I reach into my past like I’m reaching for a treasured toy in a bag. Excited to answer the question “from where do you hail, what made you…you?”, only when I search for the piece that so many others hold so near to their heart I find nothing.

Culture? The set of societal morals and precepts for a given people whom share a similar heritage, land mass, or plight. They have their own food, their own land, they have something that’s theirs they all hold in regard because nobody has that one thing.

I know nothing of my ancestral roots. European, obviously, I am white. But I have zero European identity. I have a picture of Queen Elizabeth on my corkboard next to my mirror in my cell. She’s young, maybe early 20’s at most, walking down some street lined with soldiers whom are rigidly taught, she is staring one of them right in his eyes as she passes. I kept it because I seen another photo where she is wearing a similar dress and laughing with a group of girls, her youth and perhaps obliviousness to her future role on display. But then there’s this picture, where I like to imagine this is the moment where she realized “I’m f*****g Queen Elizabeth bitch”. I respect that. So I keep the photo to remember, we have all had our moments of naivety and its perfectly fine to grow up, so long as you’re Queen, which…clearly I am.

That’s my only tie to Europe, a photo. My soul does not dance to the sound of a sacred drum that beckons me to Valhalla. My heart does not beat to the footsteps of a nation from long ago. My face is not set like the flinty stone of the mighty African nations of old. I do not hear the ancient song of Asian clans nor do I smell the burning incense of fervor that please the spirits of my family tree. I cannot hear the tongue of a guiding sign soothing me into my path. I have been robbed, my culture is missing.

I did not choose this land. I did not choose this…thing that I am. A woman born a man. Most days I barely feel like a human, even the poorest of nations have roots, even war torn nations have culture to protect, to fight for. But not me, not us. These labels of trans or American or United…they are rootless. Seed that has been sewn on rocks that I used to cherish, to feel protected by, but now have grown to be scorched by the sunlight of my yesterdays. Trod upon by the feet of bitterness and restlessness of my cultureless heritage.

Missing father…a whole half of a tree simply gone. Traded as a child like a commodity, like a baseball card that wasn’t good enough for a collection, a mistake that someone else found to be treasure. My roots begin in the city dump, rescued from the toilet of a Midwestern hospital where I was to be condemned to death before I was given life. It’s easy to demonize those who simply gave up.

“From where do you grow, dear child?”, the moon asks me in the night as it lulls me to sleep and ponder my own days work in the lucid reality of a second realm I visit each night.

“From the land of…I have no answer yet again Luna, perhaps tomorrow I can ask the Sun ‘from where do I grow, dear Sun’ and maybe she’ll say ‘my dear Ruth, you have grown from such and such, the land of such and such’, then I will have an answer for us Luna.” Perhaps then I will feel like hanging my Home Sweet Home sign, perhaps then I’ll unpack my things, perhaps then I will make a good wife.

Maybe one day I can replace the sour memories of my past with the lulling guidance of a distant and ancient civilization I can call “my people”. Where I will find roots that when I entrench my fingertips into the soil the energy of my calling will flow through my veins like a current and ignite my guiless history into one of veracious pride.

“Goodnight, sweet Luna” I say to her evening rising “I bid you a pleasant watch.”

With Love
Ruth Utnage

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