[I would like to issue a minor apology for the fact that almost all of this post is written in words and style that are distinctly Not Mine; this is something that I do not have the words to express yet without borrowing the words of others, and I would like to express my sincerest apologies for this; still, it is something I feel, and I appreciate that enough that I decided to post this.]
When I was a child, I was alone.
I was abused. My best friend tried to drown me. She would hit me, she developed a game out of “what’s the worst thing I can convince them to hallucinate”, she messed with my reality and told me I was fat and ugly, but the thing that traumatized me the most was not any of that. The thing that hurt me the most was the isolation. She had cut me off from the rest of my friends, and her favorite punishment for me was not the insults or the physical pain or even the reality manipulation and emotional abuse, it was the silent treatment, because nothing hurt me more than being alone.
When I was a child, I was alone.
I had started cutting and starving myself when I was ten; I was suicidal since I was eight. I asked my mom when I was eleven if I could check out Wintergirls or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and she smiled condescendingly, told me that those books were too mature for me. She tried to protect me from the reality I was living; she cut me off from the idea of people like me. I didn’t tell anyone even a whisper until ninth grade, when I entered a relationship with the girl who showed me her scars, a relationship so dysfunctional it almost ended with a suicide pact, a relationship that made me the weirdest kind of happy because at least I wasn’t alone anymore.
When I first read Julia Bascom’s blog, two years ago, I cried, because here was someone like me, and she was alive, and she was writing about the things everyone turned their back on me for mentioning.
I stole a copy of Wintergirls from the library, hid it in my backpack and under my bed, and waited for everyone else to fall asleep before I read it.
I was almost hospitalized when I was 14, for having a psychotic break too obviously, and I blogged the entire time, and I was still so happy because I wasn’t hiding anymore. Because I wasn’t alone.
I was watching a musical, a couple months ago, and it hit me just how afraid I am of the future–I’ve spent my life assuming that I didn’t have a future, because I was going to kill myself (goodbye cruel world hope you enjoyed your stay) when I was twelve (and then, when I passed that, I decided on 16), and that would be that, so I would never have to worry about how I’d end up or what I’d be as an adult because I would just never grow up. But now, I’m older, and I don’t think I want to die anymore. I was (am) terrified of growing up and still being me–of growing up and still being crazy.
I’ve discovered, though, that teenagers can grow up, even those of us who are gay and crazy and trans. We don’t all die. We can survive. I’ve learned that there is a we out there, and it started with Julia Bascom:
“At some point, and I’ve told this story so many times and it never stops making me want to cry, I started hearing about other disabled people. People who were older than me, people who weren’t about this thing is going to kill me one of these days, people who weren’t about living with, living with, living with, not dying from disease, people who were disabled and alive and not sick, not dying, but raising hell and building lives and screaming, screaming, screaming when we were being killed.
People who used words like we.”
And it was amazing, because she wrote about how she learned that there were other disabled people out there, and that meant that I got to learn too, that there are other disabled people, they exist, they use words like “we” and say that we’re not sick or dying, we are here, we are existing, and I don’t have to be alone anymore.
And that opened the door for me–a door to Mel Baggs and RENT and Ozymandius and Next to Normal and stimmyabby and Mad Pride and the Icarus Project and the Hearing Voices Network and tumblr #actually tags, and so many others, a door that led to people like me who said things like we, a door that led to a community–there are gay people, there are trans people, there are crazy people and disabled people and we have always existed, and here we are, screaming, because now we will be heard, because I am writing this in hopes that someone will read it and know that you’re not alone anymore.
History was always my least favorite subject, but learning that I had a history too, it all seemed so amazing, so deeply essential. They never taught it to me in school, I had to search for it. But it’s there.
As Thing of Things wrote, in their post “We Have Always Existed“:
Changelings are autistic children. There is art that looks like children with Down’s Syndrome. Socrates heard voices. Henry Cavendish may well have been autistic. Soldiers for thousands of years have experienced PTSD. The demon-possessed. Prophets. Acedia. The fool capering across a Shakespearean stage or a royal court. The village idiot. Asylums. CBT is Stoicism wearing a sciencey hat. Mindfulness therapies are Buddhism wearing a sciencey hat.
I cried when I read it–
There is a black-and-white picture out there, of two women, psychiatric survivors in a world that did not want them: paranoid, fighting back. It is from 1976: we have been fighting this battle since before I was born. It is not over. But it is so much better. And we aren’t alone anymore.
See, that is the thing about being who I am: it is, inherently, rebellious. There are entire branches of psychiatry and people who have dedicated their life’s work to claiming DID isn’t real and multiple people in one body isn’t a thing and alters are just parts, not real people, and all it takes for all of that to come tumbling down is for me to say that I’m real.
Living in a society like I do, where being even the smallest amount of different is a punishable offense (even though there is nobody that is perfectly normal; being in high school means that almost everyone around me is quietly unhappy and scared, while trying their best to be perfect, and never asking why it has to be this way) and being too different gets you killed (Mike Brown, Leelah Alcorn, 300 mentally ill people shot by police each year). The ones with voices, after all, get their tongues cut out.
Yet… not always. Gay pride was started when we were hurt by the police one time too many and we rioted, for days, and now we celebrate it each year, and since then a lot of us have died but some of us have lived, and things aren’t better yet, but last year they said I could get married. It is a bitter lie that we all die–there are, right now, #RealLiveTransAdults, and not just that–there are real live mentally ill adults and real live gay adults and real live aromantic adults and real live multiple adults and real live schizophrenic adults, and I can read things they have written and they can talk to me. They’re out there. Girls like me, we can grow up, we can live. I know that, now. I still can’t believe it, not yet, but I know it, and that’s half the way there.
I’ve never been to a protest or a pride. The extent of my activism is reading blogs online and flapping so hard my back screams at me, and claiming my existence. And yet, that is a kind of rebellion too–because rebellion is not always throwing stones and screaming voices and holding signs and starting fires. Sometimes, rebellion is much, much smaller. In friendships and jokes and tumblr posts and essays, in hashtags and holding hands and sharing our stories. In existing, unapologetic, unashamed, and saying you can exist too. It’s a lie that everyone who is different is doomed: we are here, we can live, we can exist, we always have, and when they say that we’re going to die (that the world hates us and that the best we can hope for is to hide and deny ourselves and try our best to pass and hope nobody notices), they are the ones who are killing us.
The most rebellious thing I’ve ever done was staring myself in the mirror, unflinching, saying “I don’t want to be normal” and meaning it.
Rebellion is a rejection of society, and there is nothing society hates more than someone who’s different and open about it. Society hates people who are brazen, unashamed, refusing to be smaller, to minimize, to smile when people misgender you, to keep your hands in your lap and your mouth shut. To be proud of being different is the most rebellious thing people have ever done. There is a reason that solidarity and empathy are so discouraged–because if you look too hard, you might find out that we’re all different people, and you might be relieved and happy because you’re not alone. And you’re not supposed to know that. You’re supposed to think that you’re alone in your differences, so that you will be afraid of them.
When just existing is defiance, being proud is brave. When we are supposed to be hidden, being open is strong.
We’re here. We’re alive. We exist.
We’re not alone anymore.