“It isn’t being transgender that’s killing us.” (http://huff.to/1LcmSGp)
Facebook is vastly interesting. There are so very few other places that are tolerable to stay for long periods of time with articles being served right to you with a comment section right in your face. I read many articles a day, and often take a quick peak to gauge the reactions from people within. Sometimes they are good, but if they are on certain controversial topics, they can get very ugly. Venn diagram of ugly comments massively intersects articles about trans* individuals, and that is where we begin.
The comment section of any social media site, Facebook more than most, can give you a good idea of what society at large is doing. You have supporters – likes, sometimes shares – and detractors – commenters, but not all of them. A quick glance into any article about trans* people will give one an idea of exactly what one faces as a trans* person. Often, these commenters, “experts,” cite data without fully comprehending its meaning. When they cite that we have a suicide rate of approximately 40%, they do so by asserting the fallacious conclusion that it “must be because we are mentally ill.” They, and credentialed “experts” like them, wish to push a narrative on those of us that are trans* that even the most elementary understanding of statistics would suggest might be a little off.
They assume a cause, assert a conclusion, and use a simplified correlation to generate a biased narrative that is harmful to children, young adults, and even adults that are still trying to figure themselves out. They disregard the information readily available to them, such as that from the Williams Institute (http://bit.ly/1DQGYDu), and continue on their path of insensitivity. They fail to recognize that they play the biggest roles in these suicides (or, as I call them, homicides-by-proxy), because that would require them to amend their world view. That is not easy, however, as their view was shaped by preachers, family, and political pundits that do not want them to deviate from the narrative that they have used to normalize themselves and stigmatize others. Deviation from that means a change in the balance of power from the group to the individual, and we are often told that such a path is “selfish,” even while these people benefit from our own compliance. We trans* individuals are assaulted on all sides by people that wish to erase our very existence by hurting us physically & mentally, removing our shelter, removing our right to use a washroom, and the list goes on and on.
The Williams Institute recognizes these factors in contributing to the high suicide rate of individuals like myself, but a journal article changes society’s understanding very little. That requires a plethora of methods from both allies and trans* individuals alike. If you are an ally, support your fellow humans. When you see intolerance, wipe it clean. Replace it with facts. Data. Hard truth. Do not let them harm another trans* person ever again, because each of those comments represents harassment towards someone – either online or off. Each of those comments represents someone being put in pain and possibly killed. Put yourself in the shoes of someone that identifies as trans* and is subject to that harassment and do something about it. Most of the time, you have the advantage of not feeling the same stress that would be placed on a trans* person trying to affect change. If you are trans*, then decide for yourself if you can handle speaking out. Not all of us are strong enough, depending on our life’s situation, and that is perfectly fine. Do what you can, not what you think you should. Those of us that are capable of doing so must speak out.
Quod est necessarium est licitum – What is necessary is lawful, just. I do not condone the use of violence. What I mean with this philosophy is – do not let other people tone police you. If you feel like being belligerent, swearing like a sailor, and pushing down the negativity with trolling, do it. I have that seek-and-destroy attitude, and it feels great for me. Do what best suits you, but do it well, and plug these leaking holes that are costing us lives each day. Censor them to your hearts content. In the United States, the Constitution grants us freedom of speech, but it does not grant awful people freedom from the consequences of what they have to say. Think about it – if your words could save one life by helping them realize that there’s people out there fighting for their right to live, does that not make it worth it? It does to me, and that is why I do what I do.
As is pointed out within that article, harassment is not the only factor in one’s suicide attempt. There is that omnipresent feeling that we will never be who we want to be. We will never pass the way we want to pass. We will never feel the way we want to feel. We feel that there will always be a negative outcome, no matter what we do. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. I can hear the collective groan of mostly youthful voices from that sentence, as it’s often pushed on us from day one. It doesn’t help that the social stigma associated with sharing mental health stories often prevents relatable content from being mainstream and readily available to those that need it. That’s not to say it isn’t there – if you haven’t read “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath, you need to regardless of how you feel – but just that it’s lacking. This void leaves the question of, “Why should I continue living? What is the point? Once I am dead, I won’t care about how other people feel about my actions. I don’t know what’s there, but it won’t be their ‘tolerance-only’ attitude of my true self, that’s for damn sure.”
On the evening of November 3, 2014, those were my exact thoughts. I was numb. Barring details prior to 2014 (that’s for another time), the entirety of that year up until November was a sine wave of depression. There were brief periods of feeling neutral, capable enough to get basic things done, but there were deep dark periods where even brushing my teeth routinely was a chore. I couldn’t look in the mirror, as it offered a poor reflection of how I felt. Every time I walked by it, it seemed to highlight that my body was not what my mind was truly perceiving. Anytime I wasn’t around it, and I was left to imagine myself, everything was fine. When the reality of it all was presented before me, my chest began to tighten, my breath shortened, and my pupils dilated. Often the only thought was, “This can’t be me. This isn’t how I feel. This is not how I know myself internally.” I’ve known what was wrong with me from a very young age, only learning the proper terminology for it in my teens, but that offered no solace. The only comfort I could get was in my sleep. To escape myself and my darkening feelings, I would sleep for 14 or more hours each day, and I only awoke to go to the bathroom. Meals were sparse during that period, and why bother when it only seeks to sustain the status quo? Had I sought out a counselor for that period? Of course. That August, I met with a counselor at my university, the sweetest one that I have met so far, and began discussing things with them. They told me some new things – previous counselors had misdiagnosed me, PTSD better characterized the majority of how I felt – and some old things – that I did have gender dysphoria and I did need to seek treatment. They offered to help me call somewhere, but the prospect of having to pay without insurance frightened me, and I told them I would handle it on my own. This was a poor choice on my part, because my dysphoria often manifests as social anxiety. So, calling around to places is often delayed – sometimes indefinitely. After the five sessions were up with that counselor, I was on my own. The pressure of finding help mounted, and was only temporarily assuaged when I found several individuals willing to help on my insurance plan, but quickly came back when I felt as though I might be blocked from getting the exact treatment I felt I needed. My insurance was not my own, and family issues began to deflate my options. As darkness began to creep into my apartment with the sun quickly falling from the sky, I felt every possibility at once. Numbness turned to large tumbling tears that would not stop for silence. Heaves of breath came forth as I cried to the ceiling asking, “Why me?”
The prospect of not being able to transition, family judgments, and not wanting to face the future under a banner – a name – to which I did not feel attached to all weighed like granite upon my psyche. I had enough. I began to put my plan into action that would, from my perspective, finally give me peace. I used my knowledge of medications from being a pharmacy technician to combine a variety of medications that might allow me to never see that face in the mirror again. I did not care that most homicide-by-proxies using pills resulted in an attempt only. It’s what I had available, and was the only option I was willing to take. I did not want to horrify the person that might discover me in the morning, and I did not want to scare anyone else – such as my family – that might have to deal with my body. Even at the very end, I wanted to be considerate of other people over myself. I donned my skull-print pajamas, the top being one that I purchased as a gift of peace to myself not long before – one from Amazon’s women’s section – and I settled into the nest of comforters I had placed upon the floor. I drank my elixir and laid down. Crying, I contemplated moving to my bed, instead, but was afraid that I might disturb my neighbors.
I was not afraid.
My crying subsided, and I closed my eyes to rest there. Waiting. I do not know how much time passed between events, but I recall most of it vividly. I remember how it felt to “wake up,” but not be able to see. I remember existing only as thoughts, almost as if my body was a shell around me, and the uncontrollable shaking. I remember recognizing that I was having a seizure, but not being able to stop it. I could not feel anything or control anything, except for my tongue. I remember thinking about how the shaking was rather loud, and that it might be a problem, and then I thought I could hear tapping on my wall from one neighbor and banging from below by another. I had disturbed them. I did not care, I just hoped that they would not ruin my plans by calling someone. Eventually, they stopped, and so did I. I drifted in and out of various dream states that felt incredibly real. Whether they were near-death experiences or not, I may never know for sure, but I assume so. At some point, after being thrown into Hades (not Hell, at least according to the motif), I woke up. I was disoriented, my toe was bruised and throbbed from slamming it into the ground so much during the seizure, and all I wanted was the softness of my bed. At that point, I kind of figured it was over. If seizing and everything else wasn’t going to kill me, then that was, overall, the end of it. It took a great amount of effort to move back to my bed, as I could barely stand for more than a few seconds without feeling overwhelmed, but I made it. I began to feel bad for not contacting my girlfriend prior to initiating it, but I had also not wanted to disturb her with that as it was happening, and I also did not care at the time I was doing it. If I remember correctly, all of that lasted from 7PM to 3 AM. I told her what happened over the previous three hours, and told her that I may be still in the process of expiring. Even then, she stood by me and comforted me. A few hours of talking and hallucinations later, and it was a bit beyond 5 AM when I began to expel the toxic brew as quickly as it had come in. The next day, I was too sick to do anything more than a few minutes of cleaning here and there. I did not know it at the time, but my heart rate was through the roof. It stayed that way, along with the high blood pressure that comes with it, for many months afterwards. The day after the cleaning and recovery, I went to the university clinic for my toe, which looked as though I had broken it at that point in time, and sought help. They brought in a new counselor to speak with me, and he tried to help as best he could. I explained the how, when, where, and why. Every detail that he wanted, and assured him that it was the only attempt that I was willing to make. Shortly after that, I found a therapist that respected me and truly wanted to help me. They found a doctor that was willing to help with HRT, and referred me to them. I have been on HRT since May, and I have never been happier.
My experience has allowed me to answer some of these questions. Why should I continue living? In my opinion, one does not have to. It is not a necessary requirement for one’s true happiness. Indeed, if the pursuit and success of one’s suicide is the path to one’s true happiness, then I feel that it should be an available option. A better question is why should you not? As it stands, we know very little about what happens after death. It is hypothesized that DMT floods the brain and creates a perpetual dream-like state for one’s consciousness, but there’s no guarantee that it stays that way. One may fall from this DMT-induced state to another reality in which they live much the same life as before. Perhaps it may even end in one being trans* in another period of time. We simply do not know, and any speculation about it is that only. Fear of the unknown is a poor foundation upon which to build one’s new life upon, though. I do not choose that path. Instead, I choose things that we do know. We know that sex, gender, and sexual orientation is a spectrum. Current research in biology suggests it, our understanding in psychiatry suggests it, and brain scans show it to be true. I replace the unknown with science, facts, data. What is the point? In the very near future, perhaps even within 10 years, one will be able to become what they need to survive. 3D printing technology is advancing by leaps and bounds. It is reasonable for one to extrapolate, from the current state of our ability to print organs, that we will have the capability to produce fully functional reproductive organs at low cost in the very near future. We are entering the age of designing humans – both old and new. With this, we require a new way of seeing ourselves. We are fluid beings that exist far beyond what our bodies can hold us to, and we should embrace that, regardless of how a few individuals without proper education see us.
Why should I care about other people or how my actions affect others? Simply put, you don’t have to. However, that does not mean that everyone else should be subjected to your apathy. Everyone is capable of empathy, either innately or through training. Using this to treat others the way they want to be treated earns one respect, kindness, and sympathy. It creates community, and allows for the domination of positive outcomes. Life is straying away from competitiveness as we advance in A.I. & robotics. By listening and caring for others, you find more ways to help people up to your level of enlightenment. Pushing people back down the pile only hinders progress and keeps us all divided – which is exactly what certain political groups want us to do. Accepting diversity, rather than taking a “we’re all one” approach, is the engine of creativity and new experiences. Why me? Why not. Your experience affords you a far greater understanding of the human mind, ability, and compassion than is usually credited. There are subcommunities out there that fail in applying their innate knowledge, but that should not change how you lovely people see yourselves. You are important. You are loved. You are supported. If it isn’t readily apparent, begin seeking out support groups or safe places that show you that it is true through words, actions, or other methods. Let your flame shine brightly, and maybe you will force others to reignite their candle, but protect yourself from toxic individuals that may try to snub you out. Stay safe, in power & love.