Holt, Keyla

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Texas State University, School of Social Work.


This is a self-reflection painting that depicts one ‘torn’; a woman pulling them to be more feminine while a man is pulling them towards masculinity. The green ribbon around their neck represents mental health awareness. The anklet worn is the semi-colon because they tried to take their life the day after Christmas, 2017. The semi-colon is the adopted symbol for suicide awareness, “my story is not over yet”. I identify as Black, homosexual, and gender nonbinary and have struggled with my gender identity since the age of five. I am 40 years old and still battle with Gender Dysphoria. Who am I? Fearing rejection, I have successfully hidden my various mental illnesses from the public eye. Considering my culture, the stigma behind mental illness adding to the stressors of not being accepted for my skin color, or the person I love, or who I identify as is often too much to bear. With this painting, I hope to bring awareness not only to Gender Dysphoria, mental health, and suicide, but to intersectionality as well; they all affect everyone, including social workers. It is often said that people fear what they do not know. We as a people are extremely diverse and from that diversity blossoms fear and intersectionality. As social workers, it is our duty to challenge the injustices of intersectionality that have plagued our society for centuries. So, we must continuously promote awareness and arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge needed to create more inclusive, equitable societies.



self-reflection, identity, gender dysphoria, mental health, suicide, social work


Holt, K. (2021). Torn. Louder Than Words, 1(1), pp. 12-17.


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