JUNE 23, 2018
WORDS BY JASE CANNON
In COMPASSion lives my COMPASS
This past week’s Solstice celebrates the fruits of our labors over the winter, when we folded in to the short days and long nights, and allowed our deep inner work to take place. Today is about rejoicing and celebrating what has manifested from our collective efforts, and feels particularly appropriate for me at this very moment, as my voice finds its way outward once again. After I’d returned to New York and settled into my new life as a woman, I found myself nestling more and more into a protective cocoon, to process everything that was taking place. A lot has happened in the last year and a half! It has been a period of reinforcing a connection to my heart, another cycle of sitting humbly and listening, and surrendering even more fearlessly to whatever might arise from the stillness.
The joy that I find each time I fall to my knees in surrender is the purest I’ve ever known. My filters fall away as I tune into the essence of what truly matters, and I am able to see clearly again. I locate myself in this sometimes-chaotic world and find my footing in the simplicity of just being, and accepting everything that I am, with all the complexity and paradox that comes along with that. Sometimes we forget that getting out of own way and allowing things to work themselves out is the most direct path to our truth.
The concept of ‘navigation’ has been a theme in my life lately. I’ve felt quite lost at times, and often feel like I’m trying to navigate on a daily basis, to figure out which way to turn. This has augmented with my transition as the road markers are even less obvious, and I have fewer maps to follow. But my inner compass has become my most valuable tool. Compasses only work because the magnet inside is freely suspended, allowing its attraction to the Earth’s magnetic field to provide accurate direction at all times. When I can let go and suspend freely, I am immediately aligned with my purpose.
I feel especially aligned at this moment, connecting once again with the power of writing and of sharing my truth with others. There is a strong current within me, and when I tap it and allow it to flow upward with words, I feel the rush of desire to use my own experiences to uplift and be of service to others in whatever way possible. This bridge, between my inner and outer worlds, through writing, also bridges my message with the ears and eyes of the people who find it. In this way, the work that I do to connect with the deepest parts of myself can be of benefit to others, in the natural flow outward that happens when the time is right. I believe that timing really is everything, and that there are forces at work that may not make sense to us, or indulge our personal agendas the way we want. But successful navigation involves understanding that we are not in full control, yet we must be ready to act when opportunities present themselves.
Three years ago, I was given an opportunity that changed my entire life, to leave the complications of my NYC life behind for a period of time, and focus my attention inward. I was blessed with the privilege to arrange my affairs back home and really dedicate all of my energy to the task of uncovering the trauma that had been stifling me for so long. It was terrifying and I was depleted already by the time I arrived at the ashram, but my resolve was stronger than anything I’d ever known. I sat with myself for 90 days, four hours every day in the temple. I learned to listen without self-judgment and self-hatred. I found compassion for myself for the first time, and in that I found my compass.
Once my inner magnet was permitted to orient itself to my True North, when I’d accepted the reality of who I am, I could see just how misaligned I’d been for so long. Everything rearranged itself in subtle ways that felt monumental to me. My first steps coming out as a trans woman were truly like those of a baby learning to walk. But I was walking in the right direction.
Returning to my life in the city was exhilarating. I’d gotten rid of the signature beard and I changed my name. I’d published a series of completely unfiltered essays that felt utterly freeing to share with my community. I stood tall and proud in my new identity, creating space for my friends to process my choices and actions, and went back to the yoga studio to continue teaching. I produced one of my biggest wellness fundraising events to date in my stilettos and new power suit. Introducing hormones was one of the most significant shifts in my physical and mental wellbeing, and undergoing breast implant surgery was the other. I was surfing the wave of my new identity and the surge of energy that accompanied this huge discovery.
There were countless moments of pure joy that I’d never felt in quite the same way before. There were equally as many moments of deep sadness. On the one hand, I was finally expressing all of myself without holding anything back, all while loving myself fully. But there are aspects of society that are threatened by these qualities, and I was confronted at every turn with judgment and anger. I questioned my safety in this new and changing body, and hesitated to go out in public or even to practice yoga at my own studio. I tried to ignore the whispers, name-calling, and pointing fingers as I walked down the streets. I receded from social media and stayed home as much as possible, struggling with the weight gain that resulted from the hormone therapy combined with my inactivity. I encountered the unexpected difficulty for some of those closest to me in fully accepting my decision to live openly as a woman, and I quickly learned one of the most ingrained skills of being female, in doing everything I could to smooth out the discomfort of other people.
The dysmorphia of having body parts that do not represent what I feel inside is a constant challenge and I deal with that anxiety regularly. That said, my doctors and nurses throughout this process have been unbelievably amazing, and I am beyond grateful for the physicians and friends who cared for me throughout my top surgery, which brings me so much happiness. I’ve wanted breasts for as long as I can remember, and having them is a dream come true.
The juxtaposition of all these feelings is remarkable to simply hold and sit with. But there is no amount of criticism from others that even comes close to the pain of what it was like to hide myself behind a mask for over thirty years. As I desperately sought approval and love, I suppressed my truth more and more. My compass was buried underneath layers of confusion and pain. My inner voice deepened and spoke the words I thought others wanted it to. My memory of it is of almost total darkness, though I’m sure this would come as a surprise to many of you who knew me as Jason.
A big part of the complexity of being transgender, and being close to someone who changes their identity in a dramatic way, is the relationship between the person we once were and the person we have become. In some ways, it is no different from anybody else over the course of a lifetime, who may change in various ways for various reasons. In my case, the distinction between Jase and Jason is both very real and in many ways nonexistent. Jase is Jason is Jase. I realize that I am lucky to have this awareness, and that it may be challenging for other people to grasp. At my core, in my heart, I am simply continuing along my journey in this lifetime as someone who identifies more than anything with my dharma: to be of service, and that is where my compass has always pointed. I simply uncovered the awareness that, in order to truly serve others, it is imperative to love and serve myself without judgment and fear.
In my opinion, the most effective way to be of service is to lead by example. One cannot simply talk the talk—she must walk the walk first. I walk proudly now, allowing my heart to lead the way, and finding strength in a community of queer, trans, and allied people who share in my acceptance of myself. I feel stronger with every day that goes by, despite the political climate, for we cannot afford to let fear take hold even for a moment. My voice is rising and it will be heard. I have crawled out of my shell and I can only hope that my courage will inspire others to do the same, to show up for themselves above all, and then for their communities when their strength becomes unstoppable.
There will always be lessons to learn and obstacles in our way, for this is simply part of being human. My promise to myself and to you, is to do whatever I need to do in order to continue getting back up and taking the next step forward, because my steps are your steps, and yours are mine. We are all truly connected. Each and every person deserves to be loved, to be heard, and supported, and I won’t stop until every trans person receives the same without question. My recent work with trans and queer youth has opened my eyes and my heart to a beautiful community that I feel so blessed to be meeting, and I can’t wait to share with you what we are starting to do together.
I love that the longest days of the year fall during PRIDE, as our celebration of queerness and color is illuminated for all to see. The days may begin to grow shorter, but the glow I feel from this week’s march and parade will be shining bright whenever I need a reserve of light during times of darkness. Thank you to all who have marched proudly and bravely in the direction of your own truth!
With a prideful heart,