Selfie - Shmee
Her Inner Light - Love
Her message to women everywhere - “Thank you, first of all! I’m sorry. You’re beautiful. You are life. Teach us.”
During the recent eclipse as the moon and sun joined as one, Shmee noted how the sky, usually appearing two-dimensional, revealed the depth of space. Another memory of the moon and sun, this one from some years back, Shmee’s first time in California on a bus crossing an expansive landscape. From the bus window, she could see that it was just turning dusk. As the sun set in the west, the moon rose in the east, two celestial bodies harmonizing the sky in a swath of incandescent colors.
Shmee is a visual artist. Since childhood she has turned to art for solace and creative expression. Through watercolor and ink, Shmee delves into herself and comes out the other side of a flow state with a story from the heart to tell. The Art of Shmee can be commissioned on paper, canvas, tapestries and clothing. Shmee is also a student of depth psychology, the study of the unconscious. She is braving self-knowledge into the shadows and the light through a central inquiry that she has undertaken her whole life. The inquiry of her self as a female-bodied, masculine-of-center, gender-nonconforming person.
Trees, like people, can be male or female. But trees do not have to be only one or the other. Indeed many trees can blossom both male and female flowers. Others — conifers and gingkoes — can change sex as they mature. Tree morphology is complex and evolving, and they are far from the only species in nature where the line between male and female is blurred. Shmee likes to say, “There’s an unifying humanity that potentiates in each of us. Identity can sound so permanent, and it’s easy for me to forget the fluidity that’s available to me, that’s available to all of us. Let’s meet each other where we’re at.”
Four-year-old Shmee is standing next to her dad in front of the bathroom mirror, shaving with a toy barber shop kit, a gift she’d asked for. Seven-year-old Shmee is playing happily with dolls and trucks, alike. Little Shmee is at the doctor’s office telling the doctor that she wants to be a boy and asking what can the doctor do to help her with that. The doctor tells her that to become a boy, she should kiss her elbow. So Shmee does for days, reaching her lips to her elbow; for years, reaching for mirrors to her true reflection; for decades, reaching for interconnection with herself and others.
Trees have no need to translate themselves. They exist majestically: Casting shade, giving oxygen, stabilizing the soil that gives life and composes the after-life. We too can exist, simply, without incessant translation. Shmee says, "For a long time, my story has been one of defending myself, of grasping my worth because I didn’t see society or my culture of origin relating to people like me, the ‘others’. I had no queer, gender-variant role models, no transgender people who I knew in my life as a kid." The struggle for integrated existence is universal whatever our origins or makeup. If we can connect on that level, maybe we can see past the layers of our permeable outer shell, beyond the confines we have constructed upon biology, upon social expectations and stigma. Maybe we can see beyond the lines of ‘othering' through to the heart of the being.
We are not born until we are. We are not sisters, mothers, grandmothers until others are born. Like gingkoes and conifers, our fundamental yet fluid identities change and evolve as we mature. What more then of our identities that are not the result of our decision-making, not the result of others’ births, but seed from within the organic core of us? With her soulful eyes and warm playfulness, Shmee will look straight at you and say, "It’s not that I’m born female and identify as a man. I’m very proud to be a woman, but I also don’t fully identify as a woman. I embrace my female biology as my natural self, and I also embrace my non-binary identity as an expression of my human nature. I'm not trying to present myself to fool or confuse others. I’m trying to live authentically."
“Shmee” started as a whimsical nickname given by friends. Later she learned that in the Hebrew language, the sound “shmee” meant “my name is”. In my name is, Shmee honors the struggle that has come between her inner and outer confluence. In my name is, full stop, Shmee authenticates who she is. "My name is just my name. I am just who I am. Let it go.” Let it flow into the widening of a smile that emerges when this name is sounded. Let it flow, this “she-me-he" that embraces her polygenderedness.
Shmee has largely kept her gender identity private. Her heart goes out to those who experience rejection, ridicule, and threats to their safety in response to their authentic expression, and to those whose lives are devalued in the patriarchal constructs. She has drawn strength from family and friends who express genuine interest in her experience, and she is especially grateful to her mother who continues to grow and evolve with her. Like trees, our healthy roots enrich our healthy growth. Now Shmee is grateful to bear witness to her emergence. "To acknowledge that my body is one of the beautiful things that has emerged from the earth, the cosmic dust and the air in between. I have to honor what’s coming up in me because no one else is going to give voice to that, no one else can give voice to that.” After a deep, life-long inquiry, Shmee says, “I’m ready to own up to the rejected aspects of myself, the unkind ways of the world, the things I’m afraid to look at in the face. The courage has been built within myself. I’m ready for my voice to feel strong in the world.”