last june my friend sydney killed herself. this coincided, roughly, with the bubble bursting on the well scripted life i'd been leading up to that point. i don't mention this a lot. reality is that she's gone now, and since then everything has been pretty raw.
i was first introduced to transgendered culture when i was sixteen. in one summer, my best friend came out as trans, and his boyfriend and the boy i was ridiculously thrilled for were also both trans. the boundaries i hadn't even realized existed on sex and gender up to that point were blown completely open, and i don't remember ever feeling more free than i did that summer. it was the best and the worst summer of my life, but that's a story for another time, when i'm feeling brave enough to write it.
i took a crash course on all things transgendered culture, all things genderqueer and genderless. i fell in love with leslie feinberg. it taught me to question myself. to challenge ideas of who i thought i was as something more than just given at birth. i learned to appreciate my body in a new way, as something i could define, and looking back now, for sixteen, that's quite the fucking revolution. i could not only define my body as i felt it should be, but i could define the rest of me in the same ways. because of this, i'm pretty good at knowing what i want and what i don't, where i stand and why i stand there. i like my parts and i know what they're for. they're mine. physically, mentally - i have touched every part of myself, listened to my movement and my thoughts, felt and learned me. i can give you more than just adjectives when asked for my definition.
my whole life before, i'd been under the impression that because i was born female, i had to play the part. (you know the one. there's this entire movement inspired by it.) i wasn't good at it. i was chubby and awkward and i'd never even held anyone's hand before. but i knew the part i was supposed to play, and i hated myself for never knowing the lines or stage directions to a second of it. i was an unhappy kid, and when i hit puberty and felt without being able to articulate the legacy of being a female that so many generations before me had perfected into a craft of body-conscious grace and silence, my self perception was as doomed as the rest of us. i was aware of every shortcoming i possessed. i lived with my father and younger sister. i can't put into words how much i wished my mother was a stable and constant part of my life when i was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. i was desperate for guidance, desperate to be pretty, desperate to be the type of girl that i was supposed to be, desperate to learn what that even was, completely, because it was constantly hinted at, but the clear definition eluded me. if i could just get my hands on it, swallow it whole and let t absorb itself into my bloodstream, i could be it.
and isn't that the struggle every girl goes through, growing up?
so at sixteen i started a revolution without realizing i had. people are so much more free than they know they are, i think. so many things are viewed as black and white, only, but we're capable of being limitless. the boxes we live inside are firmly placed in our minds by years of experiencing the world and trying our best to fit into it as we are "meant to be." these boxes, though, can be removed just as well as anything else can. i refuse to say something like live outside the box, because honestly i hate that phrase and it reminds me of that tv show for kids that i never actually liked as a kid, but. this was my revolution, and i wake up every day, and sometimes i forget, and i have a bad day because i can't live up to the expectations, and that's okay, too. i am, at best, a work in progress, but my shape holds its place even at my worst.
the word revolution sounds, and is, really empowering, and so sometimes i don't like to use it. because even with freedom, there's something else. as an individual sticking it to the rest of societal norms, it's a wonderful feeling. but as a person that has wants and longs for, it's difficult. it's lonely to fight and fight for yourself, and to never stop fighting, because if you do, it'll feel worse than loneliness. knowing what i know about myself now means that if i were to stop defending my place and give into every opposing force that wants me to be that girl, i'd feel bad about myself in fifty ways i didn't before i ever had anything close to a revolution. knowing myself this way means i can't really un-know it. and so the battle marches on, but for a pretty decently sized chunk of time now it's been the lonely and the kind of hard that makes me want to throw in the white towel, stop trying and go with supposed to be as long as i can have a second of peace, dear god, peace and quiet. there are days it's hard to get out of bed knowing i can't give in, and there are days i just don't get out of bed at all, for the same reason.
sydney was transgendered. she came to my house and we made friendship bracelets and laughed and she was lovely and a little strange. she was my friend. and then one day in june, she sat in a car in her garage and kept breathing until she wasn't breathing anymore.
i can't pretend to know her struggles personally, nor do i attempt to. she never told me. but sydney lived and fought for a life that was in direct opposition of most everyone around her. when she wanted to use the girls room and was told it made other girls uncomfortable, she walked right in there anyway. when she wanted to wear a white robe to her graduation instead of blue and was told she couldn't, she did. when she wanted her name in the yearbook to be her name, and not her birth name, she got that, too. this is amazing, and i don't mean to make it sound any less amazing than it is, but over and over she fought for things in the face of being told she was unnatural, wrong, disgusting, a freak. my transgendered friends go through something that i want to break apart in my hands and shape into something that will make them feel better. that will make them feel real and accepted and whole. that will give them a sense of belonging. that will let them be completely happy. if i could give them any of that in any way, i would. i would do anything. that's a pretty dramatic and romanticized statement, but i would.
the only thing i can really say about sydney is everything i've been trying to say. identity is the hardest thing, because so often it is denied by the people around us. you say you're one way, more than one person says you're not, and the majority has it.
sydney, i wish you would've let me help you feel less lonely. maybe that was something i could have done. and i'm upset and i'm angry sometimes, that you're gone, that you did that to yourself when you gave yourself so much. it wasn't easy, but you did what you did while you were around and you did it well, and you were always excited when you walked into a room, and i was always jealous of your hair. sometimes, syd, i'm not angry or upset at all. but constantly, i feel where you belong and where you're just not anymore.
if we're fighting and we're living for ourselves and to get ourselves back, i kind of hope that this really changes the world. that we become so good at who we are that we can give it to each other, too. that we don't end up anything like generations before. that we fight like hell without it turning us too hard, and that we let ourselves be lonely while we have to be without letting it turn us too soft. that we can leave behind something else. maybe sydney's death was the result of a symptom she just couldn't cure. that for all her trying, she couldn't make it fit. i believe that she could have, but she didn't. so i hope that we can become ourselves well enough that there's no limit to what we can give each other, too. all the room in the world to belong to each other in, without having to compromise ourselves for it.
this is what i've been trying to say since she died, i think.