Written by Jessie hutton
“When someone with the authority of a teacher describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked into a mirror and saw nothing.” – Adrienne Rich
As I drive the winding road toward home, Bodega Ridge shrinking in my rear view, on the small island of Galiano just off the coast of the Vancouver mainland, I reflect on the last 48 hours of inhales and exhales I cycled through. Ancient western hemlocks canopy above the road providing intermittent shade from the March sun. The warm spring sky manages to peek through the green of these slender giants on occasion, illuminating the dust collected on the hood and windshield from the last day’s drive.
I feel far away here. Door to door the trip is a short 2 hours, but this island serves as an escape. Perhaps this feeling is brought on by the circumstances of my visit, or maybe it is a gift of the island, but I feel whole here. Whatever magic this place holds, I am sure of one thing – nothing is the same.
Thursday March 8th, 2018. the illusory “Girls Only” sign came down from the front doors of the Girlvana Clubhouse.
I pulled into Bodega around 11:30am, just before lunch, and right in the middle of some wild Ally Maz style kundalini dance party, so naturally I joined in – I felt I had to prove myself a worthy intruder.
I was excited to be there and to share my story, and I was equally as nervous – I had never spoken with a group of young people about my journey; my coming out, my depression, my suicidal thoughts, and all the struggles in between that were necessary in my pursuit of self-love and finding purpose.
We finished yoga and all collected in a circle; it was my turn to step into my mentorship role. Why was I there? What did I bring to this group that was different than what they had experienced? What did I represent for each of these 15 attendees and the thousands of other kids that were not in that room with us?
It didn’t take long to feel at home in this circle. As the pieces of my story fell out of my mouth word by word, I could feel the energy ebbing and flowing in a beautiful tide throughout the circle of bodies. These kids got it. They had been there too. The commonality so obviously present among all of us, mentors and students alike, was the visceral understanding of feeling alone. I knew in that moment that this was where I was meant to be.
That was a special moment for me and Girlvana, because although the feelings shared in that circle as I spoke were incredibly familiar, the circumstances I was sharing about were unique to this setting: I am transgender, non-female identifying, not a girl. And up until this point, Girlvana had never invited a trans mentor to join a retreat.
Having me there was breaking all the rules: Girls Only. And yet, there I sat. it set in motion the invitation for everything to be different. That moment was the beginning of something: Change, Space, Inclusion, Acceptance, Disruption, Growth.
That was a moment of my purpose in action; to live vulnerably in order to create space for people to come as they are. To be the first gender fluid person to step into the sacred and ethereal world of Girlvana as a representative of the LGBTQ+ community is an experience that has impacted me beyond measure. I am now forever a part of expanding Girlvana’s definition of who is eligible to attend based on gender identity, and I have played a part in pulling that clubhouse sign down and setting into motion the opportunity for trans and gender non-conforming youth to experience the magic of the home Girlvana builds. But above all, I have been the mirror for one young person to see themselves in a mentor…
“Everything they have taught me and every word they have said, rooted so deeply in me. It was practically as if a switch went off inside of me; screaming at me that it was time…seeing this beautiful confident person right in front of me and the power they carried with being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, that I have never had the privilege of being a part of until now… I let myself share with everyone here that I am gay.” – excerpt from A Reintroduction of Self: Coming Out
I swear in that moment, the earth shook, and the world stood still.
In sharing my story and the journey that had led me to Girlvana I had the privilege of allowing one young person to see themselves in me. In being that mirror, she received permission to be herself, to know that she was enough, that she was not alone, and that she was safe to simply be in her full expression.
What I know is that she believes I have some amount of stock in that moment for her, that I had some hand in changing her life, but the truth is, she changed mine. Hearing her truth, absorbing every letter of every word that poured from her soul, like a sponge in water, she filled me. As she shared this beautiful gift of self with the room a moment of stillness engulfed me – I saw myself in her, she was the mirror I needed.
That’s the beautiful thing about vulnerability - like the ocean at its calmest, it is naturally reflective - it invites vulnerability, and what lives in vulnerability is truth. That was a moment of shared truth – like two mirrors face to face – infinitely reflective.
As I drive the winding road toward home, Bodega Ridge shrinking in my rear view, I reflect on the last 48 hours of inhales and exhales I cycled through. I feel whole here. Perhaps this feeling is brought on by the circumstances of my visit, but whatever magic this place holds, I am sure of one thing – nothing is the same.
Jessie is a Girlvana guest mentor, leader in the LGBQT+ community and a non-binary, gender fluid human who educates businesses on inclusivity through their brand Kith + Common. Jessie loves getting that content for the gram, their cute dog Kip and using their voice to help shift perspectives in creating accessibility for all humans.
Their pronouns are: they/them