24 January 2015

What We Couldn't Share

By now, you've read of Leelah Alcorn's suicide--whether from me, another blogger, the media or some other source.

The pain she expressed in her blog--which was deleted at the request of her mother--is all too familiar.  The tragedy is, of course, that she was so young and couldn't see any light at the end of the tunnel.  But what angered me, and many other people, is the way her family, especially her mother, denied who and what she was in death as they did during her life.

As terrible and familiar as her story is, there are many other trans people who've killed themselves, not because their families and friends wouldn't accept them, but because they couldn't "come out", sometimes even to themselves.

"Calie" returned from a long absence from blogging to relate such a story about someone she knows:  "He was a good boy and had become a good man." 

So why did Calie use male pronouns in referring to her now-departed friend?  Well, the person in question never revealed her gender identity to anyone--not even to her family or to Calie--in life.  Only the note she so carefully left behind (It wasn't spattered with her blood) told of the conflict and pain he was ending with the bullet in his head.

But one thing makes this story even worse than any other I've heard before:  The young person who committed suicide was the child of a transgender parent.  A macho-guy father, to be exact.  Of course, you know why he was such a macho guy:  the same reason I trained and played sports as hard as I did for so many years, or why other would-be trans women become cops and soldiers or get involved in any number of other "manly" undertakings.

Of course, a day may come when he realizes he can't keep up the facade anymore.  Then, he will have two choices:  transition or die.  I am not exaggerating:  I had such a moment thirteen years ago.  I knew that in transitioning,  I could lose my life as I knew it and I had absolutely no idea of what could be in store for me were I to transition.  But I also knew that I would not live for very much longer if I didn't transition.  

I had that moment at age 43.  I don't know how old Calie's friend or his (I'm using the male pronoun in the same way Calie used it) father were and are.  I suspect the father is close to the age I was when I had my moment of truth.  If he is, I don't know how he's gone on for as long as he has.  I don't know how I lived as long as I did with my conflict.  When I came out to my mother, she said the same thing.

And now, again, I'm remembering Corey.  I spent what would be the last night of his life with him.  We were both in our mid-20s at the time; when he called me, I knew he was in a very bad way.  Even though we were good friends, I didn't know what I could possibly offer him that someone else could have.  But he insisted that he simply had to talk to me.

You might say that night is the one thing for which I haven't forgiven myself, and probably never will.  Of course, at that time, I wasn't "out" to anybody, including myself.  But he wasn't waiting for me to come out:  He just knew.

From what Callie says, her friend never knew that his father is trans.  Corey knew I am, just as he was.  I didn't know how to acknowledge, much less do anything, about it.  Or perhaps I was just too much of a coward.  Whatever the explanation, I think of what Corey and I could have shared with each other, and how he might be alive--as a she, of course--and I might have spared myself decades of frustration and pain.

All I can do now is to hope that the father of Calie's friend will end his pain and frustration, though not in the way his child did.  And I hope Calie and all of the other people who can't, for whatever reasons, be who and what they truly are will one day be free.


Calie said...

Hi Justine, and thanks for the mention.

I'm sorry for the loss of your friend, Corey. When you and Corey were in your 20's, it was a different world. It was a world much less accepting than it is today. Nevertheless, even today, there are those who still keep it buried within.

The fact that Corey "knew" you were trans is significant. As much as one tries, there are personality characteristics that are unique to a MtF and might allow close friends to see through the facade. I'm glad Corey was able to talk to you in his final moments.

Coline said...

The most outrageous point in your post is that even in death Leelah Alcorn's wishes to speak to the world through her blog have been violated by bigoted parents and the blogging service which she used.

I am sure most of use want our words to outlive us, what hope or protection do we have?

Coline said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justine Valinotti said...

Coline--I still feel rage and tears roll down my face when I think of what Leelah's parents and that blogging service did. Welcome to this blog!

Calie--Thank you for your kind words.

The world was indeed a different place when I was in my 20's.

I will always wish that I could have shared with Corey what he saw in me. I guess all I can do is to be present for people who have the same struggle--or other struggles--now.