Written by Lynx M’Chea (he/him), Deputy Communications Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality

Joy, to me, is like exhaling; I know I need to do it but, for some reason, my default is to hold my breath. I’m a Black trans man who’s autistic. That means I’m constantly trying to turn down the noise of the world so I can function healthy while also having to tune in to anticipate when a space becomes unsafe. Like I’m always bracing for impact or I’m afraid of what happens when I just let go and feel how I’m feeling. There’s a unique euphoria, a release, I feel when I’m honest about my pain and anger. It feels like creating a big window inside the walls I have up and letting fresh air in.

My Ma always said that love was in the quiet moments and that’s where the joy in my life has shown up the most. The times where I laughed for 5 minutes straight, I see a kid triumphantly ride a bike by themselves for the first time while looking out my window or the sound of my girlfriend laughing. I am never more happy than I am in those quiet moments but being all of who I am has made finding the quiet in the room…difficult. It’s not hard for me to find the quiet in the room, per-say. But it is hard to be present in those moments when the noise of the world is so loud. The “noise” being other people’s fear, hate and apathy.

I’ve learned that the serenity from those joyful, quiet moments in life are so vivid that they are loud enough for me to see. As long as I remember to look beyond the “noise”, I’ll always have joy at the center of my life.

Being autistic makes that easy for me because my mind is always in a few different places so finding joy is as easy as “crossing the street”, in a sense. It brings me joy to be intentionally still and quiet everyday. I do guided meditation, practice restorative yoga, I sit by the river and read or I have “unplug” time where I turn off all of my devices and go off-grid for a day or two (I’ll even not use the lights or power, it’s quieter for sensory reasons anyway).

There’s joy in my future, and in my life now, because I am protecting my peace by not letting other people’s limits become my expectations.

Growing up Black & trans, I was taught to shrink to fit, to hide in plain sight and always keep parts of myself hidden away because “the world isn’t ready for something like me.”

“They” said an autistic person could never talk to people for a living and I’ve been a communications professional for almost 10 years now. “They” said “no one could ever love a thing like me” and I have more love in my life now than some people experience in a lifetime. My girlfriend and I are talking about getting married in a couple of years and becoming adoptive parents in the future.

Right now, I’m finishing the novel I started writing when I was a teenager. It’s part my story and the stories of the friends I had as a kid, people like me who didn’t have the space to center joy in their life because “the world wasn’t ready for something like that.”

Joy isn’t about getting everything you want when you want it, it’s about being at peace with who you are no matter where you are, literally or figuratively, and letting yourself laugh.

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