“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” - Maya Angelou The years of my youth, long ago dissolved into history. Only a vague awareness of their relentless passage remains Undefined longing, born of the story I lived each day, but never knew Left ghosts of uncertainty woven into the fabric of my existence. Ever present and seemingly unchanged across the years, These longings linger like the smell of wood smoke from last night’s fire Clinging to my skin, wrapping themselves about each stand of hair, I could feel them, gripping my heart, whispering in my dreams. I see their shadowy form in my reflection, even though others could not. Part of my soul, they are my story, one never spoken aloud. A lifetime of grappling with their shadows has brought understanding, the why of their existence, a final acceptance of their truth. That I was to live my life as a transgender woman was no longer deniable Yet I remained cloaked in invisibility, unable to summon the courage to face the inevitable consequences certain be unleashed Yet my words, as an animal in a cage, long to break free of confinement, run free in the world Fear calls upon every argument, no matter how thinly disguised To strangle my voice, to preserve the status quo of silence. Hope rises in resistance, growing stronger bit by bit. Until the resistance finally crumbles and the words pour forth. In defiance of fear, swaddled in the words of my story A lifetimes labor comes to fruition, truth in physical form. With this realization came courage, came visibility. And the woman that is Rachel was born into this world.