy this year that almost eclipses what I accomplished over the year. 

Content Warning: Death in the Family

At the end of October, my grandfather left this world. He was in the hospital for quite a while due to heart complications since the beginning of August. The last time I saw him in person was before he was hospitalized. I wanted to visit him, yet I was in Aurora, CO by the time things became worse for him and it just seemed like there was never a perfect moment to visit him. I also thougth he was going to get better. He always got better, but not this time. This time was different and I did not know that.

I went back home for his funeral to grieve with my mother and sister and to help with what I could. I requested two out of three incompletes for my classes because I could not focus on completing despite being so close to the end of the quarter. They were accepted and I knew that I could complete them during my winter break, I was not worried.

After the funeral, I decided to go back to Colorado for a week or two because I had plans to attend the Association for the Study of Higher Education national conference. At the time, I felt that I needed to be with my Indigenous mentors and individuals I looked up to. I also needed time away from my responsibilities and enjoyed being around individuals who could alleviate my grief and pain.

In hindsight, I am glad that I went to the conference. I needed to be around some of the most affirming and amazing Indigenous scholars. All of whom I met last year and who welcomed me into their community. Since then, I have the honor of working with them through various avenues, whether that is planning pre-conferences, research, or publications. I have been wanting to write about the value and importance of holistic mentorship, especially from individuals who share similar values of reciprocity. And hopefully, I’ll be able to do that this year, I just have to encourage myself to do so.

There just does not seem to be a perfect moment, just a moment to do. A moment of action. Moments of vulnerability. A moment to do what I promised myself. I think that might be my lesson from this year, that there are never “perfect moments”. Instead, there are moments to decide when, where, and why.

And so, I decided to share a moment with all of you. I am not sure if there is ever a perfect moment to disclose this, but I know that I get to decide when and where, and today, on my 25th birthday, I decided to share with all of you a life-changing moment.

Content Warning: Sexual Assault // Rape

On December 5, 2019, I was raped.

I am not going to go into the details about my assault. Yet, I decided to disclose my survivorhood and what I have been experiencing and processing since then. 

I spent most of December in bed, hiding from the world and just trying to get through each day. I did not eat for days and avoided talking to people. I also was having suicidal thoughts. I did not trust myself leaving the house. I would disassociated while driving and have no idea how I got to where I ended up, whether that be my house, my school, or even stores. I was unaware of the passage of time and space. 

At the same time, I was trying to fight the flu. There were so many things just happening all at once, I felt that I just needed a break from people, from work, and from life. Yet, I survived and I have been a survivor ever since.

And in the 117 days since then, I have been trying to figure who I am and who I will be. After the night of my assault, I changed. I became more reckless with my life, taking risks I never would have done before. I hated myself and who I have become. I was more vocal and more impatient with individuals. I became someone I did not recognize. I became someone that I did not like or love.

In the weeks after my assault, I longed to become the person I was before, but that could never happen. This violent event changed who I am, and I had to figure out who that person was and is.

I began to describe this as a sort of puzzle. There were pieces of my life before the assault that I could still fit in my new puzzle, but there were so many that I had to throw away. I could not go back to who I was and figuring out what those pieces I want to keep have been the most insightful part of the process.

I learned that I enjoy walks in parks. I can’t stand going to zoos anymore. I dislike going to bars and clubs. Drinking was not a problem for me, yet I am more afraid of alcohol than I was before the night of my assault. I have become impatient and annoyed with surface-level conversations, and there are people I do not care to talk to as much anymore because of the shifted dynamics.

There were days in December and January when I wish I could go back to the person I was before the assault, but I do not want to anymore. With the help of individual Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, therapy and group therapy, I am learning to heal again and to love myself more than before.

It is a process, and although I am still figuring out this new puzzle that is now my life, I am learning to be happy again and learning to become more and more of myself.

There was never a perfect moment to share my survivor-hood with all of you who read my blog or who follow me on social media, and there was probably never going to be a perfect moment. Yet, I can create that moment. I can share with each of you the person I am learning to love again.

On my 25th birthday, and also on this Trans Day of Visibility, I wanted to share with you what has probably been one of the most difficult times in my life, especially in the midst of a pandemic. All I can offer you this year is to love who you were, who you are, and who you will become. And to celebrate every moment, perfect or not, with friends, family, and people you love. 

I am immensely fortunate to have had friends to process my assault with; Alberto, Ashley, Britt, Tony, Alé, Kima, and Dani. As well as my roommates; Alyssa, Cassie, and Rae. I also had the amazing support of my faculty advisor and mentor, Dr. Nelson. Lastly, I am blessed to have had my sister and mother. All of them supported me in ways that I needed after my assault as they listened, reminded me of who I was, and provided some normalcy.

For those I did not tell, there was never a perfect moment to share with you. Instead, I enjoyed the moments of normalcy that you created for me. You did not treat me as if I was broken or different. You helped me in so many ways that I cannot fully describe. Thank you for your friendship, your love, and, always, your support.

I am also fortunate to have experienced some very Trans-inclusive healthcare. The day after my assault, I sought medical care to get tested for any STIs and HIV and to access some much-needed medicine, like post-exposure prophylaxis. I also requested professional counseling. I needed help from people who were trained to be trauma-informed. I am glad that I did and when I did too. I learned a lot about resources and support for survivors, and I will be sharing what I have come across below and referencing my prior blog post

There is so much I wanted to share, and there’s so much I have to look forward to, and so do each of you.

Thank you // Ahéhee’.

Resources & Books

Updated: December 5, 2020

I wrote an introductory blog post, Supporting Indigenous LGBTQ2S+ Survivors of Sexual Assault, with some resources and guidelines. Below are more that I have come across. Unfortunately, I cannot confirm if all of them are cultural relevant for Native American and/or Indigenous Peoples or Trans-inclusive.

In addition, please be aware that April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month.

Updated December 5, 2020

Organizations

  • Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network // RAINN: considered to be one of the largest anti-sexual organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800.656.4673. Instagram: @rainn Twitter: @RAINN
  • Trans Lifeline: one of the few Trans-led nonprofits that connects Trans individuals to community support and resources. Peer Support & Crises Hotline US: 877.565.8860. Instagram: @translifeline Twitter: @TransLifeline
  • Clery Center for Security on Campus: a national nonprofit that is dedicated to helping officials from institutions of higher education to meet the standards of the Jeanne Clery Act through training and resources to understand compliance requirements. Instagram: @clerycenter Twitter: @CleryCenter
  • End Rape on Campus: an organization that works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities. Instagram: endrapeoncampus Twitter: @endrapeoncampus
  • FORGE: a national trans anti-violence organization that provides direct services to trans, gender non-confirm, and non-binary survivors of sexual assault. Instagram: @forge_forward Twitter: @FORGEforward
  • Joyful Heart Foundation: an organization dedicated to supporting survivor’s healing process and transforming society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. Instagram: @thejhf Twitter: @TheJHF
  • Know your IX: a political advocacy group that is survivor and youth-led that aims to empower students with ending sexual and dating violence in their schools. Instagram: @knowyour9 Twitter: @knowyourIX 
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: an organization dedicated to providing leadership in preventing and responding to sexual violence through collaboration and shared and created resources. Instagram: @nsvrc Twitter: @NSVRC
  • No More: is an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual violence through awareness and inspiring action. Instagram: @nomoreorg Twitter: @NOMOREorg
  • Students Active for Ending Rape: an organization that works with empowering student moments to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Twitter: @SaferCampus
  • SurvJustice: a legal nonprofit that is, survivor-founded and survivor-led, dedicated to providing justice in the legal system to survivors of sexual and intimate-partner violence. Twitter: @SurvJustice
  • The Trevor Project: a national non-profit that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning individuals under the age of 25. Instagram: @trevorproject Twitter: @TrevorProject
  • Victim Rights Law Center: committed to providing legal representation for survivors of sexual violence, especially in Massachusetts and Oregon. Twitter: @VictimRightsLaw.
  • The NW Network: The NW Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian, and Gay Survivors of Abuse works to end violence and abuse by building loving and equitable relationships in our community and across the country,
  • The Network / La Red: A survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in LGBTQ, SM (sadomasochism), and polyamorous communities.
  • Anti-Violence Prevention: AVP empowers LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy in New York City.
  • Centering Trans Survivors in the #MeToo Movement: A list of articles from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center that highlights the voices of Trans survivors.

Books

Articles

    • Greenberg, K. (2012). Still Hidden in the Closet: Trans Women and Domestic Violence. Berkeley Journal of Gender, (27)2, p. 198-251.
    • James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality. https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/USTS-Full-Report-FINAL.PDF 
    • Linder, C. (2018). Sexual Violence on Campus: Power-conscious Approaches to Awareness, Prevention, and Response. Emerald Publishing. 
    • Linder, C., Grimes, N., Williams, B. M., & Lacy, M. C. (2020). What do we know about campus sexual violence? A content analysis of 10 years of research. The Review of Higher Education, 43(4), 1017-1040.
    • Marine, S. B. (2017). Intersections of Identity and Sexual Violence on Campus: Centering Minoritized Students’ Experiences (Harris, J. C. & Linders, C., Ed.) Stylus. 
    • Ussher, J. M., Hawkey, A., Perz, J., Liamputtong, P., Sekar, J., Marjadi, B., Schmied, V., Dune, T., Brook, E. (2020). Crossing boundaries and fetishization: Experiences of sexual violence for Trans Women of Color. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. https://doi-org.du.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/0886260520949149

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