Trigger Warning: Suicidal Ideation
Truthfully, I never thought I was going to write the piece I am about to write. This one is intensely personal, but I feel that where we’re at right now requires bold truth telling and openness from those who are marginalized but have the privilege, and make no mistake, it is a privilege, to speak out.
When I was 10 years old, in the dead of night, I went down to the kitchen. I pulled a knife out of the drawer and placed it against my stomach. I tried to will myself to use it. I repeated this behavior for months, maybe even a year, on and off. I would lie in bed, psyching myself up that that night was going to be the night. Each time, my heart racing with a knife pressed against my skin served as an odd reminder of my visceral will to live. I’m forever grateful that it did. But I’m sure many of you are thinking, what in God’s name would make a 10-year-old experience such severe suicidal ideation?
By the time I was that age, I knew that I ‘wanted to be a girl,’ and I knew that I was getting crushes on boys in my grade. I had been called a faggot every day of my life from when I was in kindergarten through this moment, and beyond. It was ingrained at a young age that whatever being a faggot was, it was wrong. This wasn’t just thanks to peers, but also thanks to societally ingrained homophobia and sexism which punishes femininity in anyone perceived to be male. I remember the first moment when I started to think, maybe they’re right, maybe I am what they say I am and make fun of me for, I had my first panic attack. Furthermore, most of elementary school was relatively gender neutral in terms of social interactions. And like many young queer kids, both gay and on the trans-feminine spectrum, most of my friends were girls. However, towards the end of elementary school, that’s when kids get into that ‘boys’ vs. ‘girls’ mentality. Suddenly, the girls didn’t want to play with me because I was ‘a boy,’ and the boys were ostracizing me for my femininity.
I was bullied, told I was inherently wrong, there was no space for me socially, and I couldn’t see where I fit in the world. That’s why I experienced such severe suicidal ideation at such a young age. That ideation came and went throughout my teenage years with peaks during puberty, which caused such intense psychological pain for me, and also during my early twenties in the few years preceding my transition. During that time, I was having a nervous breakdown thanks to my gender. I’d tempt fate by getting extremely drunk and driving home on the highway. I would constantly will myself to cut the wheel into the divider in a reflection of just over a decade earlier in the kitchen. I am grateful to my younger self that I didn’t make such a rash and foolish decision. I have grown into a strong, proud and confident woman, and I have carved out space for myself in this world, bigotry be damned. I am grateful to be alive.
I was bullied, told I was inherently wrong, there was no space for me socially, and I couldn’t see where I fit in the world.
Being LGBTQ is not a choice. The only choice surrounding LGBTQ people is whether heterosexual and cisgender people choose to discriminate against, marginalize, and attempt to erase us. We have been here since the beginning of humanity. It’s somewhat ironic how often I see anti-LGBTQ conservatives citing the high suicide rates among LGBTQ people as evidence that their ‘lifestyle’ is ‘dangerous.’ Meanwhile there’s zero acknowledgment that their hatred and bigotry is the primary reason for that number being as high as it is.
The truth is, the targeting of trans people, and even more deplorably, trans kids, is not and never has been about protecting cis people. I don’t need to rehash the myriad of studies that have showed that, in fact, it’s trans people who are much more likely to experience physical and sexual assault at the hands of cis people, not the other way around. This is about trying to erase us from the public sphere. This is bullying from the highest office in the land. All this does is send the message that I was sent as a young child; that something that cannot be changed is inherently wrong. It sends the message that our lives have less value than our cis and heteronormative brothers and sisters. However, they could not be more wrong. We are one more thread in the beautiful tapestry of human diversity.
This is about trying to erase us from the public sphere.
My heart is broken. I know that there are kids out there who feel like I did back during those nights in the kitchen, and now the lives of these trans and gender non-conforming kids out there just became that much more difficult. Politicians are once again playing with people’s lives and well being. So this is what I want to say to all my young trans and gender non-conforming brothers, sisters, and siblings: I love you. You are supported. You are valuable. You are valid. You have a future and a full life ahead of you. No child deserves the burden of being used as a political pawn and political prey. Do not despair. If you feel as I did when I was a kid, find one person you trust, and talk to them. If even that is untenable, call the Trevor Project (866-488-7386). Find trans and gender non-conforming peers online who support and validate you if you cannot find anyone in your circle of friends or family.
Recently, a friend of mine asked; ‘At this point do you ever get tired of so much in your life being about being trans? Don’t you ever want to be just a woman? Period.’ The answer is truthfully, yes. However, I don’t get that choice right now. Until our rights are universally accepted and recognized, my transness will come first. Until we are recognized as humans deserving of respect and empathy from those in positions of power, my transness will come first. Until trans and gender non-conforming children feel universally secure and supported, my transness will come first. Until there is not one more trans child who takes their own life, or attempts to, or seriously considers it because of bullies who are validated by the highest office in the land, my transness will come first.
No child deserves the burden of being used as a political pawn and political prey.
Minority President Trump, we will not be erased. We will rise, and we will make sure that the hate you and your administration are spewing will be reduced to ashes and left in the dustbin of forgotten history. We will shake the foundations of bigotry throughout this country until they crumble, even if they reside in the White House. We will make sure this is just a footnote in the grand arc of expanding justice and equality for all. You are not America Mr. Minority President. You have no mandate. We will rise. We will overcome. This is our country too, and we’re still here.