Sharpening Teeth by Féi Hernandez



Sensitivity is usually associated with frailty, powerlessness, femininity. This is especially true if you grow up in a Mexican boy’s body, with no paternal figure to break you into the man you were destined to be from birth. It is also a certain truth if you carry a deep rooted pessimism inarguably linked to your marginalized identities (trans, immigrant) which are constantly at the attack of the state and any system associated with it including relationship structures like: family, romantic/platonic partners, and friendships.


In my case, my Ma agreed to send me with her brother, a truck driver, on a 2 day trip at the age of, um, let’s say 9, to, underlyingly, maybe, hopefully, shift me to a boy more like my classmates. To say the least, I remember running out of tears and throwing up out the window, softening my uncle into realizing this project was a lost cause.


On this long trip through the desert all I wanted was my Mulan action figure. I wanted to be held by the matriarchs that made me: my Ma, my agüelita, my tia Patty.


How could they have agreed to this?


Maybe it was how easily I wept the intergenerational trauma they carried, how easily I fell and scraped myself; maybe it was the way I comforted elders in their sadness, or maybe how I spoke to the air or little ones that were not there in flesh.


Or maybe they were trying to protect me from being exposed to the world as someone who may need “saving.”


I come from strong, horse-shouldered, mystic women. They don’t cry, unless they’re alone. Or they cry in the presence of each other, and wail, demand attention, strikingly. They know what they want and let it dictate their ways.


My sacred power comes from this source of harpy women who take no shit from men.


My empathic and energetic sensibilities to others, alive and not, is a trait passed on to me from them, that they, in many ways shut out. Because being a sensitive person would make you lose your man.


If you were too soft, they’d steal your job or call immigration on you. If you were seemingly weak in any way they would bully you.


However, after long hours of brewing this magic potential, I’ve realized that this thing we fear, being sensitive, is a soft source for our evolution. To be sensitive, although hard many a times, is a gift. To be able to convene with the energy of the planets, talk to ancestors in real time, receive messages from el otro lado, and be powerfully attuned to my clients, family, friends, and lovers alike as a human, as a healer, as a writer is the breadth of life itself.


Who would have thought that my child-tears were pointing to something larger than the body suit I inhabited. Who would have imagined that my femininity, the softness that grew in me was the force that connected me to the world. So why has this sacred, divine muscle been pinched and twisted into rigid strain? Why is sensitivity repulsive, deemed shame-worthy and a debility?


To be sensitive can be defined by how honest you are with yourself indiscriminate of the world outside of you. Your truths, your vision, your personality are all integral, non-compromisable parts of you that exist, feet planted in the ground. It is extremely difficult to stand firmly as simple the task may seem.


Imagine standing by the ocean laps of Playa Del Rey. Just you, the sunset, and the water digging you deeper in the sand. How long can you stand against the tug and pull of the foamy waters before breaking free of your stance?


People, systems, self-imposed expectations are like the waves at the beach, testing your resistance. The world is constantly crashing into us, forcing us to huddle, concave into lies, compromise our divine purpose for enticing capitalistic distractions. It is an extreme measure of survival to be sensitive after the weight of trauma on your back.


Consider for a moment how much effort goes to amounting the courage to set a boundary with someone you love. Sensitivity requires you to know your capacity, your needs, and vocalize them as well as release them (in whatever healthy ways are true to you). It is easier to know yourself as a smudge––a hazy ghost whose life would be less complicated if it didn’t have to harden to know itself.


To be completely honest, I go back and forth between beast and ghost. It’s not easy to be fully grounded in myself when I’ve spent years dissociated, pulling all parts “perfect” to make me less of a smudge, to make sure the world could witness I made it this far. But moments like this one, as I write to you, my reader, where I allow myself to have a clearer vision of myself, I can maybe, just maybe, turn the light on in the gold thread inside all of us long enough to shine the way to a better sensible future.


It’s not easy to live a life that centers sensibility in the kind of nation (United States of America) we live, but I do try everyday. It is my resistance.


Survival, as an immigrant person that was once undocumented, that is trans non-binary and has always been queer growing up in the hood requires an elaborate defense mechanism. A fast reflex, a smart beyond a superficial smart.


I don’t want to die.


But let’s consider how many times this girl has been PLAYED or abandoned, abused on multiple levels.


My sensitivity made me feel weak, especially in this tangled mess that is my lived experience where I felt I always had to FIGHT. I hardened, internalized homophobia, transphobia, fat phobia, I didn’t cry or ask for help. I was made of stone. No one could save me even if they tried. I became a cut-throat, loud-mouthed, hair-flipping, eye rolling cry for help. Some would call me a “bad bitch,” but for clearly curated reasons, others looked at me with forlorn eyes and would smile, but wouldn’t ask: when are you going to be yourself?


I was the strong one, I was my mother’s mother, I was the caretaker not allowed to show weakness. I was the invincible force that fought for justice, the praised and (Instagram) liked intersectional writer, and healer, and visual artist and, and, and. I was the untouchable woman that men feared and dare not cross. Until I realized I was alone.


I had officially abandoned myself.


There came a stark blue that took over me that felt more desolate, more pain striking than the actual pain I was blown. It was my lack of vulnerability. It was the performance of invincibility that was gripping me by the neck, this time. It was there and then that I took my first breath under water and knew I had to kick my feet into the ocean floor and fly.


This isn’t all to say I’m not a “bad bitch” anymore. It just means I became an actual bad bitch now that I refused to live a life of guardedness and defensiveness, a life where my joy existed in the grand epic novel that is the tragedy of my life.


Over the course of time I’ve had to revisit my defensiveness, hardness, and snappiness that had defined me for so long. I had to redefine a healthy balance between don’t-be-a-dumb-bitch AND I’m-not- going-to-comprise-my-peace-my-aliveness-my-livelihood-my-ability-to-love-for-the-sake-of- the-bone-you’re-offering-me.


To live transparently and boldly without a mask takes the courage of warriors. It takes the sensuality, yet assertiveness of river goddesses. To be sensitive, untethered, unburdened by habitual energy (old habits), and fear. takes. work. A lot of work and this is where I found that my sensibilities, my acute attention to people and spaces made me capable of writing work like this.



I understand now that my Ma didn’t want me to suffer, as she had seen her predecesores suffer in moments of “sensitivity.” She saw how much shame, hurt, ridicule folks who were sensitive underwent and from there on decided it wasn’t an attribute that she, and the rest of the matriarchs, would pass on.


When I showed all of the signs of being a sensitive child, she prayed and did what any parent would do: she sharpened my teeth. And now, full circle, we sit and heal together the long and crusted wounds that have prevented us from being whole people, capable of so much more, now that we cry, and mourn, and welcome our softness, implement our boundaries, and receive the love we deserve.



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