I interrupt this blogbreak to talk about Leelah Alcorn, a trans girl who recently committed suicide. This is something of a Rant, and I make no promises w.r.t. coherency or structure.
My position on suicide is always going to seem a little, well, cold to a lot of people. I think there are suicides that are the product of a rational assessment made by someone in a desperate situation, and while I might decry the circumstances that bring it about, I can’t condemn the decision. I did not know Leelah (although I’ve seen her URL around Tumblr– it’s a small trans Internet); I don’t know whether her decision was wise.
But I do have something to say to suicidal teenagers in general:
There are two randomly chosen dictators who have essentially unlimited control over your life in a way no adult would allow. They can isolate you from your friends, control where you go and how you dress and what you eat, stop you from doing your hobbies, force you to participate in religious activities you don’t believe in. They may be kind or not, wise or not, respectful of your autonomy or not; regardless, as long as they refrain from starving or beating you, they face few consequences for their actions. The thing they did to earn this right is have an orgasm. This is a terrible system.
But it is a terrible system with an end.
When I was a teenager, people continually told me that life gets better after high school and I was like “yeah, yeah.” And then I left high school and I was surprised by how unimaginably better it was.
Here’s the thing: as a teenager, you are continually forced to interact with people– your parents, your teachers, your classmates. As an adult, that’s much less true. You can hide in a little bubble of people who treat you like a human being. You can say “if you want to interact with me, you can’t misgender me, you can’t make fun of me, you have to let me stim and rock in public, you have to be okay with the fact that I’m mentally ill, you can’t treat me like I’m stupid because I have tits,” and enforce it, and really only be friends with people who fit those criteria. (The exception is jobs– as a Jobs Human, you will sometimes have to interact with people who don’t respect you. But even then I understand that codes of professionalism usually mean that “cordial and polite” is more common than “outright bullying.”)
As an adult, you have the right to tell people to fuck off.
And for those of us who are weird– who are queer or trans or crazy or autistic or just a little off– the right to tell people to fuck off is pretty much the biggest quality of life increase I can imagine.
I specifically want to say something to my trans siblings: don’t kill yourself until after you’ve transitioned. I know, it feels like it’s impossible to have the body that you want; every day that passes, you’re ravaged more by testosterone or estrogen. You might be a woman who’s 6’4″ or a man with G cups or a nonbinary person who wants genitals that aren’t physically possible, and the idea that you’d pass, much less be happy with your body, seems unimaginable.
But transition helps. It is astonishing how much more I appreciate my body just because I’m confident that most people I interact with on a day-to-day basis see me as the gender I am, and I haven’t even medically transitioned. If you’re not being constantly misgendered, the things that will never change often become more manageable. I’m not going to lie and say that things will all be splendid, because they won’t. But if everyone sees you as a boy and you have this disgusting hairy body and this weird sticky-out thing that doesn’t belong and you’re tall and that won’t ever go away, you feel gross and miserable and disgusting. But if people see you as a woman and you have boobs, you can make peace with the height thing.
I worry about our discussions of transphobia. I mean, it’s important to raise awareness and to teach people to stop being cruel and to let people suffering know that they’re not alone, but there’s a price. I’ve talked with a lot of people who say wistfully that they’d love to be trans, but they just couldn’t deal with the transphobia. And… I worry that we’re teaching trans kids that there’s nothing to hope for, that they will never be seen as their gender, that the world hates them and the best thing they can do is hide in a bunker and hope that no one notices.
But there is. The transphobic assholes are loud, but the world is full of cis people who are kind, albeit deeply confused. I’ve been the first nonbinary person a lot of people have met, and most of the time people’s reactions are not anger or a desire to hurt; it’s worry. They’re afraid that they might inadvertently hurt me because they don’t understand transness, and the thought upsets them. The Internet signal-boosts every asshole’s nonconsensual coprophilia play, and social justice communities have a vested interest in pretending that they’re the only place where people won’t continually yell TRANNY at you, but in the real world most people don’t want to hurt other people.
And… there is so much out there. You can find love, you can find interesting work and friends and a community, you can look in the mirror and see a face you recognize, there is hope, I promise there is hope, it is bad but it is not as bad as it once was and we are making it better and you can make a life here and you do not have to be unhappy forever.
(Did you know one of the first composers on the Moog synthesizer was a trans woman? Did you know a trans woman revolutionized electronic engineering? Did you know that the highest paid female executive in America is a Jewish trans woman transhumanist who is making a robot version of her wife? Trans women are fucking nerds.)
It’s a lie that half of us die before 23, you know. We survive. We live.
Finally, this is my sincerest wish for Leelah Alcorn’s parents: I hope you learn exactly what you’ve done and that you can never, ever fix it. I hope you read about transness and come to accept that it is real and we have as much right to live our lives as anyone else. I hope you accept trans people, and I hope you realize that if you’d come to accept us a little bit earlier your daughter would be alive. I hope you go to bed every night and wake up every morning remembering your daughter’s face and knowing that she would be alive if it weren’t for you. I hope you know you’re murderers.
A real live trans adult.