Tee: On Falling Back In Love With My Body

Story 1 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is Tee’s story, written in her own words:

“Your physical body is, and has always been, your true love” – Don Miguel Ruiz Jr., The Three Questions

“On falling back in love with my body. 

Trigger warning: Sexual assault

When we consider beauty ideals and standards, we have seen the shifts in what is glorified versus what is looked down upon throughout time. For one era, thin is in, and with the switch of time, being more voluptuous has become a trend. We hear it in music, we see it on social media, where so many women have become pro-body work and the BBL has become a new sign of wealth. These beauty ideals clearly target women and femme presenting people more so than anyone, and as we know they can be very harmful to one’s self esteem. What we don’t always talk about is how certain body idealization poses a violent threat to the existence of Black women and women of color. 

On one hand, we know that the glorification of thin bodies has been heavily present in mass media time after time. This Eurocentric ideal of what an attractive body should look like has been pushed on us since.. well since colonization has ever been a thing. You do the math. But on the other hand, there is a different type of “glorification” that happens among those who are not thin. Some call it “Hypersexualization.”

“Hypersexualization, or the sexualization of public space, involves the attribution by the media of a sexual character to a product or behavior that has nothing intrinsically sexual about it.” – Quebec. Ca

It has been a silent weapon used against Black women for centuries. For women who may be heavier set with bigger breasts and butts, they are sexualized. The identity of the tempest, the spectacle, the porn star, the hooker, the woman at anyone’s sexual disposal has been highlighted and forced onto women with this kind of shape. We are often taught to cover our bodies because we are showing more skin than is appropriate, even if we are showing just as much if not less skin than our thinner counter parts. Those around us also perpetuate the harm by commenting on our bodies in a sexual manner. 

I have fallen victim and survivor to this treatment. 

Since a child, I have always been on the thicker side. I was called names like “big booty judy” and made a spectacle at a very young age. I developed breasts fairly quickly, and because of my body developing so quickly, I was made to be mindful of it at all times. Because of my shape, I had to constantly be aware of how others saw me, whether or not they were looking at me with a lustful gaze, be sure not to wear clothing too tight, make sure not to bend over, not to show too much cleavage, always wear a bra, etc. All as early as maybe 8 years old. 

I was taught that if I revealed too much, that I would be giving off the wrong message. When I was dating, I had to be mindful of my partners dads, friends, brothers, cousins, etc. because at any moment that my partner caught one of them looking at my body, it became my fault. I was also raised both by my family and external socialization, to believe that the more of myself that I showed, the more vulnerable I was to experiences with sexual predators.

I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, ranging from the age of 4 years old to my early 20s. 

In none of those moments, was I ever showing too much skin. However, the shame and guilt that my parents were socialized to place upon me and thus, I was in belief of, caused me to keep these experiences to myself. I did not disclose to them any of what I experienced until I was 21 through a poem that I shared at a showcase I was performing at. The poem highlights how fear of being victim shamed and getting in trouble or causing havoc and discord could happen if someone knew. Which is often the silent burden that many survivors of sexual assault carry. Not only within their conscience, but within their bodies. This need to conceal, because the reality of the war on our bodies is too heavy a topic to be open about is an incredibly taxing place to exist in.

The feeling of my body being my fault made it such a burden to live comfortably in it. When I was a child, I was a dancer. Dancing was my first true love. But I stopped wanting to dance after I had experienced my wits end of sexual assault. The experiences I was going through behind closed doors made me hyper-aware of my body to the point where I was constantly seeing the differences between my shape and that of my peers. It felt like a constant beating into my head that my shape was the cause. And as a child, how am I to believe anything different than what trauma that hasn’t been addressed is telling me? I started to lose touch with my body. So much of me became numb because I didn’t want to feel the hurt that I had experienced. I didn’t want to touch myself, I shied away from others touching me at all, unless they were my parents or my partner. I didn’t feel comfortable with pleasing myself because I felt like my body didn’t deserve that type of intimate connection with anything. Not even myself. 

My body started to feel like nothing but a container for trauma.

Because I’ve tried to cope not only with my experience with hypersexualization, but also with my experiences with sexual violence, I resorted to many methods of changing my appearance. In some ways I felt that if I conformed to the expectations of women, that it would provide me more safety. So, I began dressing more “modest” at one point and wearing hijab, a traditional head covering observed in Islam and muslim countries. I also kept my hair cut really short/bald for several years because I thought that it gave me more respect or a distractor from my body being the main subject of people’s attraction. I can’t say that any of this helped me to fully cope, and it brought me to the idea that hypersexualization isn’t something to be coped with, more-so challenged.

My experience with body positivity is a bit different, because its less about the rejection of my image, and more about breaking down the fetishization of my image. FETISHIZATION is NOT positivity. It is detrimental to the well-being of so many femme presenting people. It makes a body problem into an internal emotional and mental problem. To me, being body positive has to do with normalizing the view of a woman’s body to de-fetishize and therefore contribute to ending rape culture.  

My first act of resistance was getting back in touch with my body. Knowing that the best way to feel safe in my body again is to know it. So I began dancing again about a year ago. 

These days, I’m definitely not all the way there yet, but I’m rebuilding a bond of trust between my mind, body and spirit as a unit. So that my body no longer feels like a place to hold trauma, but instead a place to host an abundant spirit and a brilliant mind. I’m dancing more often just because it is something I can do for and with myself to feel my body and know it is mine. It has become a celebration of sorts, to move my body and touch my body when I need it. Because of this, I now go to sleep holding myself like I’m giving myself a hug.

Then there was OnlyFans..

I am comfortably able to say that I am an OnlyFans content producer and by spectrum of definition, a sex worker. This is not my only means of income and it’s not what I do for a living, but it is something that I do. My experience with OnlyFans has made me aware of several things. The greatest being, my own sensuality. I was so disconnected from my body due to trauma, that I never touched myself, never wore lingerie, never knew myself outside of someone else’s touch or validation. But when I began using my OnlyFans, I found my ability to treat the experience of my sensuality like carefully curated art. I was able to show up in a way that I never felt comfortable doing because in my mind, concealing myself was supposed to protect me. Even though concealing myself never actually did. 

I began my OnlyFans account in the midst of the pandemic, because it seemed like an interesting and easy way to accrue income. I liked the fact that I could have full discretion, post what I wanted to and if people wanted to subscribe, they could, while I could also make money from what seemed like them simply just wanting to see what I shared there that the rest of the cyber-world didn’t get to see. During my span on OnlyFans, I’ve had many of my subscribers express to me that although I am sexually attractive, they can’t sexualize me because they see me as a person. Many of them have become far more interested in just knowing how my day is going, hearing my poetry, and engaging with me about my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, they still subscribe to see my content. But I’d like to believe that because I have taken the time to get to know my body again, as my own.. that it shows in my content. 

Of course, when it comes to any kind of sex work, there is a negative connotation that I believe is inherently an attack on women. That being that sex-work is shameful and it is solely a matter of force and trauma response. However, that is simply not true. Sex-work has existed for centuries and is actually one of the oldest trades to exist. The reason for it to be condemned is heavily rooted in colonialism and capitalism because a person’s body is not something you can put a price on and/or tax. Otherwise, that is slavery. Which does happen. But so much of how we base our moral compass, our perspective of women and what is women’s business, has to do with money. So, as I engage with OnlyFans, I feel content with my ability to charge what I want to disclose and what I want. When you allow people autonomy and agency, they are able to do so much to reclaim themselves. 

My body, in many ways, has responded to my agency. It responds to me giving it options through what I eat, how I move it around, who I allow to engage with it, how I embrace it. This is what I love most about it. My body, no matter what it has been through at the hands of others, or even myself, always believes in me enough to keep me living in it. I’m not sure that I gain as much for being confident in my body as I do from the sheer fact that my body is confident in me. I am building a relationship with it that is focused on close intention and attention. My body trusts itself and trust me to notice when something is wrong, and to remedy what the issue is. I am in immense gratitude for the resilience of this vessel. 

I show my body positivity by thanking it for all that it survived through. I thank it for still giving me the ability to feel pleasure even though I denied it of that for so long. I thank it for bearing with me as I numbed and navigated out of touch with it. I thank it for choosing to host my spirit everyday. I thank if for all of its imperfections. I thank if for looking the way it looks, for how it carries weight. I thank it for sticking with me and having patience with me as I learn to love it despite all that has made it feel unworthy of love. Above all, I thank it for always loving me back.” -Tee

Pushing Forward

For the sake of the individual’s safety and privacy, they have chosen to share their story anonymously.

Do you ever think back to the times before something very significant in your life happened? You can remember the exact moment when someone entered your life, and little did you know at the time that life as you knew it would never be the same again? This is one of those stories. Their story started with a handshake.

It was kind’ve awkward to be honest. Jordan said hello, but Alex stayed mute, keeping their eyes down to the ground, and finally they shook Jordan’s hand. At work, they befriended the same people and were in the same department. They were bound to have conversations and bump into each other regularly. Alex started to notice that Jordan was taking an interest in them, maybe even trying to pursue a relationship. Jordan was very flirtatious, and Alex didn’t know how to feel. Alex definately thought that Jordan was out of their league – there was no way a romantic relationship would develop between the two. But Alex started to feel themself getting attracted to Jordan’s charming ways. Alex really liked that Jordan’s presence came off as “in control.” One day Alex caught a glimpse of Jordan’s eyes in the sunlight, it was a done deal.

From there, the couple moved pretty fast. They moved in together about 6 months into their relationship, and they were already planning a wedding by the end of their first year together. Alex describes everything in their relationship as “moving fast.” From “I love you’s,” to moving in, to taking “what’s mine is yours,” very literally, and so on. At the time, Alex didn’t see that as a red flag. And why would Alex second guess Jordan? Jordan swept Alex off of their feet and played the part well – making their love look so real, and making Alex feel like their love would last a lifetime. Alex was ecstatic, they never thought that a person like Jordan would be in a relationship with them. However, moving fast in the relationship was just 1 red flag of many. And unfortunately, Alex’s happiness did not last very long.

Alex explains that initially, these red flags didn’t even come up as red flags to them at the time. Why? They were so wrapped up in the “bubble” of happiness and the relationship, that they didn’t think twice about the manipulation. In fact, it took almost a decade later for Alex to understand that they were a victim of domestic abuse. Alex’s therapist helped Alex see all of the red flags that they missed throughout their 8 year long relationship. Moving fast in the relationship, Alex learned, is a tactic narcissist abusers use to start controlling their partners. But Alex was so caught up in the bubble, that they didn’t even realize Jordan’s actions were signs of control.

Very early on, Alex would hear the way Jordan would treat and talk to their ex-partners, since Jordan had children from previous relationships. Alex would always try to get Jordan to see the ex partners’ side, especially since Jordan had to co-parent with them. Jordan would boast about having children with different partners, and how there were probably more children they didn’t know about. Alex thought it was odd that Jordan would take pride in that, but brushed it off. 7 months into their relationship, Alex and Jordan got news that they were expecting. Alex never expected that co-parenting would soon be in their distant future, and they would be in Jordan’s exs’ shoes.

As soon as their relationship started, so did the rules. Jordan didn’t like the fact that Alex had personal social media accounts. Alex was forced into deleting their personal accounts, and had to replace them with joint accounts that they shared with Jordan. The people that they followed were mostly Jordan’s family and friends. Every friend / follower was approved by Jordan. Jordan got to choose who Alex interacted with on social media, and made sure Alex wasn’t searching or interacting with anyone they didn’t approve of. This meant that Alex couldn’t keep in contact with their own friends if Jordan didn’t approve of them. The first round of cut off’s happened with social media, and Alex didn’t know that they’d lose a lot more friendships due to Jordan down the line.

Jordan wanted the joint social media accounts because they wanted to keep tabs on who Alex spoke to. The agreement was that both of them would delete their personal accounts and just have the joint relationship account. Alex discovered that Jordan had personal accounts of their own. Alex couldn’t believe it, they thought it was bullshit that Jordan went out of their way to control the followers and accounts, only to have their own accounts secretly. Alex was pissed, so they decided to make their own personal accounts again. This would only add more fuel to the small fire already burning.

Alex started to lose a lot of friendships quickly. Some ended because Jordan demanded Alex end the friendships, and others ended because some friends were trying to tell Alex that this was not a healthy relationship. Alex would blame themself for the way Jordan treated them – not trusting them, accusing them, and controlling them. When Alex would vent to friends, their friends would tell them how the relationship wasn’t normal behavior. Alex would brush it off and try to justify Jordan’s actions, being oblivious and in denial about their reality. Jordan didn’t approve of Alex’s friends that were of the opposite sex. Jordan forced Alex to block and cut ties with many friends, but the rules never applied to Jordan. They were still friends with people of the opposite sex, and being very suspicious with a certain classmate. It was a double standard, and Alex was the only one having boundaries and rules.

Jordan started to accuse Alex of cheating. To make sure Alex’s self-esteem was low, Jordan would verbally put Alex down – commenting on their appearance, weight, and claiming that they could sleep with anyone. It was ironic to say the least because majority of their fights were due to Jordan’s flirtatious ways. Sometimes, the flirting would happen right infront of Alex. But when Alex would get upset, Jordan would brush it off as Alex having jealously issues. No matter what, Jordan always made Alex feel like they were doing something wrong and sneaky.

“No matter how many times I defended myself, I was always wrong in (their) eyes and I was the cheater,” Alex recalls. “I was upset of course. I could give reason – a valid reason – but (they) would never accept it as the truth.”

Jordan never let up on accusing Alex of cheating their whole 8+ year relationship. But there were multiple times where Alex caught Jordan cheating on them. And everytime Alex would confront Jordan about it, Jordan would say Alex is delusional. But the proof was in the pudding – all the messages, lies, and things not adding up. This put Alex in a difficult situation because by this time, they had a couple of children together already. Alex was tired of Jordan putting them down for things they were not guilty of. The least Jordan could do was admit their wrong doing, instead of projecting it back on Alex.

But that’s what Jordan was best at. Jordan would emotionally abuse Alex by not validating their feelings, ignoring them when they needed support, being very detached from the family. Alex admits that almost 9 years together and they still didn’t feel like they knew much about Jordan. Jordan kept to themselves, and didn’t give too much detail about their personal life and upbringing. This sense of privacy angered Alex because they just wanted to bond. Alex felt as though they only knew snippets of who Jordan really was, and there was no sign of Jordan budging or letting anyone in. They knew the basics of Jordan – like their favorite color, simple likes and dislikes, food, but anything passed that, Jordan kept Alex in the dark.

“8 years with (them), I’m assuming I was the only person who stayed the longest, and I learned about (them) from others,” Alex said.

Throughout their relationship, verbal abuse was very common. Jordan would call Alex names and put them down all the time. Everytime Alex tried to confront Jordan of cheating, even having valid evidence, Jordan would resort to name calling. Psycho. Stalker. Crazy. The list went on. Jordan would comment on Alex’s appearance, saying they gained weight, they should work out, they should do XYZ to themselves. Threats, insults, name calling, and being put down was common in their household.

On top of the verbal abuse, Jordan was notorious for their gaslighting. Jordan was constantly lying, making Alex believe the things they claimed – even if Alex had solid proof. Jordan’s go to defense mechanism was to deny deny deny. Jordan would deny saying something, even when Alex recalled the conversation and the details. It seemed like everything Jordan was guilty of, he would just project it back on Alex. Any questions Alex may have had were always met with accusations of Alex being a cheater, liar, and being at fault for causing a fight. Alex was miserable, but at the same time desperately wanted Jordan’s love. It was a love hate relationship, and that’s what made it all the more confusing.

Alex kept all these red flags from her family. They didn’t want their family’s perception of Jordan to change. Alex was protecting Jordan’s honor, and wanted their family to still see Jordan in a positive light. Therefore, Alex dealt with the abuse alone. Alex’s mother was extremely fond of Jordan. From the moment Alex brought Jordan home, Alex’s mother thought Jordan was great and really loved them. For 8 years, Alex’s family didn’t know how tumultuous their relationship was. On top of that, Jordan started to shit talk Alex’s family. Jordan would categorize them with certain stereotypes, and would judge them. To make Alex more insecure, Jordan would say that Alex’s sibling(s) wanted to have sex with them. Jordan claimed that Alex’s sibling(s) have mentioned it/ have hinted that they would be down for a sexual encounter. Alex didn’t believe what Jordan claimed, but was weary. Alex no longer wanted their sibling(s) around Jordan, fearing that what Jordan claimed was true. Alex started to distance themselves from their siblings.

Alex believes that this is part of the reason why Jordan wanted to move so far away from their family. Alex now sees, over 10 years later, that this was Jordan’s way of isolating them from people they were close to. They moved to another state – far enough that Jordan was confident that Alex’s family couldn’t afford to visit. They moved around a lot because Jordan was never satisfied with their location. Within 2 years they moved 4 times, from apartment complex to the next, to out of state, and another relocation after that. They finally settled in California. Alex had no family and no friends near by. All they had was Jordan, their kids, and Jordan’s family and friends. Alex felt alone throughout their relationship, but this time, they were actually alone, with no one to turn to except their abuser.

Alex was really lonely in California. Jordan would tell Alex that they were boring, and would act as if they were helping by forcing their family to hangout with Alex. In reality, Alex knew that they were just a burden to Jordan’s family, and Jordan forced others to hangout with Alex so they themself wouldn’t have to. Alex’s main and only concern were their children. But it seemed like Jordan always put their family last. Alex had enough. They were tired of the mind games, the name calling, the abuse, the cheating, not feeling good enough, they didn’t even recognize themself in the mirror anymore. Alex hit their breaking point. The relationship was going on 9 years, 9 years too long.

“I wanted to be loved, noticed, valued, and appreciated… but I wasn’t,” Alex shared. “I know now that I will never get those things from (Jordan), (they’re) incapable of it. Instead, I felt like I was a chess piece in (their) mind, just waiting to use me for (their) personal gain.”

A month before their 9 year anniversary, Alex made the decision to end their relationship. Alex was in the shower, taking extra long to avoid their reality. Something about that shower made Alex realize how unhappy they were in the relationship. It dawned on them that they were in a relationship with Jordan for almost 9 years, and never really knew the real them. Alex got out of the shower, and Jordan walked in the room with their phone in hand. Alex knew they had to end it.

“I don’t want to be with you anymore,” Alex told Jordan.

“Okay,” Jordan said.

Not a week later, Jordan was in a relationship with someone else. Alex was heartbroken. Jordan didn’t hesitate to say “okay” to not being together, and didn’t put up a fight for their family. And just like that, Jordan was repeating the same cycle with someone else, saying “I love you,” fast -less than 1 week after breaking up with Alex. On top of that, their lease was ending. Alex wanted to stay in the apartment and was going to take full responsibility of the rent and bills, and just needed Jordan to sign off on the lease. But Alex knew they couldn’t depend on Jordan, so Alex started to look for short term residency for themself and the children, not waiting for Jordan’s response.

Jordan didn’t come through with signing on another lease. This left Alex and their children homeless. For a month they lived in a motel, while Jordan moved in with their new significant other. When the children would go with Jordan, Alex would crash on a friend’s couch. Jordan never offered for the kids and Alex to stay with them in the meantime. Eventually, Alex found a place for themself and the kids. But California was just too much – too expensive, too stressful, too much for a single parent. Alex and the kids had to move back to Alex’s home state.

Alex and the kids moved out of state, and for a while the two were co-parenting from a distance. Alex finally decided to seek help. Therapy was Alex’s way to regain control of themself again. Alex felt lost, they couldn’t eat, they couldn’t sleep, and they wanted to find another way to cope with the failed relationship. It is at therapy that Alex learned that they were in an abusive relationship with a narcissist. They couldn’t believe it. When the therapist pointed out all the red flags and all the ways Jordan manipulated and abused them, Alex broke out into tears. 8 plus years of abuse validated. The therapist was confirming that Alex wasn’t crazy, they weren’t psycho, they weren’t making things up and misremembering information. It was abuse.

For a while, Alex felt like they were in a better place mentally. Their progress was tested when Jordan moved to where Alex and the children were after a couple of years of co-parenting from different states. Alex and Jordan became fuck buddies, and with time, it started to give Alex hope. Hope that they could possibly be a family again, or atleast co-parent respectfully. Alex was wrong. They realized once again that Jordan would never be the partner they wanted them to be. Alex admits that the fuck buddy system was put in place only because it was familiar.

The two stopped being friends with benefits, and Jordan found another partner to move in with. After all these years, Jordan was still pulling the same tactics. But even though Jordan has a new love interest, that doesn’t mean they’re over playing mind games with Alex. Jordan brings up occasionally how the two should try for another child. Alex thinks back to the crazy custody battles and how difficult it is to co-parent with Jordan, and shuts down the idea.

To this day, Alex’s family doesn’t know the truth about Jordan and their relationship. Only one of Alex’s siblings knows the truth. When Alex’s mom boasts about Jordan doing a good deed or brings them up in general, Alex can’t help but roll their eyes. But they don’t divulge their deepest darkest secrets, they don’t try to get their family to hate Jordan too, they don’t tell a peep about anything from the past. And in a way, Alex still fights this battle alone. They notice a huge change in the person they have become, but still won’t share it with the family.

And the same goes for friends. After Jordan and Alex broke up, Alex tried to rekindle the old friendships they lost. Sometimes it was successful, and sometimes it wasn’t. They acknowledge that these friendships ended due to Jordan, but sometimes it didn’t seem worth it to rekindle. Long absences usually calls for catching up, and Alex didn’t want to explain the past and relive what they went through. It was their business and they didn’t feel comfortable to share. They also didn’t feel like they needed to explain themself.

“I reached out to them, sometimes it worked and other times I realized it wasn’t a good situation to rekindle anything,” Alex said. “When you’re forced to remove friends from your life and you go back and rekindle things, you face judgments and you go into catching up with them. Oftentimes, there are questions, and I didn’t want to answer any of it so I just left it alone and left the friendship alone.”

Alex’s advice for the outsiders worried about a friend’s relationship is to be understanding. They advise that you hold your judments and opinions, and simply just be there for your friend. It’s easy to say and give advice when you are an outsider looking in, but when you’re actually in a toxic abusive relationship, it’s hard. Yes, give your opinions and voice out your concerns, but don’t make the person feel worse about themselves.

Alex and Jordan was in a relationship for almost 9 years, and they will have to both be in each other’s lives to an extent for their children. Alex has lost hope that they can co-parent peacefully with Jordan. Alex sees how happy their children are to have Jordan back in their lives, and they say that’s what made this journey worth it. But Alex does admit that co-parenting with a narcissist is nearly impossible. They feel as though they’re being sabotaged majority of the time. Alex doesn’t know yet if they’ll ever tell their kids the truth about Jordan. Their main concern is to protect the kids from the illusions Jordan tends to paint.

Alex has come a long way with working on themselves. They put up boundaries, and try hard to not let Jordan’s words get to them. Alex stressed the importance of thinking before reacting, and that has saved them a lot of tears. But of course, there are days when Alex just can’t stand Jordan – they break, they cry, they yell, they blast music to try to remember the bulletpoints of how Jordan tries to manipulate and control situations. There are days when Alex just writes. They write down all the negative things they want to say to Jordan until they feel better. They’ve put up walls, and they know they’re not the same person they used to be. Alex is at a constant battle fighting for themself, their mind, their heart.

“After the relationship ended, it took a while for me to accept what I went through, what my kids went through,” Alex said. “Now I accept it, I no longer deny my experience and my past. It is not my fault. What I went through was never my fault.”

11/07/2020

A letter to my future kids about this historic day.

Kids,

This is on some How I Met Your Mother shit, which is totally like me, so don’t even act surprised. Anyways, I wanted to write and document this day before some time passes and I forget some details…

For reference, let me rewind it 4 years prior to this day. November 2016. I’ll never forget going to school the day after America learned that the next president would be Trump. Going into school was depressing. There was such a heaviness in the air on San Francisco State campus. Trump being president was the topic of discussion in every conversation, every class, and on the news. Everyone was disappointed and scared of what the next 4 years would be like.

My journalism teachers were especially devastated. Journalism is already a challenging profession, but to also have a president that claims certain news outlets as “fake news” would make the job that more challenging. My professors would always add how we are going into the industry at a very delicate time. There will be people that don’t believe us, will question our credibility, and will refuse to talk to us – following the lead of Trump. They were worried for their students’ futures and the country. What would the next 4 years be like?

I can’t believe its been 4 years under Trump. In these 4 years he has caused so much hurt and divide. When he was elected, it brought to light all the broken parts of America that still need fixing. Suddenly, racism wasn’t something to be ashamed of anymore, locking kids in cages wasn’t seen as inhumane, whether black lives mattered or not was now a debate, and following orders to stop the spread of a disease was taking away rights. Just 2020 alone is so bizarre. And some of us in America had enough. Especially with a pandemic to add to all the turmoil that Trump had caused, we demanded change.

Kids, I’m sure your textbooks will go over what kind of human Trump was. Your textbooks will probably have screenshots of some of his ridiculous tweets and statements, you’ll probably see videos of things he’s said and done, and you’ll probably wonder, “how the hell was this guy the president?!And I’ll be sitting there just as confused as you are. I’ll be there to tell you my experiences – being a college student studying Journalism and Women Gender Studies when all of this was going down. Unfortunately, I’ll have to share how decisions under his term hurt people I was close to and made a lot of people fear for their safety. How he acted and influenced others made me fear for my safety as a woman. I’ll even have to open up about the divide it had on the world and in people’s homes. What weird times.

I felt especially guilty because I didn’t vote in 2016. Yup, I admit it. To this day, I still feel so ashamed and embarrassed. It was a mix of knowing California was going to be blue anyways, thinking no way Trump would be elected, and honestly just not taking initiative or making time to register. Right after Trump was elected, I made sure to register and vote for everything that came after. When 2020 came around, I knew I had to redeem myself. If I wanted change, I had to be a part of it. If I wanted to complain and bitch, I had to make sure that I had a say in the decisions being made.

Seeing how America decided to vote in 2016 scared me. To add to that, the pandemic made people hesitant to vote in person. I voted through the mail, and did it weeks in advance to make sure it was recieved in time. Me and your Ninang Merl had a voting session where we sat at the livingroom couch going over props and candidates for Daly City. We debated over certain things, but it helped because it made us take into consideration the opposite side. It forced us to ask ourselves – who would this effect? What’s the pros and cons? For presidency obviously it was an easy Biden / Harris vote of course. Kids, did I mention this was the year that Kanye West was on the ballot? Remind your Papa Lando about this and you’ll hear an earful. Hahaha.

But, we filled out the ballots about 2-3 weeks in advance and we mailed it in that same day, right after visiting your Great Tatay Jacinto. That is also another story… By this time we were about 7 months into the pandemic life. We usually visited Tatay Jack’s place every other Sunday along with all your great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, and older cousins. We would gather and have dinner, putting on animal planet shows because that was Tatay’s favorite, or America’s funniest home videos. Tatay also didn’t have cable on his TV. But with the pandemic and Tatay being 96, we had to stop the gatherings. It was too risky. So, he spent his 97th birthday Sheltering in Place. It still makes me sad to think about. But your Papa Lando, Ninang Merl, and I would try to drive by every Sunday to drop off some bread for Tatay and Tita. And when I mean drop off, I literally mean drop off. We wore masks, stayed more than 6 feet away, tried not to touch anything, said hello to Tatay, and left. The whole encounter would take about 1 minute max.

That was around mid-October when we mailed in the ballots. But when November started to loom around the corner, I started to get nervous. I did my part, but would the rest of America do its part? I wasn’t the only one stressed. It’s all everyone and anyone could talk about. We had your Ninang Cam’s baby shower on Halloween. It was a good little distraction from the election. Your Ninang Justine, Ninang Lyn, Ninang Cam’s mom, and I planned it for your God brother, Jojo. We were so excited because Kuya Jojo was the first baby to be born in our group. Even though it was in the middle of a pandemic, we kept the event small and made sure people were taking proper protocols. But once the baby shower was over, all of our attention went back to the dreaded election.

The first couple days of November was nerve wrecking. Once it was November 3rd, my eyes were glued to my phone. At this time, your dad and I had moved in together, but we didn’t have cable, only Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime video etc. So I didn’t have access to the news. Now that I think about it, refreshing the results on my phone was probably better for my anxious ass, since your Ninang Merl was saying that hearing the news anchors’ 5 cents made her more stressed. Everybody was saying that it would take days – maybe even weeks to know who the winner was. Especially since voting was taking place during a pandemic. Some states said it would take a week or two to count up all the mail in ballots. Still, I refreshed and refreshed my phone on November 3rd.

I woke up November 4th and went straight to my phone, thinking that I would have a notification with the winner. Nope. Throughout the workday I would refresh my phone, making myself anxious looking at the percentages. I couldn’t help it. It was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn’t look away. And even if I could look away, I’d be getting updates from your Auntie Hong at work. She was on it. I loved working with your Auntie Hong. She’d give me updates while she was on break and I was on duty about the election. Little did she know I had the tab open on the laptop as I did my work, refreshing every 10 minutes or so.

Kids, when you’re in distress, turn to memes. I will say that the memes about waiting for Nevada and how fuckin slow they were counting their ballots was what kept the situation light. The memes made it funny, even though inside everyone was trippin out. By Thursday and Friday, I just assumed that we weren’t going to know the winner until atleast November 12th – the date Nevada gave us regarding their mail in ballots. I tuned it out of my mind, but still I refreshed my phone screen everytime it came to mind again.

On November 7, 2020, at around 8:12 AM, your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl came to pick up your dad and I from our San Francisco house. We were going to meet up my Auntie Salvie, your Uncle Michael, Uncle Ryan, Kuya Jacob & Brayden, and Ate Ava to go hiking. This is something we starter during quarantine. We couldn’t be at Tatay’s house, and we were all cautious about social distancing. But we missed the family hangouts. So we would hike every Saturday, wearing masks and catching up.

“Here.” Your Ninang Merl texted me.

Your dad and I got in the car, and we were on our way to the hiking meeting spot. Of course, all we could talk about was the election. Your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl kept talking politics, talking about which states we needed to win, how corrupt both parties are, etc. Through all this noise, your dad pulled out his phone. He said out loud that Biden won and showed me his phone. I looked at the top that read “The Associated Press has called this race.”

“Wait. The Associated Press called it. That means its official?!” I said in disbelief, searching it on my phone.

We all couldn’t believe it. But something in me was hesitant to believe. So I waited it out. We went on the hike, and your Uncle Ryan and Auntie Salvie started getting notifications through apps and websites. We had a new president. I was still hesitant to look at my phone. I didn’t want to be taken out of the present moment to be glued to my phone, so I saved my stalking and fact checking for after the hike. I couldn’t get it out of my head the excitement and relief I felt. This was really happening? I couldn’t believe it.

After the hike I went on social media and everyone was posting about it. We had a new president. We got Trump out of office, and by his tweets, he was not happy about it. I was in awe. I will say that I had little to no faith in America to vote Trump out. I really hoped we would, but was I confident? Hell nah. I really thought that these swing states were going to disappoint again. I’m so happy that they didn’t though.

I had so many things racing through my mind. Trump was out of office! But there was a lot of work to be done, voting him out was the first step to rebuilding. And then I thought… holy shit, our Vice President is a woman. Not only a woman, but a Black and Indian woman. The first woman to be vice president. I couldn’t believe that I was living this historic day in history. I got to see the first black man become president, and now, I got to see the first black and brown woman to be vice president.

This was big. Your Papa Lando was dropping us back to our San Francisco house because we still had a lot of laundry to do. But I knew people were going to start gathering on the streets. I knew there were celebrations about to explode. And I was right. People took it to the streets, from San Francisco, to New York, to even Canada. I wanted to go out and celebrate as well, but your Papa Lando was afraid for our safety. Which I was hesitant about too. Not only that, but your dad reminded me that we’re in the middle of a fuckin’ pandemic. So, your dad and I celebrated by ordering food and gorging ourselves. By 8 PM we decided to swing by the Haight. Your dad had something to pick up, and we decided to pick up some pizza while we were there. It was dark, cold, and getting a little late, but people were still driving by honking and cheering.

We ordered our extra large pizza and waited outside, that was the new thing to do in the COVID era. I remember looking into the pizza shop and seeing their TV on the news. They kept showing scenes and clips from different parts of America of people celebrating. Clips of Biden and Harris filled the screen. That was our new president and vice president. I thought of how historic this day was. How cool it was to finally have a woman as a vice president. Thinking it won’t be long until we have a woman as a president.

I was hopeful for the future. The last 4 years under Trump was like watching a Circus shit show. The end to his presidency was what America needed after a rough 2020. Kids, I hope by the time you read this that the world has changed for the better. I hope you’re in complete shock that a woman was elected for the first time in my lifetime, because there are so many women of color in office as you read this. I hope this post ages well, and I can tell you that Biden and Harris did a hell of a good job. I hope they do, and it’s up to me and other Americans to hold them accountable.

Kids, that’s what I was doing on Saturday, November 7, 2020, when history was made.