Té’s Buddhability: Being Her True Self

(Té Harris (left) with her cousin. Photo above courtesy of Té Harris)

Buddhism is really about finding your true self. For Té Harris, that was a journey.

Buddhability: Hi Té—Thank you for taking time to talk with us today. Tell us about your journey to embracing your individuality.

Té Harris: Growing up I always knew I liked women. I never wore feminine clothes outside of home but would hide them in my car trunk because I knew my family wouldn’t accept me without them. My teammates on my basketball team would actually buy clothes for me to avoid any issues.

In high school, I started to explore more, usually sneaking around with my girlfriend. Both of our families didn’t approve and, so when her mom found out, she called my mom and I was questioned. I flat out lied the first time because I didn’t want any drama. But a couple years later I finally told her the truth.

Té Harris (right) playing basketball.

Té Harris (right) playing basketball. Photo courtesy of Té Harris

Buddhability: Hiding a part of yourself must’ve been so difficult. How did that affect you?

Té: Anger started building up inside me. Having those tough conversations about identifying as a lesbian with my family didn’t really help. So, when I moved to Los Angeles for college, I finally felt like I would be free. With space away from my family I could dress how I wanted to and date who I wanted. But this was only to a certain extent.

And then in my junior year of college I got injured, and pursuing basketball was no longer a reality. My grades tanked, and that’s when I was introduced to SGI Nichiren Buddhism by a classmate.

I had first heard about Nam-myoho-renge-kyo from Tina Turner’s movie, What’s Love Got to Do With It, when I was young.

I decided to give it a shot and went with my friend to her local Buddhist neighborhood meeting. I couldn’t really believe how happy the people were when I arrived. But I thought, Whatever is making them happy, I want that too. 

But I thought, Whatever is making them happy, I want that too. 

Buddhability: How did chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo impact you?

Té: I had never cried because, in my family, it was a sign of weakness. But as I chanted, my life started to open up. Those first few years of practicing Buddhism were a lot about unlearning things from my childhood. There were times when I would be with my friends but felt like the loneliest person in the room.

I can’t tell you the exact moment it started impacting me but as I kept chanting, I felt this heaviness lift off of me. When I turned 23, I decided to cut off all my hair and start to embrace myself.

Buddhability: That’s a major move.

Té: Yeah, it was liberating in some sense. But because I looked more masculine, something like going to a public bathroom could cause me physical harm. People would physically try to remove me or even try to fight me. I was in a constant state of anxiety in those moments.

The support from my Buddhist community encouraged me that there is nothing about me I need to hide. I saw confidence and individuality in the LGBTQIA+ Buddhist members that showed me it was possible to embrace myself.

Once I started to chant to embrace myself, everything started to change. Becoming happy just as I am felt like a reality.

Once I started to chant to embrace myself, everything started to change. Becoming happy just as I am felt like a reality.

Buddhability: How did your relationship with your family change?

Té: My family in the beginning wasn’t supportive, and my father who passed away a few years ago didn’t approve. But through chanting, even after he passed, I had a deeper realization.

My dad’s a part of me. So, if I can appreciate him fully just as he was then, I can appreciate myself just as I am now.

Since then, my journey with my family has taken on deeper meaning. My mother and aunt support me, and we continue to deepen our relationship.

Looking back, it wasn’t just the reactions from people in my life that caused me to suffer but this feeling of wanting to be validated. But through practicing Buddhism I’m learning that my individuality is my greatest strength.

Buddhability: Thank you so much Té for sharing your journey with us. Anything you’d like to share with someone who may be struggling with embracing themselves?

Té: Practicing Buddhism and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo have taught me that the very thing I might want to hide about myself is the very thing that makes me who I am. And that’s great. Chanting helps me remember that every day.

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