Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Occasion of My One-Year Transiversary, Pt. III: The Long Lament of Unbea*longing

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I left Jujuy on a bus on the evening of Tuesday, October the 15th, and arrived back in Buenos Aires, exhausted, a full twenty-four hours later, on Wednesday, October the 16th.

I took a taxi to my host mom's apartment.  As the driver swiftly weaved through the streets of Retiro, Recoleta, and Palermo, I marveled at the city where I had by that time lived for two and a half months.  It was familiar, of course, yet in so seemed strange: I felt as though I had been gone much longer than just eight days and the change I experienced in that small time made the old city seem new once more.

After dinner I retreated to my bedroom to Skype with my parents, and two days later, again with my brother.  They all received the news well and without too much surprise; I had kept them all relatively abreast of my own observations and progressions toward the queer and feminine, and now everything had simply culminated at the end of its natural trajectory.

I published the third and final draft of the letter on my blog on Saturday, October the 19th, on my way to a trans* depathologization conference, and nearly a thousand people have read it since then.

At about five in the morning on Sunday, November the 10th, I returned home after a long night of dancing after La Marcha de Orgullo, wearing a dress.  I had not done this before.  Although she had been fairly supportive until this point, especially for someone who was really out of touch with this side of life (I frequently had to remind her of what the LGBT acronym consisted), my host mother forbade me ever do it again, for the sake of her reputation with her neighbors.  When I explained to her that it was degrading to my humanity to “just wait three more weeks,” as she had suggested, she did not budge.  I arranged to move to another host family's house for my remaining time and told her in frank language the ways in which she hurt me.  A crack appeared in the vase in my chest.  We never said goodbye.

On Monday, December the 2nd, my older brother Andrew landed in Argentina, followed by my parents on Friday, December the 6th.  I had not seen them in four months.  It was comfortable in its bickering familiarity; it was awkward in that the name they had used for decades had shifted, and the pronouns had amassed an s.  They came to learn, slowly.

I flew home to Chicago on Monday, December the 23rd and arrived on Christmas Eve.  It had been in the 90s in Buenos Aires, which didn't exactly lend itself to the seasonal spirit.  I owned two dresses and only foundation for makeup.  I was shaving every day.  I was excited to return back to my college campus and re-meet all my friends, as it were.  The winter awaited.  On New Years' Eve, I saw the first of my friends, wearing what was now my third dress.  They were happy to see me, they treated me normally, but I felt out of place amongst them, these people that loved but did not look like me.  I missed my trans family back in Buenos Aires.

Throughout the third coldest Chicago winter ever and the slow thaw that followed, amidst excelling at classes and actively involving myself in extracurricular activities, the vase in my chest kept cracking: I played a ciswoman and a transwoman in the very same play and loved it, but the relationship experience I drew on for those characters was already getting dusty, because the only boy who expressed an interest in me since coming out as trans quickly and without explanation retreated into hatred; I met Laverne Cox and dozens of other wonderful trans people at the Trans 100 and felt empowered and beautiful and part of something bigger and I went home to an empty apartment that couldn't tell me how to feel anything but alone and so I went online until I found someone who could come over at four in the morning and tell me for me; I told my story for a documentary and in doing so felt cathartic, until I returned into the world and its instances of street harassment, and thereafter considered suicide; I fought and I fell; I pulled myself up with the love of my family—both blood and forged—and the recognition that it would only be by pulling up and continuing to fight that living would happen at all from now on.

Other things that happened: CeCe McDonald was finally released from prison; a trans actor actually portrays a trans character on television, and I'm not talking about Laverne Cox; Laverne Cox was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine and Martine Rothblatt was featured in NYMag; Tiq Milan got married and it was real fucking cute; Obama signed ENDA, which did not only affect gay people, like many publications claimedAustralia, India, and Denmark passed more progressive legislation in regards to trans folk, following the examples of South Africa, the UK, Spain, New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, and South Korea; a 15-year-old transgender girl was stabbed in the back for riding a train while trans.  Alejandra Leos, 41, was shot outside her home and misidentified by Memphis police as a man.  Her killer was apprehended.  Tiffany Edwards was shot to death outside Cincinatti and subsequently misgendered in local newspapers, as was Cemia Dove, 20, stabbed to death near Cleveland and left in a pond to rot a year before.  Cemia's killer has been found; Tiffany's killer turned himself in while pleading the infamous trans panic.  Zoraida Reyes, 28, Anaheim, unknown cause of death, unknown killer.  Kandy Hall, 40, Baltimore, massive trauma, unknown killer.  Yaz'min Shancez, 31, Fort Myers, burned (either alive or after having been murdered via other means), unknown killer.  Mia Henderson, Baltimore, unknown killer.

When Chicago finally emerged from hibernation, I instead fled to Berlin and met and interviewed many trans people.  I felt comparatively comfortable riding the train alone at night in a dress without a bra.  A month into the trip I hung out with my flatmate and her group of friends, and realized that the reason I felt strange was that it was my first time hanging out with a group of people that were not primarily trans.  I did not feel abnormal always.

I traveled south through Eastern Europe (I have now been to a total of nine countries in my life, and all of them in the past year since coming out as trans) as a man for safety's sake, but ended up coming out to someone in each country along the way.

I came home again, excited to be somewhere again where they speak the same language I do, and was street harassed within six hours of touching down at O'Hare International Airport.  I missed my trans family back in Buenos Aires.  I missed my trans family back in Berlin.  I moved into a new apartment, one that did not have to tell me how to feel anything but alone because I now had a roommate and kitten.  I tried to surround myself with people.  School started once more.

And now that we arrived safely at Wednesday, October the 8th, one day before I turn twenty-two years old and one year after leaving on a bus for the Andes, we return to the present tense. Now, I question the utility of sitting in a class discussing poetry and Judith Butler when I think about the work I could be doing in a trans rights organization in Washington, D.C.  Now, I try to focus on my homework, on my blog and poems, on my one-lady play.  I try not to think about how long it's been since I've been kissed, or the stupid shit guys have been saying to me on dating apps lately.  Now, I try not to think about how the trans women and transfeminine people who love men are largely untouchable, because our society has not yet created a space for girls like us to be publicly loved by those men—only ever in secret, rather, and frequently involving a gun. I try not to think about how even today, over a year into living as a transgender lady, I am lucky to see someone who looks like me one day out of each month.  I try not to think about how many people do and will not even recognize me as a human being because, as Judith Butler usefully and in rarely plain language points out, we only ever enter into our own humanity with the assignment of a gender, exemplified in the doctor's infamous phrase “It's a girl!,” so for those of us who live as neither boys nor girls, but rather something that is at once both and neither, we are instead left to abjection and violence, much less feeling beautiful, beloved, and worthy, even in places where people tell us that we are.  I try to be human.  I try to remind people that I am not so different, that I hurt in the ways that they do.  I try not to hurt so much.

* * *

A couple queer/trans people have contacted me in the last few days in times of crisis.  The accumulated stress of being necessarily closeted in certain spaces—family, the workplace—had produced sensations of helplessness and degradation in them, sensations with which I am all too familiar.

When LJ first messaged me upon reading my blog they commended my bravery, then proceeded to detail several spaces in which they could not be themselves. “When we are ourselves, especially in the queer community,” they wrote, “we break rules, we break boundaries, and if we don't, we end up breaking ourselves.”

“But I'm not the only brave one,” I wrote back, and later reiterated to a second friend after they had gotten through a particularly emotionally upsetting night. “While you may not be able to tell certain people things you'd like to tell them at this specific point in your life, just remember that you've already told the most important person, and that's yourself.  So much of queer and trans identities requires a life's worth of unlearning everything we've been taught as natural and true, and then learning new things on top of it.  The ground opens up beneath us and the world is completely changed and we are completely changed in relation to it.  Family and friends and coworkers and everyone are important, of course, but for any one of us to admit that to ourselves, let alone to ANYONE else, that is already a victory.  That is already survival.  You're doing it.  I'm doing it.  Everyone who identifies anything like we do is doing it. I have faith in you and everyone else because we've already done the hard part.  The greener pasture is fucking hard sometimes but it's also fucking greener.  We've already won.”

The vase in my chest is mending.

Tomorrow I am twenty-two.

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