Before everyone started to recognize him as a Buddha or “enlightened one”, Siddhārtha Gautama was the first to recognize himself as such, and soon afterward declared to others that he was. A lot of people were initially suspicious because he was seen doing things previously that seemed to contradict this new insight, or he was saying and doing things now that contradicted what they assumed was proper of an awakened being. But over time, through the grace of his benevolent presence and in awe of his unshakable self-confidence, people started coming round to him, and eventually they would not just politely refer to him as the Buddha but actually see him as a Buddha, just like he always said he was.
As a trans woman, I draw a lot of inspiration from the Buddha. Like the Buddha’s awakening, my insight into myself did not happen instantaneously in a single moment, and nor did it happen methodically through concerted thought and effort, but arose spontaneously like a dawning of the morning sun: her radiance was gradually disclosed to me over time but I can see that she has been always shining. People were so intent on shining their own light on me, that they were unable to see the natural brilliance of my own being, especially if they felt it but refused to believe it.
When I started to finally self-identify as a woman, I got a lot of mixed reactions similar to what the Buddha experienced: suspicion, incredulity, politeness, curiosity, and recognition. Some people think you are just playing around, acting out in pretend. Others might think you’re a menace to society. Most just respectably take you for your word without giving too much mind about what you’re doing. Those dearest see you as you are, and those most dearest see you for who you’ve always been.
We can count as Buddha’s most dearest his mother Queen Māyā, who was unable to process the trauma over awakening to the inevitable separation she would experience from her child, destined as he was to become a revolutionary World Turner, and passed away, psychically drawing herself into the heavenly plane of existence where she was safe, where she would watch the little boy grow up to become an all-knowing, all-transcending Foe Destroyer—a light of the world.
I count as my most dearest my little sister, who recognized and called me her sister before I even told her I was, before I even recognized myself as such.
The world may not be ready for me, but the world was not ready for the Buddha either. That didn’t matter to him, so that shouldn’t matter to me. After all, if there’s even a single thing that the Buddha taught, it’s that there’s nothing better to do than just be yourself—in all of its original, authentic, natural purity!