Last week I was involved in a group art project. The first instruction we received was to trace around our left hand on a piece of paper. Then we were told to draw within the hand a representation of ourselves.
I thought for a very long time — long enough that one of the other participants asked if I needed something. I said that I did not, but was just thinking about what to draw.
I surveyed the supplies on hand: colored markers. I listened to other people describing to each other what they were doing and why. Many included symbols of skills, interests or activities. The woman next to me began by drawing in her wedding ring, and then putting stick figures next to it which represented the members of her family.
I had no real interest in doing any of these things, but also was a bit annoyed with myself at how long it was taking me to consider what I should draw. This was not fine art we were making, or anything that anyone would ever really see or care about.
And yet I couldn’t just toss it off. I couldn’t just draw symbols for my occupation or hobbies or family members. I had been asked specifically to draw something which represented my identity, and that instruction cut right into me, somewhat unexpectedly, because I had no idea what that was. I was facing a great big blank, and starting to grow agitated and somewhat sad.
As others began to wrap up what they were doing, and the inevitable next part of the project grew nearer, my only option was to begin drawing and hope that something came to me. As I picked up the first marker I had literally no idea what I was going to do with it.
It was red, and I used it to draw a horizontal line across the middle of my hand. Right away it looked to me like a horizon, so I sketched some blue lines above it to represent a sky, and then a yellow sun emanating from my fingertips toward the palm. Then I found myself adding an orange road heading toward that horizon, and some grey, craggy rocks along the road. With a green pen I drew three trees.
I had picked colors essentially at random based on what was available at that moment in the box, and then just decided spontaneously how to use them. Now I put the green pen down, and took the only color remaining in the box: pink. I didn’t know why, but I used it to draw mountains, and that’s when I realized what I was drawing.
The road of my life is blocked by the large, pink and lavender-flecked mountains of my transgender issues. I need to cross that horizon and climb those mountains. I need to find a path because, beyond them, the sun shines.
And that’s how a silly little art project taught me who I am, and what I need to do, right now.