Trans Day of Remembrance (when you’re always remembering)

November 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and there’s no time like today (I mean, just like every day, forever) to reflect on the transgender and gender-nonconforming people we’ve lost.

It’s hard to forget exactly where I was on February 20, 2014: I was sitting in my college newspaper office, located in the basement of the central building of campus. No windows. I was sitting at the fancy computer we used for laying out the paper. It was my main homework spot. I was casually writing a paper, casually joking with my friend who happened to join me this time. It was a Thursday night.

My evening came to a screeching halt. It was like the sound of burning rubber. A text message from a friend asked me if I had heard the horrible news. No, I hadn’t. And then she told me. Earlier that day, my best friend from high school and one of my very few trans guy friends had killed himself. He was 22 years old.

Now that we are approaching 2017, 2014 sounds like it was a while ago. We are going on three years. But I don’t think I’ve ever been more affected by an event in my life.

He had depression. He didn’t die because someone else killed him, as is what is traditionally recognized on Transgender Day of Remembrance. He died of depression and what caused his depression is probably many things, but among them is the world we live in, and how it sees transgender people. Feeling the need to hide or hold back, feeling the stress of trying to be one’s self but also live up to the expectations and comforts of others. Trans people know this all too well.

So I think of him on November 20, just as I do every day. I went to a candlelit vigil for Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) at my college, and I think it was the one in 2014, the November after he took his own life. I remember standing in that circle, holding a candle, feeling like even though exactly 9 months had already gone by without him, I would never feel the inner peace I had on February 19 ever again. I didn’t even know I had it.

I also felt like, holding that candle, maybe somebody would be standing in that circle one day thinking of me.

He and I had always had so much in common. We were both poets, hopeless romantics, with long pony-tailed hair to be later cut short, awkward, motivated by praise, cheesy, depressed, lesbian-then-trans-men, musicians, old souls, sensitive flowers, lovers, worried and tired. He was the version of myself I allowed myself to love.

It was natural to wonder if I too, would also die from myself, as he had. I worried about it for a year, as if I didn’t have control of it myself. (Sometimes I occasionally still worry.)

And then the moment I reached the age he never became, 22 + 4 months, I realized I was blazing my own trail at that point. Now that I’m turning 24 in December, I still don’t know what this all means, but I will truly never be the same.

It would be nice of me to provide some action items. There are a lot of (scathing) conversations happening right now about things you can or cannot do to show support of marginalized communities. People started wearing safety pins; people freaked out about safety pins. People change their profile pics to have pro-trans filters; people are name-calling about that.

The point of it all is you’d better practice what you preach, not just wear a little symbol to get the approval of your fellow “less-marginalized” community members. I personally am under the impression that you’re taking a half-step when you wear a symbol or a profile pic filter. I think people getting really mad and judge-y when people do a tiny thing to TRY is really harmful to developing and growing allies. Nobody is perfect at this–and effort to me is huge. I’ll take it. Anything. As long as you keep fucking growing. Because people are literally dying over their own identities. Sometimes they get killed, and sometimes they beat people to it.

Wear a symbol, don’t wear a symbol. I don’t care, just be human for us when we feel like empty shells being filled by reasons to die.

Not that you asked, but I think one of the best forms of allyship is patience with the people who are hurting us. By this I mean, if there’s a dumb facebook fight or something, and a marginalized person is getting attacked, a common (but unhelpful) thing to do is burst in and say “YOU’RE A TRANSPHOBIC/RACIST/SEXIST PIECE OF SHIT” instead of having an actual dialogue with that person. Marginalized people rarely have the emotional capacity to do actual educating with oppressive-behaving people. We are triggered, or tired, or fed up. The best thing you can do as an ally is take the baton and work on changing hearts of others instead of calling them pieces of shit. Educate them, for god’s sake. You may be emotional in your role, but your job as an ally is to DO THE WORK–not show how upset you are about it. We get you’re upset. But your level of upset-ness shouldn’t outweigh someone else’s need for safety.

I say this because countless times, people have stepped in and actually just made things worse. It’s not just clumsy allyship–it’s harmful.

Anyway. That was a tangent, but an important one.

In some ways, November 20 is just another day. But taking the time to remember why we’re here, remember why we’re doing the work, is really important I think. It’s not just some stranger getting triggered on the internet (being triggered is a very real concept that I think is a little diluted), it’s because people die over the problems we have in this culture. They literally stop living, VIOLENTLY, because of people’s intolerance.

I talk about this a lot, but the obituary for my friend’s suicide said he took his own life “non-violently.” It just meant he didn’t experience pain, I think. But to me, there is no such thing. I mean no harm to the people who wrote it, and I love them so much. How do you write about your child’s suicide? It’s impossible to do that. I have so much empathy for that position. At the same time, I don’t think he could have died in a more violent way. The violence he experienced as a transgender person came in the bullying he had in school and the tiny interactions of people making fun of gender and the non-acceptance of many he loved and once admired. All those violent acts came together in that one moment in February 2014.

And I won’t be forgetting that any time soon.

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Heavy-weight anti-champion

cw: tons of possibly triggering body image discussion

When I went to the doctor today, the nurse weighed me, as is routine. I stepped up onto the scale and I looked straight up at the ceiling. I waited for her to say “okay” so I could step down. I didn’t let myself know the number. It felt like a form of protection, a kind of self-care, even.

It’s the first time I haven’t looked at all.

Several months ago, my therapist said something like, “If you weren’t socialized as a woman, you’d never think twice about your body. Do you think cis men look in the mirror and hate themselves? No. They don’t. They don’t give a shit what they look like.”

I used to only hate my naked reflection because of my boobs. I don’t remember ever even noticing anything else. Zits maybe? But now it’s the whole thing, the gut, the legs, the arms. I have stretch marks on my biceps because they have so much more fat on them than they did like 2 years, even 18 months ago. I never thought it’d get like this. I used to be skinny. I used to run. I used to be so active. But I’ve gained a considerable amount of weight in the last two years, and not for reasons like a bad thyroid or anything. I’ve just completely neglected to care.

(this hate is self-directed)

As I’ve gone from an XS to a L, as I’ve gone up six inches in pants sizes, it’s been difficult for me to, frankly, live with myself. I can hear a few people from my past and their echoes in my mind, about how they would judge this immensely. Their voices are even louder than my own.

In my last blog platform, I did talk about body image some but not nearly as a reflection of HOW OFTEN it’s on my mind. I feel nervous talking about it. What if someone who weighs more than me sees this post and then thinks I think poorly of them as I do myself? It’s not like that. I think it’s due to a long history of, you know, external harmful stuff I’ve experienced. It’s my failure to take care of myself. And maybe even actively not-taking care of myself, if that makes sense.

(maybe someday I’ll tell you why. let’s try this password protection thing first.)

I used to not be able to look in the mirror because of my boobs. Now it’s that AND my body as a whole.

When the vessel you occupy doesn’t meet your standards, everything is so much more difficult. It’s usually a suicidal trigger, tbh. I just don’t look down (at my torso) or up (at the mirror).

Outside of myself, I’m fat-positive. I think our culture is abhorrently cruel to people who are overweight. It ruins lives, the way we talk to/about people. I’m not a scholar on body positivity but I’ve been on tumblr long enough to know that my thinking is based in a complex societal system of capitalistic efforts to try and MAKE ME hate myself. In other words, the weight loss industry, etc.

I can know it in my head, but I can’t feel it when it applies to me.

Sometimes my (amazing, brilliant) girlfriend and I will be making out and I’ll stop because I’ll feel fat. I’ll just crumple into nothing. It’s happened a couple of times now and it’s so disheartening. She does nothing wrong. I do nothing wrong. I just fall apart.

The problem with this lack of self-positivity is weirdly fed by what my therapist said. My therapist is awesome and by no means did she try to incite this inner dialogue of mine. She was trying to address how women are socialized to hate themselves, usually. My thoughts are off the path here. But, if cis men don’t feel like this, is my own poor self-image a sign of non-masculinity? I am pretty anti-absolutes, so to say that literally all cisgender men don’t feel feelings about their image is of course ridiculous. But it sounds so real to me. Am I failing my own manhood standards by feeling this huge? By even thinking about it? Do other men feel so distraught when they go up a pant size?

Am I man enough? It always comes back to that. I can hear dozens of women in my life saying “oh my gosh of course you’re man enough! :)” But there’s a reason (there are a lot of reasons actually) I mostly hang out with women. There’s no competition. There’s no question. I’m probably the most masculine person in the room, and even if I’m not, nobody takes the time to wonder.

In summary, gaining 80 pounds and feeling helpless about it has made me feel:

  • ugly
  • worthless
  • harder to love
  • like I’m not a man

But if one of my friends told me this about themselves, you know what I’d say? Well first, I’d say nothing and just listen. But then I’d give them a consensual hug. I’d tell them how loved they are. I’d apologize on behalf of the capitalists. I’d say the world is really fucked up. I’d let them know I was in their corner. I also like, wouldn’t judge them! I’d think they were cute. I’d think they were amazing and important. It would truly be effortless.

I need to talk to myself like I’d talk to anyone else. Idk how that’s going to happen. But I must.

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My resume, my resuming

The first blog I ever had was a LiveJournal. God bless America.

I used it with the sole purpose of communicating with someone I was in love with. I was 13 years old. I would tell you the handle I used to go by, but I just did a quick Google check and I will literally never tell you that username.

Reflecting more than ten years later, I have blogged in some form or capacity this entire time. Lately for me it’s been for work, which doesn’t sound all that exciting, but to me, it still counts. I’ve often had two blogs running simultaneously, including a tumblr–another side of me I hope you never see.

I’m about to turn 24, and I’m realizing that for as long as I’ve known that writing is something I can do, a tool I can use to distinguish what is cool and what is fucked up, I have executed a blog. They’ve had varying degrees of privacy, and some have had sharp directions and some super disorganized claims at false expertise. (When a post you wrote about politics in 2012 continues to haunt you every day, you know you’ve broken something in your mind).

My history with blogging has been turbulent at best. I’ve been forced to come out as queer to people because of the public diary-writing I do on the internet, and I’ve deeply offended people unintentionally. I’ve jeopardized relationships and embarrassed myself. It’s been pretty awful tbh.

And yet, I’ve missed it.

I missed processing things with you, so I made this new iteration. My other blogs have run their course and I’m ready for something new. I don’t think I can turn my back on more than a decade’s worth of processing experience.

As things develop, I will share them with you.

Thank you for being a part of this.

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