what the body knows.

I’ve been working on graduating. Part of that is working through a series of poems, using research to supplement those poems. This is out of my comfort zone, not something I’ve ever really explored. For a few months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to research a poem, write a poem based off that research, and tie everything together.

I tried to talk about the trauma. It’s too fresh. So, with a little less than half a semester left, I’ve been reworking my entire portfolio. I’ve banned myself from writing the poems i normally write. these poems i wrote aren’t lost, they’re just on the back burner, so that i can let time do its thing and i can heal more. you can’t heal from wounds when you’re constantly

i’ve been researching the process of decay, which is fitting, my entire life is the process of decay.

yesterday, i blacked out at work. i’m officially dehydrated. i’m home sick in my harry potter robe, sitting on my couch in my “office” writing poems and listening to music and trying to do some research, all while being gentle to myself.

i’m going to stop capitalising words because my hands today are swollen and i can’t hold a pen and i have to get the words out while i have them.

i’ve been drinking cranberry juice and i have chamomile tea. i have had a fever since yesterday. my entire left side of my body is weak. there is the usual joint pains, but the pain today is the worst in my hands, my left knee, left arm, the whole arm, but especially the elbow.

as a chronically ill person, i thought i had made peace with what my life is going to look like. specialist after specialist, new foods they tell you that you can’t eat, working through pain, sleeping and waking like you didn’t sleep. pain meds and different ways of managing pain. i’m out of my meds. i’m weak. i’m in bed or on the couch. but i’m also a starving poet. literally starving. half the reasons i got in this mess was because i basically stopped eating.

i would eat a free sandwich at work or a bit of dinner at home, but mostly, i don’t eat because i am trans and poor and sick and i needed to pay for my meds and the gas to get me to and from work and school.

i blacked out because i push too hard.

part of that is a symptom of surviving as long as i have. i don’t know when to quit because if you stop you die and if you sleep you die and you just push through the pain.

part of that is because i’ve been sick for a long time, in varying degrees, but the decay is the same.

i look back on what little i remember from my life and i think, oh, i was healthy then, but i really wasn’t, i was sick, i just didn’t know it.

i am trying to remember to be gentle with myself. that i’m not lazy for taking a break. that it’s okay that i can’t do as much right now, i just have to keep doing what i can. i know i need to do laundry, and make some proper food, and finish unpacking from my 3rd move in 3 years. i need to do the mountain of homework needed to graduate. i need to finish my taxes.

i feel like i’m under water most days.

i feel like a wooden floor after a flood.

i read two years ago that our bodies cells replace itself every seven years and as a trauma survivor, it’s something that i grabbed onto when i was in the abyss and needed to hang on lest i fell through the crater. it’s one of those ways i come back to myself. one day, i’ll have a body that hasn’t been abused.

today i learned that’s not exactly true. white blood cells stay in your body for a few months. colon cells only live a few days. cells die and respawn all the time. but our mind stays throughout our entire lives. those neurons never really die.

i don’t know what to make of that.

my mind has been hijacked and i have memories that aren’t mine, or twisted, and i can tell you about twenty different stories from some events. part of the problem with ptsd, which i have been researching for a long time, is that our brains rewire themselves. they need to. we just witnessed or experienced extreme trauma. we need to survive. we go into flight or fight mode. it’s been over a year since the worst of it, and i still don’t know how to sleep properly. just when i think i’m going to get comfortable enough, something pulls me out of that peaceful place and i’m thrown into a nightmare.

i’ve spent a year trying to get back to where i was. and i kept telling myself that yes, my body is going to come back new and i’m going to be okay. there are things that heal, and the mind is one of them, but my mind is going to always carry the weight of what it experienced.

which brings me back to something dumbledore told harry. just because it’s happening inside your own head doesn’t mean it’s not real.

just because i see ghosts and walk houses blown apart doesn’t mean that what i experience isn’t real.

maybe it is a good thing our minds survive.

 

i keep trying to do the best i can and move forward and live. part of that process is going to be scaling things back for a while. i need to destress. part of studying decaying though, is that positive. when we die, our bodies eventually become life force for things like trees and fungus and we might not be conscious of it, but eventually, we grow into something else, even after complete devastation. that’s something i can hang onto.

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I keep seeing the same story plastered all over my facebook feed: a trans man from Texas is a wrestler, in high school, and is forced to wrestle on the girls team due to Texas law. Every time I see whatever version someone is sharing, I cringe. First of all, there’s the slightly varying but all equally awful clickbait/sensational titles of the articles/links themselves.  Check out this one from the Washington Post, posted two days ago.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t read the articles. I don’t need to. I can take one look at that title, cringe, and know that if I read this article, not only will it be full of comments from people calling for our deaths, this is from a journalist who has done the bare minimum of research on trans issues.  I celebrated five years of transitioning eight days ago. There are many things I’ve learned about surviving in this world as myself, one of them is to not read articles that shouldn’t be written in the first place. A rule most of us follow: Do NOT read the comments.

I have seen maybe five posts about Chyna Gibson, a trans woman of color, being violently slaughtered. I’m not saying that Mack Beggs (the wrestler) isn’t important. I’m not saying that bathroom bills aren’t important. Or our extreme levels of poverty. Our homelessness, joblessness, discrimination everywhere. These are all very important issues, but when our trans woman of color (twoc) are being murdered at an alarming rate, why is it that these are not the stories that are being covered?

Because no one wants to admit that we, as a country, are racist as hell. We don’t want to admit that we hate trans people. We don’t want to admit that every system put in place is meant to kill us. We don’t want to admit that we have way bigger problems than bathrooms. We don’t want to discuss the fact that our life expectancy is 34 (23 if you are a twoc). More than 70% of us have dealt with suicide. I can’t tell you how many people I have lost. When I celebrated being out for five years last Sunday, I had to take a moment and just breathe, and understand how fortunate that I am still here.

Yet we see the same articles being passed around. I’ve seen 3 people I’m friends with share an article about 5 twoc who were murdered since 2017 started, and those are just the ones that we know about. Every 21 hours, one of us are murdered. This article is from last January, but I remember the trans groups I’m apart of made a worldwide event calling attention to this. There was a challenge: can we go 24 hours without murdering a trans person? We failed.

There’s the identity politics. We aren’t our genders, we identify as. Don’t get me wrong, identity is important. It’s how we find community. It’s how we find ourselves. I knew I was trans for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t have the words for it until I watched Boys Don’t Cry in 2006, alone in my parents basement with the lights off, the sound barely on, in case they walked in and figured out the secret I thought I would take to my grave. I was 16. I didn’t come out until 2011 because all I knew the narrative: We struggle to find ourselves, attempt to live as authentically as we can, someone finds out our secret, they rape us, kill us. I mean, our life expectancy is absolutely appalling, and Boys Don’t Cry is based very much on a true story. But when we only focus on clickbait articles, such as this female identifies as a boy but is playing on the women’s teams, when that is what some of the only stories that are being shared is about, when we are literally dying, often in horrific circumstances, there is something wrong.

There is something burning. Wake up. We need to talk about these systems in place designed to slaughter us like animals sent to the slaughterhouse. We need more than conversations about bathrooms, or what team we get to play on. I’m not saying these are the only issues that are important, because, again, these systems are designed to out us, other us, and contribute to the only option I’ve ever seen for someone like me: Come out, suffer beautifully, die tragically young. Don’t let anyone distract you from what is really going on. They want us dead, they always have.

A Letter I’ll Never Send to My Ex

First off. There is a part of me that will always miss you. I feel that I need to get that out of the way. In everything that has happened, and the fact that I never got any closure, there was no way in hell you would ever give me that, I do miss you. I will always love you. But I can’t love you. This might be the one chance I get to say what I need to say.

You told me that you wanted me to be able to speak my mind. You wanted me to stand up for myself and tell people off when they were being assholes. I don’t need to tell you that you put me through hell and left me there to die. On the day my cousin died, you told me to my face “I fucking hate you and I hope you die.” The day she died. When you knew how much she meant to me. Because I told you that you couldn’t live with me until our lease was up if you were going to threaten to kill me, or throw knives in my wall. You know you were abusive, and I won’t argue with you about it.

I don’t know what the worst of it is. I can’t sleep at night without feeling you lying next to me. I reach for your hand, and I know that you will never reach back. I wake up in the morning and I look over to where you should be sleeping, and I am in a different house, in the bed we used to share, but you are gone.

I don’t hear from you in months. I think I’m finally free, when you text me out of the blue that you need your adoption papers that you left in the apartment. I tell you that I don’t really live there anymore, but the next time I’m there, I’ll look for them. You ask me how I am. This might be my one chance at closure. I give you a small update.

I don’t tell you where I live. I tell you about the two suicide attempts. I say I have roommates. You probably know who they are. I tell you that there is a part of me that still loves you, but there is also a part of me that is still pissed at you.

There’s the worst of it. I know all of the awful things you did, and yet, there is a part of me that loves you. I’m caught between wanting to tell you that you almost destroyed me and not wanting to give you that much credit.

I’ll always feel emotional about this. I’ll never be able to be rational about it. I won’t apologise for seeing the best in you. I won’t apologise for speaking up about it. I won’t let you tell me that I can’t speak up about my own life.

There is a part of me that wants to ask how you are, if you are safe. When Pulse happened, I wanted to call you and make sure you were safe.

I don’t hate you. I don’t think I ever will. That’s what hurts the worst. I want you to have a good life. I want you to get help and be safe and stable. I want you to get out of the cycle you’ve been caught up in. But I want you to let me go. Let me move on. Let me believe the next person that says they won’t hurt me.

I used to think this was my fault. I see all of the good potential in people. I believe people at their core have good intentions and they won’t hurt me. I loved you, and I know you loved me. I won’t ever feel bad for being a person that believes in the light in the world. You taught me to see magic in the every day, and I see it. It’s a beautiful light and I know that I will come out of this unbroken.

I hope you have a good life. I truly want that for you. I pray for your happiness like I pray for mine.

I hate July. I hate the heat. For one, the sunburn, for two, the inability to bind. Sweat desperately clings to me. I want out of this skin. I am always keenly aware of my trans status, but worse so in the summer. I dream of sitting topless on a beach somewhere, a smoothie in my hand, enjoying the sunshine, being able to run free through the water. For now that’s another far off dream.

But I brave the heat and walk to Walgreens. I am in the new house. It amazes me still that I live here now. That I’m mostly out of that apartment with the horrible memories. The Walgreens is a block from the house. I buy a couple of groceries and a pack of smokes for my roommates. I hand the woman my ID and smile. I’m hoping that she won’t notice the F on my drivers license. She does. But she smiles. She pulls out her wallet and shows me that her license lists her as male. We laugh. I take my things. She tells me to have a nice day.

As I leave Walgreens, I walk a little lighter in my skin. It was one more moment I could share with someone. Someone who understands how much it sucks when it is 90 outside. When you have to do every day tasks with an ID that outs you every single time.

The roommates and I decide to go to the Mall of America and walk around. We play Pokemon. We are leaving the restroom, the same restroom that I was assaulted in in February.

I notice everything. I am always aware of exactly how much space my body is taking up. I walk into the men’s room. There is a line. I watch the stalls, waiting with growing anxiety for one to open up. I notice the man staring at my chest. He doesn’t think I notice. A stall door opens and I all but run inside. I stay there until one of my roommates texts me to tell me he is standing right there.

That same day, a woman laughs with me about our IDs, a few hours later, I am hoping that I won’t be assaulted for trying to use the bathroom.

These are the moments I think about risking heat stroke to wear my binder. There is something seriously wrong with that.

A Few Thoughts on Tragedy

I wrote this on Friday, but it was Pride weekend and I decided to go (more on that in a separate post) so I couldn’t add it here until now.  I have to admit, it feels good to be writing again.

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Tragedy is everywhere. You go to bed one night and you wake up. It’s one of those mornings that are hard to get out of bed. You wake up and immediately grab your phone. Open up facebook and check your notifications. Feel a little bit of shame that the first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone, but then again, you aren’t really a morning person. You walk into the bathroom, still out of it, still scrolling your newsfeed.

Then it hits you.

There was a mass shooting. At least 19 people are dead. That’s what the initial reports say. Someone shot at least 19 queers at a gay bar in Orlando. It hits you. Shock. Grief. Anger. You don’t have cable and you could turn on the radio, but you don’t. You keep scrolling through facebook. More people are waking up. More people are finding out.

More anger. More grief. For a few days, this is acceptable. After that, you’re expected to return to your regularly scheduled programming. You are not supposed to remain angry. You are not supposed to call for riots.

More reports. 50 are dead. A few days later, the final death toll is 49. 49 people. 49 people looking for love, for community, for a night out of fun, and now their lives are over in a flash of bullets.

You return back to work, thankful that you’ve at least had a few days off to try to deal with the magnitude of this. You have drag performer friends that were at Pulse. You’ve seen the footage live. The summer air is wet, hot, waiting to push you over the ledge. You swear you can smell gunpowder everywhere.

How did we get to this point? We haven’t even gone a full year with marriage equality. You remember waking up that day and checking facebook. You wake up and you check facebook and find out another trans person was brutally murdered. You wake up and find out that House Bill 2 passed in North Carolina, making it illegal for trans people to use the proper restroom.

You wake up and find they are passing similar laws all over. You remember the last four years of your life. Open discrimination, hostility. Being afraid to hold your lover’s hand in public. Being afraid on buses. Going out in public after your assault is an act of bravery. Because you’ve always known that you need to enjoy life as much as you can before a hateful bastard takes your life away.

At work, you listen to NPR with a client. You sit there increasingly angry as straight people analyse it all day long. You notice every time they say gay when they mean the entire community. It’s as if all of your skin has been burned off. This would bother you before, but now it hasn’t even been two days, and all you can hear is gay, and what they mean is white gays and lesbians. They do not mean bisexuals, they do not mean trans people, and they sure as hell do not mean trans people of color, especially latinx trans people of color, the ones predominantly targeted at Pulse.

You don’t even get the space necessary to bury your dead. You wonder if you should go to Pride. You read about increased security and an increase in police. Does anyone else find this ironic? Have we completely lost our history in a corporate sponsored booze fest that is supposed to be commemorating Stonewall, where we fought actual cops? The cops are not there to protect us, I can tell you that.

How did we get to this point? The people analysing ask out loud. Passing housing discrimination. Passing bathroom bills. Making it legal to fire a queer person. Take away our safe spaces. Make us afraid to hold hands in public.  And guns. Do not forget the guns.

You remember the first gay bar you really went to. It felt like freedom and safety and a place to come and be safe. You could drink and dance with someone and maybe hold hands. You could go to whatever bathroom you wanted. And you remember the hateful people. You remember the man who pulled a gun on you. You’d been out for two weeks. Your life pauses and you are so aware of how it can end. Cops circle the bar every night but you go.

You go and you participate and you write about it and you get sick of writing about it. You get sick of knowing that in a few weeks, the conversation will end, and people will go back to their lives. You are left trying to bury the dead. People will even ask you, you’re still upset about that?

That’s how we got here.

Moving Forward.

I’ve spent the last two days sleepless in airports. I’m currently in Denver. I flew in at 5am yesterday. As soon as my mother picked me up from the airport, we drove an hour south to go to my cousin’s funeral. She passed away from liver failure on the 5th of April. She was my best friend. I spent the night before she died trying to keep myself out of the hospital.

April has been a rough month for me. I don’t know if May is going to be any better. I know realistically that just because it is a new month, that things just don’t get better right away.

A year ago, my cousin asked me to speak at her funeral. I told her I would. I flew out to Denver three weeks ago. I was already planning on coming home. I arrived on the 8th, three days after she passed. I was three days away from seeing her again. I flew home after staying up all night. When my parents saw me, they told me I looked half dead. I went to her visitation the next day and I cried a little bit, but it still hadn’t hit me.

I got up to give my eulogy. I was thankful that the pastor had everyone introduce themselves. I introduced myself as Blake. I started speaking and broke down. I got through the eulogy. I sat back down. I was only vaguely aware of where I was. Her counsellor spoke. She mentioned me by name, how much my cousin talked about me. I cried harder. Then came the slideshow. There were a couple of pictures of us from when we were growing up. I couldn’t place the context on them. Most of the pictures that we had together were taken in the last four years.

We went back to my aunt’s house. I got violently ill. I had to lay down and sleep. I hadn’t slept yet. I threw up and cried. My aunt came into the guest room where I was sleeping and asked me if I could come with her to my cousin’s room. I got up and followed her.

Amy left me a bunch of things. My aunt showed me the scrapbooks that she had been working on. For every visit, I took her to a movie. In the last four years, that was all she could handle. Amy kept every ticket stub and wrote my name on it if it was a movie we saw together. I cried more.

I went home and took another nap. I spent some time with my sisters, but for the most part, I don’t think I’m ready to spend time with them yet. My little sister is getting married on the 4th of November and I’m not in her wedding party. I don’t think I’m going to go to her wedding. I get upset whenever people want to talk about her wedding. My parents adore her fiance. They never got to know mine. They never asked me about my wedding. They never looked forward to the date. They never came home from a funeral talking wedding. My father will not be flying home for a weekend to help me with a venue or anything.

My heart is breaking and all anyone can talk about is cake. I sit there and toon everyone out and then I’m told I don’t participate enough.

I fly back today. I have tomorrow off from work. I’ll probably be cleaning and organising and getting myself back together. I’ll probably be grieving alone so that I can finally deal with things.

I don’t know when I’m going to go home again. It’s too hard.

I keep focusing on graduating in 370 days. I keep focusing on writing things that need to be written. Taking pictures. Living life. Moving forward.

The last, I don’t know, six months or so, have been hard for me. Since February, I’ve felt that life has been repeatedly kicking me. On the 12th of February, I was assaulted in a bathroom at my old job. My uncle died a few days later. I didn’t really know he was sick. It was hard. I’ve had a family feud going (there is a debate on how long this feud has been going on, but things have been getting better).

About three weeks ago, my partner dumped me and then got emotionally abusive and destroyed my apartment and slashed open a pillow and left a knife in my wall and a bunch of whole other stuff. He’s gone now and I’m left to pick up all of the pieces and put myself back together (I know how to do this). Actually, I think he was always emotionally abusive, but love blinds you to a lot of shit and I’m now in the stages of re-examining our entire relationship and kicking myself for not seeing things sooner.

I went a little crazy and tried to kill myself about a week ago and then my cousin, one of the closest people in my life, died on Tuesday. I arrived on Friday. I was three days away from seeing her for the last time. I’m at my parents now. They’re taking care of me. I’m taking care of myself. I’m clearly a mess and everyone keeps asking me how I’m doing.

Today was my cousin’s visitation and people asked me how I was and I just kept saying, oh, surviving. Then people told me to smile, that she would want me to smile. I gave a half-hearted smile and then they said do better. But it was the best smile I could manage. I feel like a house has fallen on me, if we are in the business of being honest, and as a writer, I’m in the business of being honest.

Most of my relatives do not know that my life has fallen apart again. They see that I’m hardly eating (I just don’t have an appetite) and that I’m crying and think, oh, well, that’s understandable. I’ve been writing 5000 words every single day. Most of it probably doesn’t make sense. I haven’t been sleeping properly and my PTSD is really bad right now. I’m trying to keep my head above water. The writing helps. Like this is my one thing I can fall back on. This is how I can go back and examine things and figure things out and find myself and free myself and move on and get myself back together.

I arrived yesterday. My flight left at 6am and I didn’t sleep until I got on the plane. I was running on about an hour of sleep. When I landed in Denver, I was trying to read the signs and find my mother and I called her and tried not to cry. She kept asking me if I’m okay (if one more person asks me if I’m okay, I think I’m gonna McFreakin’ Lose It) and I kept saying that I was tired. We both knew there is more to it than that. To be fair, the Denver airport is confusing.

So we come home and she is being very gentle with me. In the car, she points out the blue sky and the snow on the mountains. The sky was so clear and I could see everything. All I could think was, my mother is here and now I can fall apart.

She lets me sleep for a few hours and then she is asking me questions that I’m not ready to answer. What happened? I don’t know. You do know. I don’t. I’ve been writing through it and trying to make sense of it. I have guesses and things from my perspective, but I know that my memory and perceptions of things are one sided, that my ex has a completely different narrative, that I have been gaslit so hard that I don’t know what to think. If you don’t know, gas-lighting is the term for when someone is emotionally abusive towards you when they make you doubt yourself, your memories, what happened.

It’s one of the reasons, I think, I’m so shocked when he starts acting so horribly. It’s only when others point out to me how messed up things were that I’m aware that my ex is not the person I thought he was.

I guess I’m going shopping for new clothes tomorrow. I’m trying very hard to be a person. I’m starting to feel like I belong to myself again. I’ve cried so much in the last month that I don’t know if I have any more tears. I’m working on it.

I’m trying to put myself back together. I have a few plans for when I get home. Cleaning my apartment and letting go of things. Making it how I want it to be. I’ve never lived on my own before. I’ve always had roommates or lived with family. I think it will be a fun experiment. I’m going to start baking again and I quit smoking and drinking. I want to start painting again. I’m also writing those 5000 words a day. I’m trying to read again. I’m trying to heal so that I don’t burn myself out again.

I’m working on coming back. I actually feel that I can come back. I’ve wanted to self-harm every single day for the last month, but I still haven’t. That’s amazing. That’s huge. That’s incredible. I know that I can’t go back to being the person I was before. But I also know that the way I’ve been dealing with the trauma in my life isn’t okay and helping no one. So I’m going to become the best version of myself that I can be.

What a journey life is.