damaged kids club

Controversial opinion: children are humans, with everything that entails.

 

 

That may seem uncontroversial. Everyone agrees with that!

 

But it’s not true. Everyone says they agree with that, but they don’t, not really.

 

Here is what I mean: children do not have to be sheltered from pain, because they have experienced it. children are not some sort of ultra-pure and special kind of human being; children can be abusers. children do not have to be shielded from knowledge of sexuality, because the knowledge alone cannot harm them–and if they’ve been harmed by sexuality, the knowledge will not further traumatize them, but help them articulate what happened. children can be kind, or intelligent, or cruel, or all of the above. children can be mentally ill. children can be gay. children can be disabled, and it’s not just “normal childhood stuff”, nor does it make them extra-innocent and fragile. children are not ultra-pure creatures that need protected from reality. children deserve to be listened to and respected. children are human fucking beings.

 

children do not have to be sheltered from the “real world”: they already live in it.

 

 

“what happens to all your teen angst when you’re 20… like where does it go”

“they diagnose it as anxiety”

 

 

I have a love/hate relationship with the word “bullying”. On the one hand, it’s the only consistent word I have that can be readily understood by basically everyone. On the other hand: it treats abuse by children as a unique, special thing that everyone grows out of when they turn 18.

 

In reality, that’s not the way it works. Do you know why It Gets Better? It’s not because the bullies stop. All that happens is that, when you turn 18, “my girlfriend insults, ridicules, publicly humiliates, isolates, and sometimes physically harms me” magically transforms from ‘bullying’ to ‘abuse’, and you’re given the capacity to move away from them instead of being forced to go to the same school as them every day. Isn’t it weird how that works?

 

Bullying is a fancy word for an ugly thing, coined because nobody wants to believe that an 8-year-old can abuse another child until they want to die. Children are pure, powerless; how could they be abusers?

 

 

I can trace my sexuality back from when I was 4, my kinks from when I was 5. I am told that I should not be allowed to talk about these things, that knowledge is dangerous, that only 18+ are allowed to have Dirty Thoughts, and I think back to my 7th grade teacher, who risked her job to teach her class how to have safe sex under abstinence-only laws that claimed to be for the sake of Protecting The Children.

 

Children do not need your paternalistic “protection” that claims to know better than them what’s right for their lives. Children need you to listen to their questions, their requests. Children need you to answer them with the truth instead of hiding things from them.

 

 

It’s no secret that not taking kids seriously harms kids. All you’d have to do is ask them–there is no shortage of suffering kids, mentally ill and traumatized kids, screaming as loud as they can for help, screaming about the injustice they’re facing, but not being taken seriously because they’re kids.


 

Here are some stories:

 

A child doesn’t want to hug their relative. Their parent says, “come on, you have to hug them.” The child, reluctantly, agrees.

 

A child is happy, and wants to talk about it–and maybe they stutter, or talk “too much”, or maybe they want to flap their hands or write or draw instead of talking. And they are shut up and shut down, made to feel ashamed of themselves.

 

The child grows up, and doesn’t know how to say “no” or “yes”, because they were taught all of their life that their feelings, desires, boundaries, communication, doesn’t count. That their voices can and should be overwritten by other people.

 

Or maybe the child is still a child, and maybe the child is hurt by an adult. And they don’t say anything, because they think it’s normal to have their desires overwritten. Maybe they allow it, because they were taught all their life to agree with adults, to comply.

Or maybe the child is hurt by another child, and the adults dismiss it, because they’re just kids being kids, playing around. No big deal. After all, kids hurt each other all the time, right? But it’s not serious, because kids can’t actually hurt each other.

 

 

I look at things like Murphy’s Law–taking away all right to confidentiality and privacy, which should be basic human rights, from mentally ill minors–and I want to scream and cry. I look at laws that tell me that keeping my friend at my house for a week against the wishes of her abusive parents is kidnapping and I want to fight. I want to ask the people who fought against this, at what point do we become human beings to you?

 

 

The way to be a good child is to be silent. Don’t talk, don’t cause trouble. Don’t scream or throw a tantrum. Don’t show your pain, don’t be mean where we can see it, don’t communicate. They want an honest child, but they’re going to punish you every time you’re honest, and so by teenage years everyone is quiet, grunting, reclusive, liars, and they wonder what possibly could have gone wrong. Be quiet, stop bothering the adults, we’re trying to talk here.

 

Tell an adult if you experience bullying, they said. I did. They asked her for her side of the story, and concluded that I was lying/exaggerating/actually the mean one. It did not stop. It got worse.

 

There was a “bully box” at my old school, where people were supposed to drop in papers describing the abuse they dealt with. The guidance counselors threw them out at the end of every day.

 

My friend had pain in her ankle from the time she was in 3rd grade. Everyone dismissed it as her making a big deal out of nothing, as exaggerating. She got put in physical therapy last year; they say it will never fully heal.

 

 

I asked my mom for Wintergirls in 7th grade, when I was going through the worst time in my life. I was actively suicidal, self-harming, eating disordered; I got less than 4 hours of sleep a night. I consider it a miracle that I survived that year.

 

“I think that book is a little too… mature for you,” my mom said, putting it back on the shelf.

 

I stole it from the school library, read it at night by flashlight.

 

 

There are countries where children have difficulty accessing education, and they go to huge lengths to get it. Kindergartners enter school excited, full of questions, ready to learn. In places where voluntary schooling has been tried, children do, in fact, choose to go to school! On a basic, fundamental level, most people want to learn.

 

And then you get to high school, and everyone skips class, and I can’t count the number of hospital visits me and my friends have taken on both of my hands, and I treasure learning on my own with books or a computer but have panic attacks at the idea of classrooms and homework, and when a teacher tries to start discussion he is met with 20 dead pairs of eyes and not a single question.

 

I was punished, in pre-school, for being able to read, for wanting to read instead of naptime or cartoons. I, and my friends, have been given bad grades for using shortcuts, doing things in more advanced ways, doing things in unconventional ways that work for our brain better than the “normal” way. I’ve been accused of cheating or plagiarism multiple times because I used “large words”, so now I make sure to write more simply. When I do poorly, they don’t motivate me to understand; they just make me feel stupid for not already understanding it, and so instead of trying I just cheat.

 

This is broken.

 

 

I’m going to be honest: I don’t actually see much of a difference between most instances of “kids shouldn’t [do x harmless but weird/inappropriate-for-their-age thing], so i’m going to [abuse them, take away their rights, harass them, try to ban them from doing the thing, basically just insert any punishment here]”. I really, really don’t.

 

Kids are going to do whatever it is you’re trying to forbid anyway. Abusing them for it will only make them hide it out of fear or shame or both.

 

Why is putting a total ban on something suddenly an Effective Method, and not a shaming tactic that will do nothing but make people more unsafe (and here I’m thinking of abortion, and drugs, and prohibition, and sex work–and all of those apply to minors as much as adults), when you’re dealing with kids?

 

 

When abled people see a disabled person, they don’t see us as people. They take over our autonomy, try to force us into normality, abuse and abuse and abuse us, and then turn around and tell us it’s our fault for not telling them. And we tell them, and we get punished for it. They say they want us to speak honestly, but really they just want us to tell them what they want to hear, and not admit that it’s a lie, so they can hold us up as proof: look! they liked it! they’re fine! they’re better, they’re fixed!

(of course, they don’t acknowledge that the only reason we thought we were broken was because of them.)

 

And when you’re a kid, you don’t know enough to tell them that they’re wrong, and you can’t escape them, and everyone you trust is telling you that they’re right.

 

When they look at suffering kids, they rationalize it away. Kids don’t suffer. Kids don’t feel pain, right? Only adults feel real pain, not just tantrums and angst. Kids can’t feel pain, and they can’t inflict it. After all, they shouldn’t even know what pain is. After all, childhood isn’t the “real world”. After all, everything they’re complaining about is just for their protection and/or for their education and/or for their development of thicker skin. They’ll understand and be grateful when they’re older. Right?

 

 

We’re forced into the closet, punished for being ourselves, over and over and over again. And we’re told it’s for our own good.

 

 

“Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

I did.

 

The real question: “Why did nobody listen?”
The answer: Because they didn’t think my voice mattered.

in defense of immaturity

There are so, so many amazing and beautiful things I could say about tumblr youth culture today, but here is a thing in it that has hurt me:

unironically feeling things is practically a crime. if you let yourself unironically feel things, you are immature.

especially unironically liking fiction, because stories are the height of immaturity (or maybe honesty and truth, but to be honest you have to be serious and to be truthful you have to be vulnerable).

 

being angry at the human race makes you an edgelord; liking something means you’re mock-worthy; being incredibly sad means you’re romanticizing mental illness; making one mistake means that you’re scum. making jokes about self-loathing, or about your “trashy” interests, these are ok, but being genuine about your feelings? that makes you a target.

 

and you know who this targets, mostly? mentally ill people, and children.

 

people with difficulty concealing and changing their feelings. autistic people who get unironically excited about their “problematic, trashy” interests. people with speech disorders who can’t keep up with the ever-changing vocabulary. abuse survivors who identify with fictional depictions of abuse and get told by the same people who dismiss it as ‘manpain’ that it should trigger them instead. borderlines who go into rage spirals and get told that they’re a 12-year-old edgelord. depressed people who identify with black-and-white weheartit pictures with sad quotes on them who get told that they’re not really depressed. trans teens who identify with the “born in the wrong body” narrative and get told that they’re not allowed to because it’s transphobic. questioning people who search for labels that fit them, for pronouns that don’t make their skin crawl, who get made fun of as “mogai tumblr”. gay kids who identify with stories where the lesbians die at the end.

 

and children. children who don’t know much yet, who are learning about the world, who need room to grow and learn and feel and make mistakes instead of being forced into yet another structure of social norms.

 

 

Here is another issue, and a related one: we are often not allowed to define our own experiences, our own narratives, in social justice communities or out of it. They take away our agency. They tell ace people who were raped in an attempt to change their sexuality that they can’t call it “acephobia” or “corrective rape”, that really we know better than you do and we know that it wasn’t that. They erase trans people who don’t fit into gender roles, or who fit into them too well. They call out isolated people who use slurs because they don’t know any other vocabulary. They tell disabled women who feel safer around disabled men than abled women that we’re derailing. They silence all of the people who try to talk about different experiences than the politically convenient. They take away our autonomy, and they tell us that they’re doing it for our own good.

I ran from bigoted people, who don’t take my experiences seriously because they’re politically inconvenient, into the safe embrace of social justice tumblr, where… my experiences still aren’t taken seriously because they’re politically inconvenient.

 

I want to ask: who decided which experiences are politically convenient? more to the point, why do we care more about politics and convenience than we do about humanity and truth and empathy and genuine communication?

To tie this into the rest of the essay: Why do we care more, when bullying children, if something is problematic, than if it has helped them, made them happy, saved their lives? Why do we force them into the narrative of embarrassing and gross and bad, instead of letting them tell us their feelings?

 

 

my friends told me that i was being super insensitive by talking about a game i loved (i was really excited because it was a game that realistically shows oppression and mental illness but they got upset and like “well idk it might help nts/cishets understand better but ew, why would i want to play that, that’s super triggering to people who went through it”, and, you know, i went through it thank you very much)

 

i really liked the game?? but i felt really bad now bc they didnt like it and i just. i feel weird bc there’s this idea that i Cannot Enjoy Fiction that i relate to bc it should trigger me, i should want escapism and fantasy instead of you play till the strings or your fingernails break and i wasn’t born good and things that i can relate to. i tried to say that this is my escapism, far more than a lot of stories i like, because i get to watch stories where the people like me get to have happy endings where they don’t get fixed, they get to be weird and queer and monstrous and happy because of it and not just in spite of it, but they told me that it doesn’t sound like they can enjoy it because it portrays oppression and abuse. they told me that i wasn’t allowed to reclaim it because i’m cis (and ignored the fact that there are two cis lesbians in the story AND the fact that, y’know, kit is also a person that exists and is currently co-fronting)

 

nobody said that we’re “not really oppressed” but the undercurrent was there in the whole conversation when they said “why would anyone want to relive the worst parts of their life in a video game tho” and “well i guess i can see why nts/cishets like it??” in that weird dismissive way that says-without-saying (like how you don’t have to touch someone to touch someone, you know?) that their response to this is the correct response and that anyone who reacts differently is clearly just a Neurotypical Cishet Who Doesn’t Understand Us Except Through Video Games, instead of a Crazy Traumatized Gay Who Understands Life Through Stories

 

 

i like stories that are about people like me who live in this world with all of the pain that entails, i like stories with happy endings but i also like stories with complex and sad and honest middles and there is this idea that i should not like stories at all (and that if I do, i at least shouldn’t be genuine about it, or unashamed, and they should be uncomplicated stories that don’t have the messiness of real life), and i am a writer and i am a person and i cannot live in this world without stories

 

i think there’s a quote about it that describes it well: “when reading stories, some people look for windows; other people look for mirrors.”

 

stop telling me that i look for mirrors because i like what i see in them: i don’t.

but even more than that: stop telling me that, when i look for mirrors, i shouldn’t like what i see in them.

 

 

i watch skins! i play video games with characters who are explicitly gay and trans and mentally ill and in christian conversion camp! i watch musicals where everyone dies at the end! i like stories with suicide and pain and trauma and survival!! i am not a neurotypical cishet trying to understand you! as a system, we are not cis, het, OR neurotypical! we understand ourselves through fiction and stories! they are very important to me! please do not imply that if we were ”really in pain” that we’d want to avoid it instead of trying to find people who are in similar pain that we can relate to! stories are very important and for us they are at their most important when they are stories of abuse and hallucinations and dysfunction and pain and confusion and friendship that somehow has a happy ending, instead of just cotton candy “we are so happy together all the time and we are strong 24/7 because we are a role model for young children” representation. i like RENT more than i like steven universe! i like hannibal because it is the story of psychiatric abuse and peer abuse and mental illness trauma, and all of the “ahaha look at the white dudes having Manpain” will never fucking take that away from me!

 

 

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being overdramatic. Maybe I’m making inappropriate comparisons. Maybe I’m trivializing oppression. Maybe I’m doing something wrong by pointing out that, hey, this is supposed to be better, but this doesn’t actually feel any different, you’re still laughing at vulnerable people you see as Acceptable Targets. Maybe I’m just saying this because I can’t read this without thinking of seventh grade, wondering if I’m stupid and embarrassing, wondering if I deserve to die because other people have it worse, and clinging as hard as I can to stories because they were the only thing keeping me going and reassuring me that I’m not alone. Maybe I’m just saying this because I can’t write this without feeling like I’m back in fourth grade, running away at full-speed from the cruel laughter of my classmates, tears stinging my eyes.

 

 

no matter how much people look condescendingly down onto 12-year-old superwholocks, the fact remains that I refuse to be ashamed and embarrassed of the fact that my love of superwholock saved my life when I was twelve.

 

It has taken me years to say that, because it is social suicide, because it goes against everything about hating unironic, immature, genuine love of problematic things. But it is true.

 

But here is the truth: I loved superwholock. I was twelve. I am not embarrassed.

 

It saved my life; it made me happy; it made me feel things; it gave me a mirror of fictional people who are dysfunctional and surviving. I refuse to be ashamed of that.

 

No matter how many posts get made to mock 14 year olds who say “i’m a superwholock and i’m not embarrassed”, to harass them for years, to stalk and search for them after they’ve done everything they can to get away from this, no matter how many times this gets reblogged as a joke instead of bullying and abuse, no matter how long I had to make fun of my superwholock friend until she didn’t like it either just so that I wouldn’t be the next target, I will not be ashamed of being a child and liking things and surviving. I am still a child; I still like things; I am still not ashamed.

 

I like things. I get angry. I get sad. I see myself, and define myself, in stories. I talk on the internet, and I scream, and I cry, and sometimes I write 4-page essays on google drive defending this because I’m insecure and fragile, and then I post them on my blog and try not to brace myself for the backlash. I feel things, and I like stories, and I talk about it, and I am a disabled girl, and I am not ashamed.

I am not an ~edgy twelve-year-old superwholock~ anymore, but when I was, I would’ve found it a lot easier to survive as one if everyone had stopped telling me that I shouldn’t care about my only sources of joy and happiness and hope. There is nothing wrong with being a mentally ill kid who likes things unironically. There is not even anything wrong with being a neurotypical adult who likes things unironically! There is nothing wrong with liking things, liking things is good, it makes you happy. You’re allowed to like things, even if people say that they’re bad things to like. If you like it, then it’s good.
Even more importantly: you’re allowed to feel things, even if people say they’re bad things to feel. you’re allowed to talk about what you feel. don’t let people silence you.

texts i sent to my friends, and their meanings

i. hey, i wrote a new thing on my blog, want to read it?

 

This was not the essay I set out to write today. It was supposed to be about reality and illusion, theory of mind and loneliness and the unknowable. It’s not about any of that. But this one? It’s still important. It’s a collection of words that are two years overdue.

Out of all of the posts on this site, this is the essay that truly bares my heart. It’s about victimhood and villainy, the problems with social justice and the problems with anti-social justice, and above all it is about silence and invisibility and living a story that has no space for you in it. But it’s also about visibility, because writing this is an inherently visible act. I am refusing to be silent, I am sharing, I am making myself visible, I am taking the narrative they gave me and tearing a hole in it wide enough to give me space to live happily. I am not lashing out or self-destructing. I am not staying quiet. I am sharing. I am communicating, in a way you can understand.

Will you listen?

 

 

ii. because she was the victim and i  was the villain

 

I used to like fantasy books. They followed a specific formula: Girl discovers she has magic powers, girl befriends unicorn (or finds a family heirloom or goes on a quest with her best friend), saves the world. And it was easy enough to see myself as the girl. I had straight mouse-brown hair, glasses, and was very studious; I was mostly a loner but I had a few friends; in other words, I seemed to myself to be a good candidate for an elementary school fantasy plotline. I waited impatiently for my magic story to come along. I was careful to follow all of the fairytale logic that abounded in these stories: be kind and selfless, stop and help strangers, help animals, because you never know who is going to pledge a life debt to you or reveal your powers or curse you if you aren’t kind to them.

And then I met a girl, and for a long time I thought I had come across my magic story at last. She revealed stories in secret, of my magic, of cats and fairies. Her eyes were deep brown and earnest.

And then she hurt me, and I found out she was lying, and I stopped believing in magic. The stories I had once loved twisted themselves around, became blackened and cruel versions. If I had done everything right, then why was I being punished while she bloomed? So I came to the only logical conclusion: I must not have done everything right. When you believe that life is fair and that bad things happen to evil people while the heroes get happy endings, it is easy to see yourself as a villain if bad things happen to you. I couldn’t understand why she would hurt me if I was nice to her, so I must have been mean. I couldn’t understand why I was the one hurting if I was the good one, so I must have been the bad one. All I had to do was follow the rules: be kind and selfless, be a good little girl, nod and smile, be small and quiet, be graceful, don’t impose, be polite, let everyone do whatever they want, and always apologize. And I realized, when I looked close enough, that I was so very, very bad at the rules.

I stopped reading fantasy. My favorite book for years was Wintergirls, a story of an 18-year-old anorexic girl, who seemed to be trapped in the same borderland I lived in, the same liminal world–torn apart by guilt, haunted by ghosts, floating through life, trapped in a world where wishes come true, lost in the forest of her life, abiding by fairy rules in the human world–because it was a fairytale but it was also real, stripped of magic powers and curses and unicorns and all of those things that weren’t true. I took strides farther and farther away from fantasy as I hurtled towards adolescence, and often I didn’t read at all except for internet postings. Still, I could not shed the fantasy mindset, no matter how much I hated it. I hated the notions of bravery, kindness, self-sacrifice that led me to punish myself daily, self-flagellation for rulebreaking: a cut for interrupted someone in conversation, a cut for talked without being talked to first, a cut for accepted help I didn’t need or deserve.

Sometimes they’ll still try to tell me that she was the victim, that I was the villain. I am too well-trained, most of the time, too good at selflessness even now, struggling under self-imposed bondage made from past scars. I see a positivity post telling me that all girls are kind and that female friendships are so much safer than friendships with boys, and I want to say something, but accusations of derailing and misogyny flash before my eyes, and years of training myself–a cut for talking out of turn, a stab of self-hatred for not agreeing with someone else–tie my hands down. I am immobile, speechless. I scroll past the post. I am involved in internet activist culture that tells me that harm can be measured through the tallying of respective privilege and oppression points, and she wins (Jewish, parental abuse victim, bi girl, depressed). So that means that she can’t be a predator, it means that she has to be a victim. And if she’s the victim, then I have to be the villian. So I keep quiet.

(But not being able to talk is not the same as not having anything to say.)

 

 

iii. I know I know i know, ive been trying and trying

 

They say that invisibility is a privilege. I wonder if the people who say that have ever been invisible. Because I have, and it is not privilege, it is work.

Working to be invisible is weird. You don’t get recognition for your work. Your work is, by definition, invisible.

Here is the work that is involved in making yourself invisible: have a mental breakdown in school, ask with shaking hands to go to the bathroom, loiter in the bathroom until it is empty, bang your head against the wall over and over, cry until snot runs down your face, and then clean yourself up and go back to class. Know that, with your long bathroom trip and your bloodshot eyes, your teacher probably thinks you got high, so make sure to sniffle and sneeze, ask for a tissue, work extra-hard in class and make sure that each and every one of your sentences is razor-sharp, full of logic and calmness, but stay quiet, off the radar, unimposing. Smile and smile and smile. By the time you get home you’ll be exhausted, but saying anything would make you visible, would make your mom freak out over you and ask a million questions and never leave you alone in a room, and not doing your work would get you yelled at, so you do that. Get in the shower and vomit and don’t tell anyone, and you’re not even sure why not, just that it’s better not to talk. Let everyone walk over you, and smile and be polite and jump through all of the hoops. If you happened to get into a debate about why you deserve to live, be sure to smile and stay rational so that you don’t hurt anybody’s feelings, but it’s much better to just avoid the debate altogether by agreeing with them or just staying quiet and out of the way.

When you get angry, don’t tell anyone. Let your anger fester and then turn it back on yourself, when you’re alone, so that nobody knows.

When you want something, don’t tell anyone. Want it until your body aches with longing, cry, get suicidal, sure. As long as you do it out of the way. As long as nobody finds out. See, that would prove that you are alive, that you have needs and wants, preferences and desires and necessities, and you are doing your best to be seen as much as a ghost. When somebody else gets what you wanted, tell them you’re happy for them, and smile with your eyes as well as your mouth, to seem genuine. Hoard your envy like a secret.

I’m not supposed to want to be visible. I’m supposed to want to be invisible, because then they don’t even have to do anything, then I’ll do all the work myself. I’m supposed to want to be invisible, because then I won’t be inconvenient, I won’t want things or have opinions or lash out, I won’t be violent or militant or hurt anybody’s feelings. Everyone tells me that, really, being invisible is good, being invisible is better than the alternative, I should be happy that I’m invisible, I should want and work to be invisible, I shouldn’t want to be visible.

I know. I know. I’ve been trying my hardest to be invisible, I promise. I’m sorry that I can’t always want it.

 

 

iv. and now im APOLOGIZING to her and its just like, i shouldnt have to fucking apologize, but i do, over and over, and so do my friends, and its just for being OURSELVES

 

I want to lash out sometimes, but I also don’t. I want to be visible, but I know I shouldn’t want that, I should want invisibility, I should want to disappear, so I tell myself that until I believe it. I tell myself over and over how bad it is, for me to want things, but I cannot believe it.

I should be glad I am neurotypical-passing, glad that nobody knows who I am, glad that I am not a target for violence anymore. I should be grateful. I am privileged. But I am not grateful.

In fourth grade, my best friend abandoned me, and she got everyone else to do the same, and I didn’t have any words for it. It was like this: asking over and over, why won’t you talk to me? what did i do wrong? i’m sorry, i promise, i’m so so sorry, please, i’m sorry, i’ll do anything you want, just talk to me, i don’t know what i did wrong but whatever it is i’m sorry, until your voice grows hoarse with the asking, and still not getting an answer, as she laughs with her new friends and doesn’t even throw a glance in your direction to show that she heard you. Giving up on the asking, because it is useless, because they’ll never hear you. A girl looking past you, as if you are not even there. A boy throwing a ball to his friend, and having to duck out of the way, because nobody noticed you. Spending recess wandering aimlessly along the field, sitting and talking to trees for 15 minutes because they’re a better conversation partner than your friends are. Wanting to lash out, to hit them or scream at them, so that maybe they’d finally notice you, but deciding not to, because that would be mean, that would be selfish, that would take up space and time and thoughts, and you don’t deserve to be noticed anyway. Wondering what you did wrong. Wondering if your existence is the thing that is wrong.

No, wait, that’s wrong. That wasn’t just fourth grade. That was every day of my goddamn life until this year–people talk past me. People talk to Casey. She doesn’t exist. She never did. She’s a mask we put on so we can disappear, so we can stay in the closet. I can count the number of people who talk to me on one hand, I add another hand for knowing I exist, and I am so incredibly grateful for them, for the most taken-for-granted scraps: having people who see you as a person, who know that you exist, who call you by your name, who like you for who you are instead of who you pretend to be. “I” am a superfluous symptom of Casey’s existence, and I exist but nobody sees me. I am still, most of the time, invisible.

People online ask me if I’m out of the closet, or if I’m open about some aspect of myself, and I want to laugh at them, because it’s not that simple, it’s not tell someone once and then you’re done. It’s whispering “call me Sofia” to a friend and bracing myself, but then they ignore me and call me Casey anyway. It’s asking my parents, staring at my food, mumbling, if I can go to a vigil for the Orlando massacre. It’s not saying anything in class when the person next to you talks about how he wishes that it was still socially acceptable to beat up gay people. It’s nervous laughter when people ask you about a crush. You don’t come out once. You come out a thousand times in a thousand moments with a hundred different people, and you stay closeted a million times in a million moments with everyone else.

The hardest thing was coming out of the closet to myself. They never told me, growing up, that this was a way that people could be. I didn’t have the words, the access codes, of gay or mentally ill or aromantic or neurodivergent. I didn’t know. They never taught me. And when I didn’t have words for who I was, I chose my own: broken. selfish. confused. wrong.

But they say that hypervisibility is worse than invisibility, they call passing–staying closeted, staying invisible, blending in, not knowing who you are–a privilege, and I cannot say anything because that would be talking over people with problems worse than mine, and I cannot say anything because I never learned how to say things, because to say things is to be visible.

Invisibility is neglect, and neglect is abuse, and it’s not better because it makes you hurt yourself instead of hurting you. Invisibility is not kind, or privileged, or easier, invisibility is violent.

But they say that visibility is worse, and so I apologize for being invisible. Or they say that trying to be visible is making people uncomfortable, and I apologize. I apologize over and over, because I can’t do anything else.

 

 

v. i have treated wounds that needed stitches with cloth tape and bandaids and kept my mouth shut so that my friends wouldn’t fucking FEEL BAD and i am SO FUCKING DONE with that

 

I am tired of being selfless. I am tired of putting everyone else before myself. I am tired of trying to be the hero. I am tired of being quiet, polite, forgettable.

(I’ve wanted to be vegan since seventh grade but I only told my parents last week, I’ve wanted to go to a pride since sixth grade but I went to my first community event two weeks ago, I told my friends in eighth grade that I existed but I let them get away with acting like I didn’t until this year. I’m here and I’m queer and I’m not going away and I won’t let anyone shove me back into the closet again.)

I am so fucking tired of being invisible.

I exist. I matter, too. And fuck anyone who tries to tell me that I don’t.

inertia

inertia: a property of matter by which it continues in its existing state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line, unless that state is changed by an external force

 

 

inertia: drifting or rushing or standing still, powerless to do anything other than what i’ve been doing, powerless to change the course of my life

 

 

inertia: learning the scripts, learning to dissociate and recite them, learning to talk less, smile more, learning to keep walking and keep your head down and your chin up, learning to hate yourself into silence, to keep doing schoolwork while your brain is taking a break from reality, and continuing on, keep going and going and going and going

 

 

inertia: eight years old, trapped, waiting, going to school every day, crying every day, realizing one day that i could just stop. nobody put the idea in my head, i just realized it: death, easy as falling asleep, stopping forever, not having to live anymore in this body, in this life, in this world that i hated

 

inertia: twelve years old, deciding i will die this year, it makes perfect sense, 4-8-12, counting by fours: starting school, starting self-destruction, starting suicide, wake up go to school don’t say anything that isn’t a response to a question, come home, do homework, smile, cut, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat until suddenly one day you turn thirteen and don’t feel anything except disappointed that you came this far, but you’re stuck in your pattern, as unable to kill yourself as you are to ask for help

 

inertia: fourteen years old, not sure how long i’ll live, bombarded by statistics of 48% of trans youth and 1 in 5 anorexics, and still holding my funeral fantasies close to my chest, casually letting my friends know how i want to be buried, what song i want to be sung, what i want them to say, just in case, because in my story i’m supposed to die young but i’m older than eight and older than twelve, living on borrowed time because every day i just wake up, go to school, stay quiet, stay on the script, smile, come home, do homework, cut, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat and i can’t break that schedule

 

inertia: fifteen years old, alive today because of inertia but trapped by it, trying to get free from the spiderwebs that force me to go through the same schedule, the same scripts, every day, the narratives that give me room to die young or else to keep getting by, but never to actually live, trying to break out of them and failing, failing, falling

 

 

inertia: saying yes because i can’t say no, saying i’m fine because i can’t say help me, saying a fake name as automatically as breathing, trying to go off the script and losing my words, my throat closing and choking and not letting me say anything that i actually mean, being articulate so you don’t have to listen

 

inertia: trying to say something i actually mean and being punished for it, being honest and being punished for it. admitting i have a problem and having my phone taken away for not hiding it, losing friends for “my name is sofia, don’t call me casey”, reprimands for rocking back and forth, criticism for getting Bs and being happy instead of being suicidal and dissociated and getting As, for talking too much instead of having panic attacks at the idea of speaking out in class, careful punishments designed to force me back into inertia whenever i got too close to being free, punishments designed to teach me what to say and who to be and how to stay there at all costs, even (especially?) the cost of my life

 

 

inertia: clinging to stories and to the internet, going and going and going and not stopping to let myself think, staying up too late on my kindle so sleep deprivation clouds my thoughts, desperately trying to stay out of my thoughts, reading and reading and reading, writing this because i can’t stop writing, writing desperately whenever i get better because i know it’s only a matter of time before i get bad again, writing this because i’m manic and paranoid and i can’t think, writing about my problems so i don’t have to face them, blogging and reading and chatting and not letting myself off my phone, avoiding and avoiding as the problems pile up and up and up, as they become bigger with every passing moment, as i need even more to avoid them because i can’t face the fear that grows exponentially with them, them trying to overwhelm me, and me turning my face away, because if i let my guard down for one second then i’ll notice what it is that i’m trying to hide from, an endless cycle of avoidance, a self-perpetuating trap

 

 

inertia: not being able to recover, taking steps forward slowly, with the help of adjusted brain chemistry and prompts from other people because i can’t do it on my own, knowing that i will be living with this for the rest of my life and not knowing how to do it because this isn’t in the script unless “the rest of my life” is short and miserable, searching for a new script and finding a couple, small ones, tiny stories from online bloggers, and keeping them secret because if i tell anyone then they’ll ruin it and i’ll be back to living without any script at all

 

inertia: knowing that i can survive anything, that i can stay alive, wait it out, get used to hell and keep walking until i get out, knowing that i can find happiness anywhere eventually and that i have no time limit because i can just keep going and get through it, knowing that i will survive the worst, knowing that i have time to worry about life because inertia saved mine

 

 

inertia: not being able to move for two hours, staying in whatever pose people put me in, frozen solid, an object at rest staying at rest unless acted upon by an outside force, being taken to the hospital in an ambulance, knowing that once I start moving I won’t be able to stop, remembering how to move my eyes and then how to move the rest of my body

 

inertia: waking up day after day, same routine, moving robotically, reciting and remixing and repeating scripts, punctuated by long periods of silence i taught myself trying to escape from the ridicule that followed me when i let my brain connect to my mouth, not acting unusual or out-of-the-ordinary ever, being unable to cry after years of being the crybaby, being unable to do anything except to keep going, each day exactly like the last, the last thing my brain clings to in a desperate attempt to keep me alive

 

inertia: pacing and pacing, writing and writing, 25,000 words of a story in a day, 4,000 words of essay in a day, throwing myself into books, not letting myself have any time to think because it hurts too much, talking to myself nonstop, pacing around a classroom, around my room, around the school, hours on end, not being able to stop, copying down essays and lyrics and chapters from books, translating them from code to code, tripping over myself in the library during my pacing and taking 15 minutes trying to remember how to stand, living life spinning around and around in a roller coaster and not knowing how to get off

 

 

inertia: wanting to do things when i’m stuck frozen

inertia: wanting everything to stop or just slow down when everything is happening too fast

inertia: being controlled for so long that you get stuck in a feedback loop, controlling yourself so they don’t need to do it, not being able to stop

inertia: wanting to have control over your own life, what you say, what you do

inertia: not having any control over your own life, your own body, your own words and emotions

inertia: not having your own life or body or words or emotions, just ones that are given to you

inertia: having a million words but not being able to say any of the ones that aren’t on a script, a narrative written for you in advance

inertia: not being able to do anything

inertia: running on autopilot and not being able to turn it off

 

 

inertia: losing independence, losing control, losing freedom, losing autonomy to nothing and nobody but yourself

 

 

inertia: wanting to die but not being able to

inertia: wanting to live but not being able to

inertia: wanting freedom but being kept captive by your own mind

inertia: saved my life

inertia: won’t let me live it

on animality

[Note: This is a heavily intellectualized version of how I feel; it focuses on animality-as-narrative and animalperson-as-identity, not the actual, embodied experience of being an animal-person, which is impossible for me to put into words due to my experience of it as an inherently wordless. Mel Baggs and Akhila have described it much better than I think I am able to; I recommend reading their writing if you want to know how I perceive the world as an animal-person instead of how I feel about the narrative of “animal-person” applied to my life. This is tentative and exploratory; I do not know right now if animal person is, in fact, my primary identity, or if it’s one of many, but this is my first essay to seriously explore this narrative, and writing it was very meaning-filled and cathartic for me, so it may be. Who knows? Well, we’ll see, I guess. ^-^]

 

 

I love animals.

I always have.

 

I can add so many words to this, but that is what it boils down to. Above everything else–above aromantic and headmate and crazy and girl–I am an animal person.

 

This is a story about being therian. This is a story about being an animal rights activist. This is a story about losing my way. This is a story about falling down, down, down the rabbit hole, and getting out, and this is a story about choosing to go back.

 

 

I have never felt completely ‘human’, and I have always connected very much to animals.

 

When I was three, people would ask me what I want to be when I grew up and I would tell them “a cow”, “a polar bear”, “a cat”.

 

I grew up believing I was secretly half-cat (and this would later be labeled a delusion; while the belief went away, the feeling never faded).

 

I discovered santa wasn’t real in fourth grade, when I wrote, Dear Santa (parents dont read this!!!!) I don’t want anything this year just please let me tranform into a cat for christmas or else I’ll know you’re fake and not really magic!! and I woke up the next morning with a pile of gifts and a body I couldn’t stand.

 

When I played “pretend”, I pretended to be anything but human for as long as it was socially acceptable to do so. I would see myself in the mirror and sometimes it would be fine and sometimes there would be a disconnect–where’s my fur? Where are my ears? Where is my tail? (and this would later be labeled as dissociation and dysphoria, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real)

 

Not only that, sometimes my first response to things is ‘normal’, and sometimes it is to hiss, to purr, to arch my back, to mimic the birdcall to chase the rabbit to run from the car.

 

I feel my fur, my tail, my ears, overlaying my human body. Seeing a margay for the first time was like looking in a second mirror. In all the ways that matter to me, I am a margay.

 

And I was abused for it. She told me, “you are a cat,” and I agreed, and she twisted it around into just a game and you’re not a human so I can hurt you and you’re weaker than me so I can hurt you and but you’re delusional for believing me.

 

 

I have never felt completely ‘human’, and I have always connected very much to animals.

 

When I was five, I was nominated as a semifinalist for an award for helping animals.

 

When I was eight, I understood the distinction between empathy and sympathy by saying “empathy is what I feel about animals, sympathy is what I feel for humans.” I ran a fully active online animal rights group and argued eight people into becoming vegan or vegetarian.

 

I have always known that people hurt animals (and that people hurt me, and that I was an animal, and that these things aren’t connected to me but they’re connected in the minds of the people doing the hurting). There is a reason that dehumanization is seen as cruel and oppressive. Once you see a person as an animal, you stop caring about them, because you don’t care about animals. (The same thing happens, equally obviously, to disabled people and children–it is strange, how easily “not as intelligent in the ways that we care about, different senses and perceptions, weaker than us, or not strong in the right ways, too different” becomes bad, becomes repugnant, becomes cruelty that you are complicit in despite turning up your nose at)

 

 

When I was twelve, I cared, but I was suicidal, and I couldn’t do anything anymore except for cry and cut myself and wonder why can’t I help them anymore, why am I bad like this, why don’t I care enough, why can’t I just die already.

 

 

Talking about animal rights with my friends is always a strange experience, because I am the only one who agrees with it, and yet they are all animal-lovers who are repulsed by cruelty.

 

The difference is that they are also repulsed by people pointing out their complicity in the cruelty. The difference is that I know I can hold guilt without dying. Society doesn’t want you to know that, your brain doesn’t want you to know that, your entire being–dare I say your humanity?–screams at the idea of guilt, but it’s true. Shame is what they try to give you, and that is what you cannot live with.

 

 

Let me ask you: where is your criteria for who matters?

Do pigs matter? Do dogs matter? Do toddlers matter?

(They are similar in the ways that matter: they can all feel things and communicate their feelings, although none can use language; they can all learn; they all experience happiness; they all experience pain and sadness; they play games, they love, they cry. And yet we have decided, as a society: pigs are the dirt of the earth; dogs are sweet and lovely, but are generally not extensively mourned; three-year olds are by far the most important, as long as acknowledging them doesn’t make us confront any of that uncomfortable guilt that comes with acknowledging the developing world.)

 

Do dolphins matter? Do schizophrenic people matter? Do elephants matter? Do I matter?

(We are not all similar, yet you see the point: we feel pain differently, we feel happiness differently, but we do feel. we communicate, even if you can’t understand us. we love; we are happy; we are sad; we feel pain and pleasure. we are capable of horrible things and wonderful ones; not all of us are considered human.)

 

 

The effective altruism movement gave me anxiety and scrupulosity spirals for months, almost re-awakening my eating disorder, curled up into a ball of but eating is basically murder because the money that gave me one meal could have bought 10 meals for children in the developing world.

 

Then I found ACE–then I discovered, you can save 14 animals for just one dollar.

 

And what I felt, it wasn’t anxiety, it wasn’t guilt and shame and fear, it was awe and wonder and empowerment, because I can save 14 animals!

 

It felt like, I have been working my entire life to save animals (to save people like me, because animals are people and I am an animal), and here it is, I can. I can do something to help them. I can do something to save them. And that’s how I understood–this is what the movement is. It’s not about guilt–it’s about the amazement and hope of I can save lives.

 

 

I read books and I want to scream. I want to claw away at my skin, with real claws, not blunt fingernails, tear it off. I see myself in the characters: the dissociation, the escapism, the desire and the need and the trying desperately to make the need go away because it doesn’t work, it will never work, all it does is mark you as not-normal, so you try to hide in yourself and make yourself disappear. You shut yourself up, repress and disconnect, in the name of selflessness, of protecting the people around you from you. And it doesn’t work. It never works. Or, it does, but when it works, it works too well and makes everything worse. It never makes you happy. But I don’t always see myself in the text of the situation, and I am afraid to talk about my identification, as if saying I relate, this is me, this is what I have done, will be perceived maliciously as if I am taking over, so I do not even comment on fanfiction and blog posts, just copy them into my journal o quotes.

 

This is what books do, for me, this is what they always have done: they make me imagine what it would be like to transform into a cat, for the first time in years since I have tamped down, hidden, repressed, that desire–no, that need. They talk about my feelings, the way that high schoolers who don’t look right, don’t feel right, the ways we all self-destruct and hide from our needs, the ways that nonhumans exist and think and feel, the ways that my brain glitches and cracks and screams and self-destruct, and none of it is quite right but it’s all I have, because I need stories. Books have made me delusional; books have saved my life. And sometimes when I read them, I see what I am missing, what I am missing because of the things I need that aren’t okay, aren’t allowed, aren’t even always possible.

 

I doodle cats on my homework before even realizing what I’m doing, and then I glance down absentmindedly, burst into tears because I cannot stand it, go home to gaze at the faces of kitten Pepper and cat Lion, and envy them so much for just existing as they are. I see their faces and I ache because I want it, I want what they have so effortlessly, I want to be able to purr and meow and walk on four legs and scratch and bite without training myself ever-so-carefully, practicing for weeks, days, years, trying to teach my human body how to do it, but also training my animal brain how to not-do it, how to smile carefully and use words and not act too weird where people might see me, and I want things that I cannot want (I want to be small, I want to have fur, I want to have large eyes and paws that can rotate 180 degrees to climb up trees and then back down, headfirst, I want to look in a mirror and feel a connect with who I see there).


 

I shave my legs for the first time for a chorus concert, trying not to cry, watching the closest thing I will ever have to fur fall to the floor in tiny, thin clumps.

 

I hide from my reflection. I want, desperately, more than anything in this entire universe, to become a cat. I never grew out of wanting to play-pretend, except that this doesn’t feel like playing pretend, it’s not a delusion with that sneaking back-of-my-mind knowledge that it’s not real. It’s immediate and important and necessary, I want to be a cat I need to be a cat, I need this more than I have ever needed anything in my entire life. I spent three years in an eating-disordered dreamworld of repressed hunger and need. It is hard to describe that gnawing starvation that turns into utter binging because you cannot control your hungers to someone who has not experienced it. And yet those needs are still secondary–more than food, more than water, I need two things: to not-be-alone, and to be a margay. And one of those is achievable, and one of them isn’t, and I don’t know how to come to terms with that.

 

 

Am I really an animal? I don’t think I’ll ever truly know. But this is what I do know: for two years (three?), I wasn’t dysphoric, laughed at my past self for being so silly as to believe that I was an animal, and those were the worst years of my life, those were the years where I counted out all the pills in the house and made funeral plans (give all my money to charity; hire my friends to sing; make me into a tree, because even in death i didn’t want to be human), cut and starved and cried myself to sleep every night. So this much is what I know: being allowed to be an animal–or, more accurately, an animal-person, because my experience of being animal is tied together in a million ways with the ways that animals are people who are treated like not-people and the ways that framing my life with models and narratives is a human thing and the way I speak in words and think in feelings, the way that I am not human not animal somewhere in-between–it feels like some of the weight lifts off my chest. Is it a delusion, a hallucination, a depersonalization, a metaphor taken too literally, an extension of a childhood spent psychotic? Who cares? This is what I know: when I bike fast enough, I feel my fur rippling in the wind, and for once everything in the world feels like it might be okay.

 

 

This is what being an animal-person means to me: it means that, even on a cocktail of antidepressants and antipsychotics and antianxiety medication, even with supportive family and friends, even with the best therapist I could ask for, even with writing as an outlet–I will still look down and feel a deep wrongness at my skin, I will still dissociate when I look in the mirror, I will still get random intrusive thoughts about needing to destroy my body, rip off chunks of flesh, claw my way out of the pit in my stomach and drop this body like a shell, I will still consider suicide because there is no other way out of this body that is so intrinsically not mine, this species that is destroying my kin with its ideas of superiority. It means that, when I have bad years, I cut and starve and puke and cry, panic and scream and rave and hallucinate. Being an animal-person means trauma.

 

(To those of you who will read this and say that I’m batshit insane: yes, that’s the point, I’m glad you’re paying attention.

To those of you who will read this and conclude that I’m too crazy to matter, to be allowed to define my own story, write my own narrative, title this essay animality instead of schizophrenia: fuck you.)

 

This is what being an animal-person means to me: it means I have empathy, incredible empathy, for the plight of other people trapped in a world that doesn’t think of them as people, other nonhumans and other dysphorics and other neurodivergents and, yes, other animals; it means that I experience the world as a primarily sensory being, without the world filtered through words until I choose them to translate my experiences; it means I get huge amounts of joy from small pleasures like hands on tree bark and teeth biting into food, it means I get to experience the richness and vividness of life and pay attention to all of it, it means I can nuzzle and purr at my moirail and she will cuddle me and pet my fur, it means I can bond with her over wings and fur and being not-quite-human and trying to fit in and not always succeeding, it means I can foster kittens and connect with them and understand them, and it means I get to read and write and draw and sing and listen to stories. It means I can try to help, to make up, in some small way, for the wrongs not-quite-my species can create in this world. It means I get to experience the liminal space, not human not animal but something between the two, or maybe combining them, constantly shifting, transforming, intertwining, becoming something–someone–new, a perpetual motion machine of animality and humanity weaving together, understanding things instinctively that most humans and most animals will not, without the strange in-between experience that is my life.

 

(To those of you who will read this and say that none of those are really inherently animal things, or even animal-person things: I know. But to me, in my narrative, in my web of connections and love and being, they are. They may not be for other people, I’m not here to tell your story, I’m here to tell mine.)

 

This is what being an animal-person means to me: playing with an ocelot figurine in the bathtub every night when I am 3. giving away my birthday money to animal charities when I am 5. telling my friends I am a werecat, transforming at midnight at the full moon, when I am 7, and believing it myself because the alternative–humanity–is too painful. realizing when I am 9 that I am not in fact a cat in any meaningful way, but still wanting to be one, connecting more with my kittens than my friends, becoming suicidal, roleplaying warrior cats online where I can pretend to be a cat, going vegetarian even though meat makes me feel like myself because I can’t bear to hurt any other animals. discovering the word “therian” when I am 11, and instantly knowing, calling myself feline therian: ocelot–no, oncilla?–no, margay. i’m a margay, looking at a picture of a margay for the first time and writing bad poetry about what it’s like to see yourself, not just see your body but see your self, for the first time, recognizing yourself in a photograph 11 years later than you were supposed to. naming myself, Sofia, at age 13, realizing that I’m allowed to be a person. now, age 15, heart still too sensitive, writing this, this confused mess of here is what being an animal-person means to me.

 

(To those of you who will read this and say I’m young: I know. Perhaps someday I will be old, perhaps I will die before then. Perhaps things will change. But I will not refrain from writing just because I am young. I have always been young, so far. I am young and confused and crazy and animalistic, dehumanized, othered, and I am trying to learn to extend myself the same empathy, the same love that I extend to everyone else, and that starts with recognizing myself: my name is Sofia, and I am a margay, and that matters.)

 

In all the ways that matter, I have always been a person, and I have always been an animal.
(To those of you who might read this and recognize yourself: Hello.)

Trans Day of Visibility

Today is the trans day of visibility, 2016.

 

Let’s talk about being trans and visible–but let’s also talk about being trans and invisible.

 

Let me talk about being trans–let me be visible–but let me talk about being invisible.

 

 

Like a soul, she is shining like a soul.

 

 

Being alone is hard. Visibility, representation, conversation, these things help.

 

I hope I can help, with this.

 

 

So, today is complicated for me. Last year on this day, I celebrated it.

 

At the time, I had a severe eating disorder. I had posted a selfie out of pride that I had starved myself to the point that, even in a dress, my boobs just weren’t there. I hadn’t cut my hair at the time, so it was longer than it is now, more girly. My body looks all wrong, when I look at the picture now–hair too large, body too small–but at the time it had looked finally, finally acceptable, finally I could look in the mirror and see things other than too much hair and too much chest and too much, too much, too much. I could see myself: not a girl.

 

I sent it to all the friends I had come out to: look! I crowed to them, I can be myself!

 

A stranger reblogged it, tagging #look at kit! #that’s such a great dress #!!! #trans day of visibility

 

A friend replied: yaaaas you go girl

 

I cried.

 

They always tell people with eating disorders “what you see in the mirror is distorted; other people see you better than you see yourself!”

 

What was I supposed to think when my friends–the ones who were supposed to think the best of me–saw me as a girl, the very thing I was trying my hardest to run from?

 

 

Kit: uuuuuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggggggggggh emma just called me ‘herself’

Kit: and ma’am

Kit: whoops she just saw this

Mollie: I’m gonna fight her

Mollie: TELL EMMA IM GOING TO FIGHT HER

Mollie: LET ME AT HER

Emma: i USE MA’AM FOR EVERY FEMININE BEING! Sorry if I’m a more visual person! I try! I FUCKING TRY! Also, Mollie, you can’t take me in a fight. Stop fooling yourself.

Mollie: YOU CANNOT USE MA’AM FOR KIT. THIS IS JUST A FACT.

Mollie: AND DONT CALL KIT A FEMININE BEING. THATS NOT HOW THEY WANNA BE VIEWED. EMMA I WILL FIGHT YOU.

Emma: Does they look like a fucking boy?! I do this visually! I try! I fuckling try!

Emma: Also, she looks like afemale! Not a fucking male! Visual, Mollie! Fucking visual!

 

 

Scene: joking with a friend, testing the waters for coming out, walking down the stairs to our next class.

 

“If we just did our homework then we could be inspiring and motivating ladies.”

“Well, too bad I’m none of those.”

“You’re not a lady? Are you a fucking shemale or something?”

 

 

My ex-girlfriend used my pronouns for a week over text; when we got together in person for a week, she misgendered me 57 times; I tried to correct her, she said “pronouns don’t matter to me!”; I cried; she broke up with me an hour later.

 

 

Girl like if silence speaks louder than words then why can’t anyone hear me, like why the fuck does the caged bird sing, it ain’t that fun and they owe no one nothing

Girl like not even a fucking girl

Girl like no one

Not anymore

 

 

Scene: in the car with my mom; I have had the courage to fill out an anonymous survey honestly; she saw it.

 

“So… I flipped through that survey you filled out, and I couldn’t help but notice that you circled ‘other’ instead of ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. You know you’re a girl right?

Like, you’re female. That’s just a biological fact.”

“…Yeah, I know.”

“And why do you use they for people? It’s plural! Don’t you care about grammar?”

“It’s a generational thing, I think. It doesn’t have anything to do with gender, don’t worry. I’m a girl, I know that.”

 

 

I remember when I told Hannah that I was non-binary and multiple: eighth grade. I told her over skype, late at night, confessional. She told me she supported me for who I was; she didn’t use my pronouns until one and a half years later, the night I got into that fateful fight with my ex-girlfriend.

 

 

I made a group for my queer friends. It consisted of “The Sexuali-bees”, “The Romantic Antics”, “The Gender Fears”, “Boring Cis Ppl”, and “Weak Str8s”. No heterosexuals were included–and the “weak str8s” was seen as a joke. People took offence to the “Boring Cis Ppl”. They said, if that’s a joke, why not make you into the joke instead? Haha, my pronouns are God, is that boring? Haha, isn’t it so great how I can make this into a joke that I can just take off when it gets too inconvenient?

 

 

Kit: i mean, hannah’s on the list, sofia’s on the list, its not a personal judgement, its just. if i want to call cis ppl boring i fucking will, they call me a damn girl like 24/7

Kiki: yeah i feel

Kit: like ugh i know this is new to her but

Kiki: …Is she being serious..?

Kit: no

Kit: :////

Kiki: hhhh

Kit: u know what this reminds me of tbh? the time that ‘binging and purging’ was a card played on cards against humanity and i had to listen to the scifi club laugh at that while pretending that my head hadn’t been in the damn toilet a month earlier. bc its like. this isnt a joke. this is real

Kiki: ahh yeah i feel you and im sorry

Kiki: do you still want to vent?

Kit: sort of

Kit: i just

Kiki: dont know how to say it?

Kit: yeah

Kit: and the anger is beginning to fade

Kit: but only starting to

Kit: and tbh i think id rather be angry

Kit: bc when i stop being angry i start being sad

Kiki: yeaahhh

Kit: i just

Kit: it hurts, to be reminded that im a fucking joke to everyone

Kit: and my friend group is where i go to get away from that, for the most part

Kiki: youre not a joke to everyone

Kiki: youre not a joke to the people that fucking matter

Kiki: she’ll will come around

Kiki: she doesnt get it; but she will

Kit: where they dont fucking LAUGH at eating disorders, and trans people, and gay people. where psychotic ppl and multiple personalities can be serious discussions and not just fucking serial killers or JOKES

Kit: and then just this little thing happens

Kit: and from anyone else it would be FINE

Kit: because you know, whatever, im used to it

Kiki: and the safety is ruined?

Kit: i shouldnt be but i AM

Kit: but when its a group specificially for queer ppl

Kit: its supposed to be SAFE

Kiki: yeah

Kiki: ugghhh she will come around but im sorry you had to deal with that

Kit: and now im APOLOGIZING to her and its just like, i shouldnt have to fucking apologize, but i do, over and over, and so do my friends, and its just for being OURSELVES, and the people who make us feel unsafe? they dont have to apologize

Kit: im just

Kit: why couldnt i just have been cis?

Kit: and straight, and neurotypical, and maybe even fucking NORMAL for a change

 

 

In history class, my teacher asks for our pronouns. I sit next to two republicans, one of whom runs an anti-sjw blog, the other who threatened to leave the country when gay marriage was legalized. I heard them to my left, making fun of it: joking about how duh, obviously I’m a boy, what else would I be, a cactus? a tranny?

I have a panic attack, but I do this–

I write down two words: they/them.

I come out.

 

 

So here I am. I get to be the cliche: young, white, teenage, assigned-female, knew since I was six that I was neither girl nor boy. I can’t tell the story for all of us. But I can tell the story for me, and maybe that’s enough.

 

 

My current girlfriend calls me enby and doodles Kit on her hand without care for my birth name.

Emma calls me they even when my mom glares at her for it.

Hannah helps me write this, even the part that’s mean to her (“I was a butt to you,” she says, and we laugh).

I can finally see a future for myself, after years of suicidality and I’ll probably die by the time I’m 16. I read #RealLiveTransAdult stories with a kind of awe.

My friend who called me a shemale now blogs about trans activism and calls me only by nicknames so she has plausible deniability about avoiding my deadname.

Things do, in the end, get better.

They do not get good, not yet. My parents call me “she”. My boobs still, undeniably, exist. I come out to my teacher, and she calls me “they”, but she also calls me “ma’am”. Leelah Alcorn dies, and the president vows to make her death mean something. For every two steps forward, there is one step back. And for all the violence that comes with being visible, the slurs and the laughs and the threats, I will always prefer it to the violence that comes from being invisible–from knowing that you’re wrong, that your body’s wrong, that people call you a girl and it is wrong, it feels wrong, factually, on a deep level, but also those feelings themselves are wrong wrong wrong because of those years of brainwashing by a society that hates people like you. From not even knowing what’s wrong, just that everything’s wrong, and it’s all too much to grasp. And then you find words, you find people, out there, people like you who stopped being invisible, and you know.

We are here. We’ve been invisible for so long, but we are finally, finally becoming visible.

We are winning.

 

 

When I was invisible, I thought I didn’t deserve to be seen. I thought the best I could hope for was a disappearing act: to make myself smaller, quieter, to not bother people with my existence, to cry at night and wear layers so that nobody can see me.

 

But here I am, performing instead an appearing act: after so many years of being invisible, after so many years trying to be unseen, I am claiming myself, my space, my community: my gender.

 

I am not Casey.

I am not she.

I am not a girl, a female, a shemale, a tranny.

 

I am Kit.

I’m trans. I’m visible, for today.

It’s nice to finally meet you.

 

 

Kiki: you know why your life SUCKS ASS?

Kit: im sorry

Kiki: because other peoples do too

Kit: i know

Kiki: no dont apologize

Kit: im sorry

Kiki: thats not what im saying

Kiki: im saying

Kiki: other people have the same issues

Kiki: and you have to stand up for them

Kiki: the ones that are gone

Kit: yes i know i shouldnt be making this all about me im sorry

Kiki: the ones who arent here yet

Kiki: no thats not at all what im saying

Kiki: MAKE IT ABOUT YOU

Kiki: SCREAM ABOUT YOU

Kiki: make other people SCREAM about themselves

Kiki: make them realize its OKAY to be about you!

Kiki: that you dont HAVE to worry about other fucking people all the time!!!

Kiki: make everyone DEMAND equality for themselves by demanding it for yourself first

Kiki: start a fucking movement, because other people sure as hell arent

 

 

Here I am, for the trans day of visibility: loud. visible. trans.

 

I hope other people see me.

teen idles

This is a story about what it’s like. These are a million stories stitched into one story using the scars of we are hurting and I don’t know what to do and I am writing so that I do not scream and I wish I could tell you happy stories but I don’t know any.

 

 

I was at chorus, and we took a 5-minute break, and me and my friend were talking about how she had gotten in trouble for using her phone in chorus. She was talking down her friend from suicide; this was the fourth time she had needed to do this. I told her that yeah, last year I was trying to talk Jamie into a mental hospital and out of overdosing on her mom’s heart medicine, and my math teacher took my phone.

A stranger came up and told us through his laughter how him and his friend had tried to commit suicide together, jumping off a bridge. Until I die, I will remember that voice; I have never heard such broken laughter: “i tried to talk him down, but i couldn’t. i guess you guys are just better than me at that. i came up from the water–and i turned my head, thinking we had failed, that i’d see him–and there he was. flayed.”

 

 

Two years ago, in a different chorus, we had to all get into our chorus dresses, short black dresses with short sleeves, and I tallied up the people with scars on their arms.

I lost count somewhere between six and ten.

I didn’t count the ones like Kirby who put makeup on their arms in the bathroom, or the ones like Jamie and I who made sure to cut on our stomach and legs, hidden places.

 

 

I remember the day that Jamie got out of the hospital. Sarah sat me down and said, “Jamie didn’t tell me where she was at, but she gave a couple vague descriptions and complaints, and I couldn’t help but notice that they matched the descriptions of a hospital two of my friends went to after they attempted suicide. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to assume anything–”

“You’re right. She was in the mental hospital. Her note was in the drawer of her desk.”

 

 

I’ve been suicidal since I was eight. I don’t know what scares me more: the idea of dying young, or the idea of having to live this way.

 

 

I cannot how many times I have stayed up until two am trying to fix the damage that parents have done. And yet my parents look at me and try to say that my priorities should be with you, that I should be talking to them instead of talking friends down from the edge that you put them on, instead of letting my friends talk me down. And I say “okay”, and then I cut myself, because I cannot be at once a daughter and student and friend and healthy individual, and when you give me a choice, I will choose being a healthy friend over being a gifted daughter, because I like saving lives (both my own and others), but when you force me to give up one, I will always choose to give up myself.

 

 

This is the price that comes with being a good listener. I know a million different stories: from strangers sometimes, but mostly from friends. All of them secrets. I think sometimes that I will explode under the weight of so many secrets.

 

 

My friend Laurrie asked today, at 5:25pm, “If your suicidal do you have a moral responsibility to tell other people?”

 

After that, she turned her phone off. I don’t know if she’s still alive. I hope she is.

 

 

I pulled Jamie under. Sure, she was already struggling for air, but I was the one who made it obvious to her: look at me, not eating. her eating. me, not eating. her eating, slowly now, shamefully, as I gloat. me, still not eating. finally, she stops too.

 

Months later, I text her after I puke for the first time, pure unrestrained panic in too-short syllables and running to my therapist appointment so I’m not late and checking to make sure I didn’t get any half-digested cookie dough on my jacket. Her first question was “how did you do it?”

Two weeks after that, she had learned. She mentioned it casually, but it felt like a hole in my heart.

 

That same day, I made a suicide pact with her. I told her, point-blank, If you kill yourself then I’ll join you in death.

And still, she made her plan and wrote her note.

Did she not remember? Did she not care? Did she want me to join her, in the same twisted way I wanted her to be sick with me, or did she want me to join her, in the spiteful way you hope a terrible person gets hurt?

 

I don’t know which is worse. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get her eyes out of my head.

 

 

Nickie said she would kill herself on November 30. I told her sister.

 

 

I can count the number of times I have explained to someone how to self-harm on both hands.

In the light of day, I can justify to myself, tell myself that they had to hurt themselves or they would have killed themselves.

Most nights, I am grateful that my antipsychotics put me to sleep fast. I still wake in the morning with nightmares.

When they don’t put me to sleep fast enough, pictures of them flash in the darkness. Sometimes videos.

I can’t watch them without crying, but closing my eyes just makes them more vivid: I don’t know if the back of my eyelids will ever be safe again.

 

 

I woke up one day to a series of texts (3 hours too late) from my girlfriend

 

IM GOING TO KILL MYSSELF I ESjsjdjjs

i msorrye

 

I tried to text her, to message her, to call her to text her to do anything. She didn’t answer.

I called the cops on her. They took her pills away before she could do anything.

 

wht did you

why

its ok

im going to go im probably going to have a panic attack so ill talk later

please don’t do that again, i know you’ll get worried but please

 

I didn’t know how to explain to her that I can’t promise that, because I’d rather that she hate me than be dead.

 

 

That night, my dad complained: I had just wanted to go to the beach, and my daughter had to call the cops in Ireland because her friend sent her a text saying she was going to kill herself!

His friends empathize: Yeah, today’s kids are so weird. Their phones are messing them up. If I had wanted to kill myself, my mom would’ve told me to go play outside, and I would have been fine. Another adds, If I had wanted to kill myself, my mom would’ve told me not to get the living room dirty.

I sob. I run upstairs. I throw my phone against the wall.

I whisper: I’m sorry. I don’t know what to do.

 

 

The nightmares come back. I wake up early the next morning and try my best to smile.

 

 

Kiki’s mom died last month, and I can’t help thinking of it as the ultimate irony: here is the only woman I know who wholeheartedly loved life. Here is the woman I know from the best family. Here is the best mother I know. Here is the woman I know who is happy, with a happy family.

 

And yet she died. She left us, alone, and alive.

 

 

Laurrie went to the hospital. They yelled at her for talking, for crying. They took her blood and told her she was overreacting when she told them it hurt; the bruise lasted a week. She starts avoiding white towels and crayons.

 

Our mutual friend confided in me: I was the one who called the cops. they wanted to die but they werent gonna go unless someone made them

 

 

There is a quote from The Virgin Suicides that explains it well, I think; the doctor, stitching up her wrists, asks Cecilia: “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.”

 

Cecilia then delivers “her only form of suicide note, and a useless one at that, because she was going to live:

 

Obviously, Doctor, she said, You’ve never been a thirteen-year-old girl.

 

 

And they never notice.

 

Sure, when you’re getting better, then they notice. Then they say: aren’t you spending too much time online? aren’t you getting addicted to your phone? aren’t you being too snappy with me, with everyone? aren’t your grades slipping?

 

When you pass out in French class because you haven’t eaten in three days, they take your blood pressure (dangerously low), believe you when you say you had a bagel for breakfast, assume you’re dehydrated or sleep-deprived, and send you home.

 

I’ve been a home for psychosis, wandering around the school randomly, muttering about cameras and poison and angels.

 

I’ve been a home for depression, my lungs barely fluttering in my ribs, mind burning out of my skull.

 

People notice psychosis, they turn their nose up at it, they get silent when you walk into the room, they scatter at your presence. You hear their whispers: psycho. stay away.

 

People don’t notice depression, it’s normal, it’s the background noise of everyday life, never to be acknowledged. They do not whisper; there is nothing to whisper about.

 

I don’t know why they ignore it. But I’ve seen this haunt on all of our faces; I have seen too many, crying and starving and puking and doing drugs and yelling in the hallways and cutting our hair off, terrified out of our minds, and so incredibly sad, and not saying a damn word to believe I’m alone in this. And even as we all fear it, it becomes our normal. And I wish that we whispered, because then maybe we wouldn’t cover our mouths, keeping our secrets wrapped up in the safety of our own heads, where they can buzz through our neurons and suffocate our thoughts, choking us with fear and guilt.

 

 

Last year, I was walking to English, and I saw them hold her down. She was screaming, crying, struggling.

 

“Help!” she screamed, voice hoarse, tears streaming down her face, eyes bloodshot and straining out of their sockets. “Help!”

 

We walked around her. We were the red sea and she was Moses, parting the students. Nobody said anything. Nobody helped. Most people didn’t even look at her. She was the background radiation in the universe of high school. We shut her out, kept quiet, kept walking.

 

I don’t know her name, but I will never be old enough to forget her face. I wonder how many others stay up at night, her screams echoing in their ears, without that deep sleep that my antipsychotic gives you.

 

The worst part of it is, when I saw her, I felt bad, but I was also jealous of her. I wished I had the courage to do that too. After all, she was just showing what all of us were feeling.

 

I didn’t scream in the hallways for the same reason I didn’t kill myself or ask for therapy. Just a coward when it counts, I guess.

 

 

In chorus last year, right before lunch, Presley said that she was starving. She complained: it had been four whole hours since breakfast! I gave her my chips.

 

The girl next to me laughed out loud: “four hours? and you think you’re starving? four hours, that’s nothing.”

 

It had been 97 hours since she had eaten, and 34 since I had.

 

Four hours seems trivial when you are facing eternity.

 

 

Sometimes, I would hear people talking, normal people–although that’s been getting more and more rare now, as we grow up–, and I’ll blink as if they’re speaking a foreign language, because their worlds are so mundane. They do not live under this shadow. They have not lived this sadness, this fear. They can choose not to be sad, and I think I am weak and selfish for being sad. They do not live with a countdown ticking in their head (how long until someone dies?)

 

They were concerned with their schoolwork, and boys, and girls, not asylums and rape and survival.

 

Kiki used to live there, but she is more aware now, after her girlfriend was raped and her mother died; Presley still talks of death and sadness as something far away, something impossible and distant and never to be touched.

 

I wish I could live there, too. But I haven’t lived there for a long time–since I was three, maybe.

 

Four was my first taste of violence: a girl who would only be my friend if. Then five, then six, then seven– and suicidal by eight.

 

(another tells me that she first tasted violence with a girl held her down and showed her how to be a big girl. another tells me that they found violence in their brother’s strong fists and the depths of their friend’s liquor cabinet. we were never allowed to be children.)

 

I want to grow up, sure. But I dont want to grow up in this world: I want to grow up in a different world, a better one, where the taste of violence is alien on your tongue, where the faces of your friends are not a haunting ground, their homes not a graveyard– if this is what growing up means for me, perhaps I’d rather stay three.

 

 

A week after writing this, Presley’s dad dies, and she doesn’t come to school for three days.

 

 

At a writing camp, a boy picked me out of the crowd, pulled me aside. He said he wanted to ask me a question. It was dark out. I was afraid, but then he said: “I don’t mean to be rude, but are you anorexic?”

 

I told him that I was in recovery, and he told me that he just knew when he saw me, that I had the same sort of sadness in my eyes that his girlfriend did, that when I showed him my writing it added fuel to his suspicions, that he couldn’t help but ask.

 

We talked that whole night. I told him about Jamie; he told me about Brooke. I told him about Kirby; he told me about his brother. I told him about myself; he told me about himself. We were all parts of same story, unfolding over opposite sides of the country, brought together by happenstance.

 

We gave each other our phone numbers, but we haven’t talked much since that night. I wonder if he’s okay.

 

 

I know the daily caloric intake of both girlfriends I have had.

 

(650 calories is considered a ‘starvation diet’. the united states forced 1,000 calorie diets on political prisoners as a form of torture and justified it using the diet industry. 1,200 calories is the recommended amount for a five-year-old. in an experiment that subjected adult volunteers to 1,560 calorie diets, one of the participants cut off three of his fingers with an axe and could not remember why. both of them ate less than 500 calories, when they ate at all.)

 

 

I might have a trauma-based dissociative disorder, partially because I am confronted every day with

“actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others;”

because I love my friends more than I love this entire fucking world. because I love my friends more than I love my family. because I wake up each day hoping that they’re still alive.

 

 

I was in a skype call with Laurrie one night, and we were talking about our friends, and she said, laughing bitterly, “Sometimes I think to myself, I shouldn’t have to deal with this, you know? That none of us should have to deal with this.”

I couldn’t help but agree. I nodded, exhaustion rippling through my body.

 

If only we didn’t have to.

 

 

two months after publishing this post, a boy comes into my ap exam.

he has a fever of 104 degrees. he hasn’t eaten in five days.

it’s days like these that i remember.