I’m R and I’m transgender. I’m also the youngest kid in my family. I’m quiet, and my older sibling, L, is not. We are both a lot alike and very different.
I didn’t have a name for how I felt; I just knew I was really unhappy the older I got. I hated the changes puberty was causing. I wanted it to stop. But, I’m quiet and I didn’t say anything. I doubled down on skirts, on leggings, on purses, whatever I could do to be more girly. My mom loved it, so I kept doing it, but I grew more unhappy. I lied about my favorite anime characters, saying I liked girl characters when I was drawn to male characters.
And then, a couple years into this struggle, when I finally had a name for who I was – I am transgender.
L came out to my parents as being transgender and I felt screwed over.
If I disclosed now, my parents would think I was copying him.
So, I dressed even more girly and grew more depressed.
L was immediately accepted. His entire wardrobe of girl’s clothes went to me or were tossed. He got boys underwear, boys jeans, everything a geeky little guy could ask for. I still hammed it up, letting my mom put makeup on me, do my hair, whatever I could do to embrace being female,
It was awful.
I did it anyway, lasting a year and a half into L’s social transition before my mom helped break through my barrier. She guessed, but unlike L’s instant transition, my mom wanted made me to wait an agonizing six months to come out, even though I, too, got a new wardrobe and haircuts that grew increasingly short.
I came out to my extended family as gay first.
It wasn’t quite right, the gay label as a girl, but it let me be out, partially, at least.
Trying to figure out who I was and my sexuality at the same time was torture. I told myself that I must like girls in that way, but I didn’t.
I want someone to partner with, but I was also figuring out that I was asexual. The asexual part was the easiest. I really needed an easy thing at that point.
I tore myself up over being trans, being gay. I felt so alone.
I was more depressed than ever. I still got called by my girl name and it made me sick each time I heard it and saw it.
My mom saw the despair, and four months after coming out to her, I took my new name and came out to my whole family and friends.
My brother and I never said a word to each other during the years we were suffering and trying to figure out what was wrong. We share a room, and both of us are blown away that each night for years we lay in our beds and agonized silently. If one of us would have taken the leap and shared, we could have suffered less.
We knew our parents were LGBT allies and supported one of my mom’s students who was also transgender.
We were scared.
Scared to say the words aloud to ourselves. To each other. To our parents. To the world.
We saw the agony that my mom’s student was in, that moving hours away to an LGBT friendly place was the only way to live openly.
That’s why trans visibility is so important.
Acceptance is essential.
My brother L and I are transgender. We are at peace with that knowledge because we are accepted for who we are. We are supported. We will, in the future, medically transition.
We are the lucky ones.
With all the upheaval and negativity running rampant through our lives, it’s important to be able to stop, take stock of what’s important, and find some joy wherever we can.
At The Band Back Together Project, we like to take the time specifically to arrange a little happy boost for everyone.
t dawns on me as I sit there, anxiety at an all time high, my left butt-cheek falling asleep, that I could be somewhere else eating a bagel. Like Paris. Or Detroit. Or learning the Swahili phrase for “pants are bullshit.” Or washing my car. Okay, maybe not washing my car. It was like -900 degrees out. Washing my car would be like that scene in the Terminator with the Nitrous Oxide and the robot.
I smile, imagining my car shattering in the car wash, until I remember I’m probably sitting on barf germs. I hate barf germs.
My iPhone isn’t getting any signal in here. Stupid AT&T. Should be named the iCAN’TPhone because I haven’t been able to make a phone call since I got the damn thing. Hm. I really could use some mindless interaction from The Twitter right about now. Or maybe a Vicodin-Chip cookie. Or some vodka. Because my heart feels like it’s going to pound right the fuck out of my chest.
When the hell did this HAPPEN?
When did I start feeling stretched as taut as an over-tuned violin string? Why did I feel like the pressure to do more; to be more, to constantly outdo myself was omnipresent? Like I couldn’t ever possibly manage to live up to my own unrealistic expectations? Like I had to somehow be everything to everyone. Like if I didn’t constantly prove myself, I would cease to matter. I would cease to exist.
When did this start? And moreover: how could I make this stop?
These anxious racing thoughts; this anxiety, this had to stop.
Admitting that I had a problem the first step, I know from Al-Anon, and doing something about it was important. Hence the bagel-craving and the barf-germ-coated chair in my doctor’s waiting room. And, of course, the urge to flee so that I could learn Portuguese or Mandarin or really anything but admit that I had a problem.
I’m so tired of problems. I’m so tired of having something wrong that I barely want to admit to myself that I have a problem. Between migraines and my lazy-ass missing-in-action thyroid and insomnia, I can hardly stand to be in the same room with myself anymore without wanting to punch myself in the teeth. Problems are bullshit. I hate problems. Maybe I can make a “Problems Are Bullshit” shirt. Because they are. Bullshit, that is.
Maybe this isn’t ACTUALLY a problem. Maybe I can just ignore it and it’ll get better on it’s own.
Except it hasn’t. Because that’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s not working. Clearly.
Before I could do anything, though, the nurse poked her head into the waiting room, “Becky?” she trilled calmly, clearly unaware of my churning guts.
I sighed, put my iDON’TWORKPhone back into my purse and followed her back.
“What seems to be the problem?” she asked kindly.
“Well,” I started, looking at my hands, ashamed to be admitting this to anyone but the people who live inside my computer. “It’s sorta like this…”
Reprinted with permission from the original author, Becky Sherrick Harks, or Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka from March 8, 2001.
Hey, The Band, I’ve got a question. Can you help me?
My 24-year old daughter who is bipolar with psychosis or schizoaffective – we’re not sure because she is an adult and changes what she says are the diagnoses – went dark in texts and social media 2 days ago.
She went to live with her father, who just got back out of the hospital for another bipolar episode, but didn’t let me know.
I have custody of her son. He wanted to call Mommy and tell her goodnight.
We couldn’t get any info for two days.
Here is my rub.: I know my daughter needs help, but they want to blame me for never letting her “find herself;” that she is capable if we just let her be.
In my opinion, she has a severe mental illness that needs supervision.
I would love for her to be able to live independently, be clean, take care of her son, but that is not the case. I feel left to try and make a life of uncertainty.
Should I get a bigger house? (mine suits me fine, but my grandson needs a yard).
Should I continue him at his school and let him attach to friends and community members?
I knew it over before she did.
Really, it was just a matter of time.
She picked the fight by avoiding it.
It was never about me at all.
And I never really had the chance to properly confront her at all; another example of why I refuse to have big conversations via text, letter or computer.
Some shit needs to be said as a human being, with a voice, even if she was too chickenshit to look me in the eye.
And to be clear, she broke MY heart.
She held the ball and dropped it, again and again.
Not because it was fun.
Not because she’s evil.
But because she’s never, ever, ever to blame. And she doesn’t apologize.
I’d given everything I knew how to give to this woman, and bit my tongue over and over when she’d gone a little bit psycho at others, but I believed she’d be there for me until the end.
And I grieved. Even before she hauled off at me in private messages, I grieved because I knew, I just *overwhelmingly knew* it was going to end.
What a glorious run we’d had.
What stories of good times.
But at least I was already prepared when the time came to say goodbye. I’d had months to adjust to living my life without her, it’s not as if she’d made any effort — at ALL — but she’d merrily play the victim because that’s just how she do.
You’ve got anything else to do rather than reconcile with your supposed “family,” Lord knows, but now’s when we’ve come to the end.
You said horrible things.
You blamed me.
Played your victim overture.
Because you couldn’t admit you were wrong.
And you’d rather die than say you’re sorry, or anything at all, without attempting to qualify it behind your trauma drama and bullshit. You truly would die on that self-righteous hill.
And you did.
You literally went to your grave without apologizing, because you thought you could play the passive-aggressive chicken game with me.
Spoiler Alert: that’s a game nobody wins.
But when the time came and you died, I’d already given up. I had grieved over the knowledge of your sickness, the inevitable death it would cause, and your abrupt leaving of my life.
And you died. Took that smug self-importance to the grave, you did.
I hope if you ever live freely again, you will not need a person like me in your world. I had given you the very best of me. And when I finally, FINALLY called you out on your shitty little (and it is little, it was so fucking petty of you to gripe at me) behaviour, you responded with denial and vitriol and condescending bullshit.
You did something awful, and never apologized.
And you thought I’d blink first because *that’s what I’d always done before*. I would drop whatever I was doing because you needed attention.
I fought to see you, I defended you, I was the best possible person I could be for you. And you threw it away because you weren’t having a good morning, and rather than admit you were in the wrong, you doubled-down and dug in your heels.
And you lost me.
I let you go.
You died, to me, then and there.
And maybe you never felt anything at all. Maybe it was never any different for you after that.
But I doubt it.
If I hadn’t known you were already dying, and hadn’t grieved entirely before you flew off the handle, it might have been more of a tragedy to me.
But you were already gone. To me.
It’s not the letting go that bothers me. People leave all the time.
It’s that you couldn’t be an adult and reach for me when you knew everything was slipping away.
She was already gone.
Death was just the finality of the episode.
So when you ask me if I’m prepared to lose a person over “something like this,” or how could I “do something like that,” you must remember what has already been done to me.
I’m simply following the course her actions demand. If she didn’t like it, she could have said something. But, as I said, that’s the hill she chose to literally die on.
You’re not a victim.
You’re a child who can’t say “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Therapy Session II:
Today’s session was a bit hard to swallow, but very much necessary. We discussed co-dependency, power struggles, and volatility… my apparent trifecta.
I learned that ‘feelings‘ are often thinly veiled thoughts and that the two, while similar in many ways, are VASTLY different.
I learned that it’s okay to express both thoughts AND feelings. I don’t always need to apologize when I speak my truths (even if it is upsetting to the other party) because I’m not responsible for others’ emotions, only my own.
I learned that personal boundaries are healthy.
I learned that to truly become better, I must acknowledge and study and embrace my failure. I can’t always strive for perfection.
I learned that, although others may be responsible for my traumas, only I am responsible for addressing and fixing them.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, I learned that true happiness isn’t going to be found anywhere else but inside of ME, so it’s up to me alone to find it.
#therapy #endthestigma #enlightenment #therapyispowerful #mentalhealthmatters #powertothefeminist #thoughts #talktherapy #codepencency
It’s been a long time since you’ve asked me to comment on the book you wrote about your mom’s suicide. I think you are amazing to write about it and I’m glad that you did. I don’t enjoy bringing that chapter of life to mind, given the chaos of those years, but I’ve thought about it often. Especially when I think about what it means to be a mother and uncovering fresh layers of fucked up that we both learned from our mothers.
I know it’s not fair of me to judge them now — but it’s hard not to.
I took your mom’s suicide hard.
Talking about my relationship with your mom is hard for me because I admired her very much — I was flabbergasted by the way that she slipped back into drugs and addiction.
I was shocked that she abandoned you like that. I was just shocked.
I couldn’t believe your mom would die by suicide.
I still can’t.
I remember the first time I met your mom, I was playing in the front yard while she moved in across the street. She introduced herself from over the fence and told me that she had a daughter just my age, with my name: “I have a Sarah too.”
By the time you came to visit for the summer she had already arranged that we would be playmates. She even arranged a phone call between us before your visit.
When you showed up at my front door, I knew we would be lifelong friends.
My mom worked a lot and my dad was physically or mentally absent most of the time, so your home was like a second home to me.
During these years, your house felt like a Norman Rockwell to me, though now I see that it was far from it.
My mom remarried a man who was addicted to heroin, while at your house, your mom packed lunches, set up the tent in the backyard for us to “camp,” and made goody bags filled with candy. She took us to the zoo, the mall, and the flea market. She prescreened movies, took us for mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, and insisted that you wore a bike helmet. I remember going with her to an NA picnic in the park and how proud she was of her sober chips. We’d to admire the shiny metal coins she earned for racking up months and years of sobriety.
I envied the amount of time and attention that your mom spent with you when she was sober As a kid, I saw your mom as kind, fair, the type who would take the time to listen.
When your mom died by suicide, I was glad that she had doted on you those years before she started using again.
As my home life became marked by violence and fear, I began that the world was full of bad people. I quickly became withdrawn to protect myself.
Beth was a reminder that there were safe adults in the world.
When my stepfather and my mom first started fighting, I called your house in the middle of the night. I was so scared. I didn’t know what was happening or what to do.
It was very late and your mom answered the phone and insisted that I tell her what was happening. My stepfather hadn’t started hitting my mom yet, but the yelling was really over the top. She gave me a speech about how adults sometimes argue and it can be scary for children to hear and explained that my mom and step dad would never want to do anything to scare me. She told me to go downstairs and tell them that they were scaring me and I couldn’t sleep. They told me to go back up to my room.
Many nights of fighting followed with growing intensity and I tried to call you but ended up talking to Beth.
Beth eventually called my mom and told her that she was concerned about me – I was in big trouble. I was forbidden to speak about “private family business.” It worked: I didn’t speak of the violence again until after his death.
The violence escalated and my stepfather began beating my mom and my brother when he was angry. We moved on several occasions to get away from him.
The emotional abuse from my stepfather became our new normal and we began spending school nights on random people’s sofas, hiding our car down the street.
I spent as much time as possible at friend’s houses and took up babysitting to get out of the house on weekends.
Beth was the only person who knew what was happening; I’d assumed that she would be the person to help me out of that situation. I’m no longer sure she understood how bad things had gotten. She provided me a safe place to go whenever I needed one and a reminder that there are kind people in the world. She told me that I should become one of them. She affirmed that there were a lot of fucked-up things in the world and they would probably never make sense.
Honestly, I don’t know how I would have turned out without Beth as a moral reference point during those years.
Beth became addicted to codeine cough syrup and her behavior changed: she didn’t take us on outings she slept all day everyday. One occasion when she woke up, I remember her running down the hallway singing “boo boop be boo.” This is when I learned that there was something wrong. I was pretty sure that people with bronchitis didn’t do that kind of thing normally.
I knew things were coming unhinged for you, but was too young to appreciate the full weight of what was happening.
I lived in Beth’s house twice, once for a short time when I ran away after my stepfather died and for the school term after that.
By the time I officially lived with Beth she was pretty far gone in her addiction. She slept or was gone most of the time.
It seemed that you were on your own, too.
I still cared what Beth thought of me. She seemed one of the few people who didn’t see me as a lost cause and so I didn’t see myself that way when I was around her.
On Fridays, Beth would take us to the grocery store. She taught us how to grocery shop and some very basic cooking skills.
Things went sour when my mom suspected Beth was using the money she gave her for things other than my upkeep. You and Beth were at odds more often than not. I decided it was best to move back home. Home was a sort of hell, but it was my own hell and I knew how to navigate it.
I didn’t see much of Beth after that.
I’d spend weekends at her apartment while she agreed to leave us totally unattended. The last time I saw her, she’d picked me up from my house to bring me back to your house for the weekend. I remember her being warm and chatting with me for the ride, though I can’t remember what about.
I remember her smiling and I remember that she mentioned that you were unhappy with her these days.
The next time I saw her she was in a coma.
Atrophied hands, hair cut short, dead to the world.
No warm smile, no more sun-kissed freckles, no more frizzy bun atop her head.
She was gone to the world and she couldn’t recover. That’s the last I saw her.
I couldn’t talk about her death with you. It didn’t seem like you wanted to and then you were gone I knew that she let you down and ultimately abandoned you with her suicide. You have every right to be angry with her; hell I was angry on your behalf.
I was just shocked and sad. I think I felt abandoned too.
The next few years were hard for us; the one person I saw as a safe adult had succumbed to drugs and took her own life. It didn’t add up.
Suicide was cruel and yet I remembered her as such a kind person.
There was nothing I could say that would lessen the pain for you so I said nothing.
You remind me of her because you look so much like her now. If you want to talk about what happened, I’d let you start.
What is there to say now, after all of these years?
That was fucked up. There is some fucked up bad shit in the world and it will never make sense, but there is some wonderful stuff too. I think that, despite it all, we both turned out to be people who contribute more to the good than to the uglyl.
I hold you close in my heart, my sister and my dear friend.
With much love,