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Suicide is Not For the Coward

So the lead singer of alternative rock band Linkin Park is in the news, because he killed himself by hanging. While I haven’t liked Linkin Park since their first album, and since I was in the 9th grade, a lot of people are coming forward to call Chester a coward for committing suicide, primarily because it means he left six children behind.

Regardless of whether you approve of his choice, it is stupid, and a horrific misrepresentation of the situation, to call someone a coward because they killed themselves.

Suffering is Relative

First, it must be pointed out that suffering is relative, and none of us has any insight into the inner turmoil within anyone else, and so none of us have the authority or information to accurately assess whether the person chose the “easy” route of suicide and was wrong to do so. We simply don’t know–because we can’t know–how a person feels, unless they tell us, and Chester did come pretty close to that, through his lyrics. These lyrics, incidentally, were those that angst-filled teens adored and identified with, because their own internal suffering was reflected back to them. But that isn’t really important.

Courage & Cowardice

I know many people who have “attempted” suicide. I’m among them, and the scars on my wrist bear it out. I was hospitalized in a behavioral ward several years ago because of it. Even after extensive research, I still didn’t cut deeply enough to hit the veins–no, seriously, the veins in your wrist are much deeper than you’re thinking–and I didn’t have any guns at the time. Today, I know a scary amount of information about suicide. Because of this, I’m well aware that the recent old Republican who “killed himself” with helium actually did commit suicide, and that there couldn’t possibly have been any foulplay. I know that, because I once owned a helium tank for exactly that purpose.

But I never did it.

Why not?

Because, as a method of suicide, it’s almost instantaneous. There is no time for second thoughts. Once you exhale and lower that bag over your head, that’s it. You pass out, and about half an hour later, you die, unconscious. I’m simply not struggling with depression badly enough to pursue that en sincera. I don’t want to die.

With very few exceptions, that is the same thing that nearly everyone who “attempts suicide” decides. There’s a reason that successful suicide rates are low. It’s not an easy thing to do. Substantial biological programming and the desire to survive outweigh most forms of depression, and, even when the depression is heavier, the person must face head-on their fear of death.

Anyone who has ever sat there with the barrel of a gun in their mouth, the blade of a razor against their wrists, a noose around their neck, or any other such situation and who still lives faced their fear of death head-on.

And they buckled.

They can make all the excuses they want. They can say that they realized that they were loved. They can say that they realized their problems would pass. They can say any-damned-thing that they want. But I know it, and they know it: the reason they live is that they are cowards. They stood on the precipice of oblivion and feared to jump, and so they backed away from the cliff. Some of these people are now calling Chester a coward because he didn’t back down from the precipice of oblivion.

Are you kidding me?

An Animal’s Instincts of Self-Preservation

There is tremendous resistance to death. Anyone who has seen wild animals chew off their own limbs (or humans saw off their own limbs) to escape from deadly situations knows that there is a powerful Will to Live inside every organism. Humans and non-humans are capable of incredible things in the interest of self-preservation, something that modern “horror” movies love exploiting for shock value. Put two people in a room together and tell them that one of them must kill the other, and then the survivor will be free, and they will almost immediately attempt to kill each other (Fun note: this is what Nietzsche described as Middle Class Morality). Saw off their own leg? No problem, once they have pursued other options.

Here’s a cold, hard fact for you: almost everyone out there–at least 99.999% of people–would cry and beg profusely as someone else lowered a noose around their neck. They would do anything, say anything, and promise anything to be spared. Disgusting amounts of tears and snot would run down their faces as they panicked, prayed to every god they could think of, and begged everyone nearby to “Please, I’ll do anything…” These are the same people calling Chester a coward because he lowered the noose around his own neck.

It would be funny, if it wasn’t true that, evidently, that’s how they see it.

There is an enormous difference between “thinking very hard about suicide” and gathering the means to do it, and actually proceeding with it. Even if the attempt is a failure, there is such an enormous gap between “thinking about suicide” and “legitimately trying to kill oneself” that most people can’t even fathom the divide.

It’s the same divide that exists between people who imagine how brave they would be if they faced down a criminal with a gun, and the people who have been there, and who gladly handed over their wallets and were terrified. Fear, after all, is what keeps people alive. It’s what kept human beings out of the darkness where there were lions, wild dogs, and hippos. That same exact fear keeps people from putting the gun in their mouth and pulling the trigger. It’s easy to say “I could have. I would have. I just changed my mind.”

In fact, it reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer says he’s going to build “levels” in his apartment, and Jerry bets him that it will never happen. In the end, Kramer renegs on the bet, and says that Jerry didn’t win, because, “I could have done it. I just didn’t want to.” Jerry vainly attempts to remind him, “That’s the bet! The bet is that you wouldn’t do it.” Kramer again reiterates, “But I could have.” Frustrated, Jerry says, “The bet wasn’t that you couldn’t. The bet was that you wouldn’t,” but it’s to no avail.

This is what people are saying when they say that they could have committed suicide, and they would have–if they hadn’t considered the loved ones they were leaving behind. The loved ones that they remembered were the panicked product of innate biological tendencies within an animal to preserve itself because it was afraid. It doesn’t matter what their reason for changing their mind is–why were they considering such things in the first place? By that point, they are already second-guessing whether they want to commit suicide. What propelled that? What caused them to stop and think about anything instead of just taking the gun, putting it in their mouths, and pulling the trigger? Why weren’t they just thinking about that?

Because their brain was desperately afraid and trying to stop to them using the last tool it had at its disposal. Compelling one to stop and think about all the loved ones being left behind is how it does that.

Anyone who ever attempted suicide–or “thought about” attempting suicide–and who still lives is a coward. They stood on the edge of the precipice, and they backed down. They can offer up any excuse they want, but, at the end of the day, what stopped them was fear. There’s no other reason why they’d have stopped to consider loved ones in the first place. That’s the brain’s last defense mechanism against self-destruction.

Consider this: the person who is about to commit suicide and stops because they think of the pain and suffering it will bring the loved ones left behind are aware, at least in some ways, that the fact that they even care about the pain and suffering they’ll leave behind will vanish the moment they’re dead. Sure, “If I commit suicide, I’ll leave behind so much pain and suffering.” Yet, also sure, “But I’ll be dead, so… there won’t be even a single solitary second of my existence where I feel the pain of having left people behind by killing myself, because I’ll have killed myself.” They didn’t think about that, though. I’d bet that thought didn’t occur to the overwhelming majority of people who attempted/thought about suicide. And why not? Because their brain was looking for ways to talk them out of it, not looking for ways to talk them into it.

Thoughts & Control

We tend to think of “our thoughts” as something we control, and our brains as something that is fully at our mercy, and that’s simply not true. Sentience is a curious thing, but your brain absolutely does things to try to convince “you” of things. The human brain is countless parts communicating with one another, not some collective unit that the “I” controls. You’re breathing right now–you are not in control of that. Your heart is beating right now. You can no more make your heart stop beating than (and this is important) you can make yourself stop thinking. You don’t control your thoughts. A thought comes when it wants to, not when “you” want it to. When some part of your brain decides to generate it, that’s when the thought occurs. You can no more create that thought than you can stop it. It’s coming. The only choice you have is how “you” deal with that thought. Whatever you are thinking about when the clock strikes noon after reading this, you won’t have any power to prevent.

The “I” takes these thoughts coming in from various parts of the brain, and assembles them into some form it can process, and then makes a decision. Maybe the “I” can control the decision that it makes, and maybe it can’t, because the decision itself is merely a product of the information sent to it by thoughts that it cannot dictate–it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the “I” doesn’t control what thoughts come, or when those thoughts come. Even extensive training by Buddhist monks cannot allow one to indefinitely take control of what thoughts come, or when those thoughts come. However focused the Buddhist monk is, and however in control of their thoughts they are, the moment they have to get back to life, they surrender control back to other parts of their brain. What will they think about while they slice potatoes in the monastery? While they till the ground?

You can do it, too. Think about an elephant, and try to keep thinking about an elephant. How long does it take you to realize that you’re not longer thinking about an elephant? Your thoughts will stray–a conga line of random thoughts perhaps not even related, until finally you’re thinking about John McCain’s brain cancer and realize, after forty seconds, “Oh, shit, I was supposed to be thinking about an elephant!” and direct your thoughts back to a pachyderm. Try to keep that elephant in your mind all day, as you go about work, as you eat lunch. You can’t do it. No one can. It requires exhaustive energy and focus to control one’s thoughts, and it simply cannot be done for any substantial period of time. You may think about the elephant several times an hour throughout the day, but through those instances, you’ll think about colleagues, food, friends, family, driving, money, and countless other things that you can’t control.

Those thoughts of loved ones that the person contemplating suicide has… They can’t control those thoughts, either. The question we have to ask is why the brain generated those thoughts. Why did some part of one’s brain conjure up an image of a son or nephew, and say, “But look how sad he’ll be…” and create vivid imaginings of the future of that child, raised without his father or mother? We can find the answer easily, by asking “What did the conjuration of those thoughts achieve?”

Well, it achieved causing the “I” to back out of committing suicide.

Why would a part of the brain want that?

Because it’s afraid of losing existence.

Conclusion

Maybe you don’t approve of what Chester did. Maybe you think it’s screwed up he left his family behind, and maybe you just think that suicide is immoral (I’ll save that for another day). Maybe you’re more like me, and you don’t really care one way or another, but you’d like it if there wasn’t so much confusion and misunderstanding surrounding suicide. Making the statement, though, that Chester was “wrong” to make the choice that he did is saying “He valued release from his pain more highly than he valued the pain he was leaving with others. His values are wrong, and the pain he left others is much greater than whatever pain he felt.”

I hope we can all immediately see what an asinine statement that is.

We don’t know what pain he felt, or what his personal suffering entailed. We can never know what it was like to live within his head and to feel what he felt. We can never know how deeply in That Place he was. Neither can we know how his children and wife/ex-wife will feel about it. We can guess, and we’d be right to some degree when we’d guess “They’ll be really sad,” but we can’t quantify that. We can’t even quantify our own suffering. Ask any person how much hardship and suffering they face and I’d bet wholeheartedly that you’ll see a graph identical to what we’d expect based on the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Everyone will rate their personal suffering and past hardships at 7.5, or thereabouts. I’d love to see a scientific survey done on this. In fact, I’m going to do one.

But if we cannot properly assess the value of his suffering and how bad it was, or the suffering of his family and how bad it’s going to be, how can we justify making the arrogant claim that he was wrong to make the choice that he did?

I Will Not Be Made to Cower in My Home

I have a problem.

Holy shit, do I have a problem.

As I pointed out previously, my situation here in Mississippi is not good, and I’m hardly more than a serf. My landlord is my employer’s father, and I’m not going to go into that whole situation again–you can click that link for the details–but my landlord does not know that I’m transgender. He suspects it, though, and there’s no real indication that it’s a problem–he just hasn’t seen it or dealt with it.

My employer has also not seen it, but he ostensibly doesn’t have a problem with it, and has even said he’d like to meet me. He stumbles around the terminology as much as you’d expect someone to, and that’s my biggest issue with the whole transgender thing. The terminology is absurdly clunky. However, it’s of note that he hasn’t met me–despite the initial conversations happening six months ago–and it’s always noticeably awkward when the subject is brought up.

Sunday night he emailed me this.

life changed

The house in question is literally within a hundred feet of where I live; it is on the same property. In fact, it’s so close that I use its garage to park my car under, and it’s a short walk from there to where I live. It’s seriously like right there. If I look out my bedroom window, it’s just… right there, about fifty feet away.

I replied politely and firmly, but making my position clear.

Seems like the simplest way to handle it would be to let him know I’m transgender. It will become obvious, no matter how unobservant he is. Either the cats will look out the window and pull the curtain open just at the wrong time or he’ll pop open the dryer or I’ll drop a bra while loading the dryer and not notice until I go to retrieve my dry clothes–who knows. Living with someone at that proximity, though, it is inevitable. Then it becomes an awkward, uncomfortable elephant in the room, and I don’t maintain it as a secret any longer anyway. It’s more like how I’m an atheist–I’m actually rather upfront about it, but I still know better than to tell the Good ole boys at Perimeter than I’m an atheist, so I simply don’t tell them.

It’s also inevitable because I learned today as I got a lot of really weird looks that boobs are visible beneath my t-shirt. While I knew I could no longer wear “wifebeaters,” I also can’t just throw on a t-shirt any longer.

If he wants, I’d bet my grandmother can get him a dorm. That’s not related to the preceding paragraphs. But she worked at ________for most of her life. She easily got my sister into the “good” dorm. ________ wouldn’t have wanted one of the dorms anyway unless he’s an athlete. They’d have put him in ___________, which is filled with loud, obnoxious, 18 year old people. I’ve delivered pizzas there; you couldn’t fucking pay me to live in that dorm. I’d be homeless before I did that.

More pursuant to the first two paragraphs, I live in an almost constant state of “Did I remember to…” already. I’m almost constantly going over mental checklists, to the point that I nearly freaked out walking into [a client’s] the other day because I suddenly thought I was wearing a female shirt (I have no idea why I thought that–it was an ordinary t-shirt). But that kind of thing is constantly going through my mind. “Did I remove nail polish? Did I remove eyeliner? Is mascara still there? Am I wearing the right clothes? Am I wearing the right flip-flops (yes, I have two pair, and yes, one pair is pink with flowers on them)?” Under most circumstances, I’m in a state that could best be described as “between genders.”

And all this assumes that it wouldn’t be a problem for ______, though I’m obviously a pretty private person myself. Damn. Too many variables.

I was polite, but firm, in my statement that this is not something that I hide. Toward the end, as I lived with my sister, I was forced to hide in my bedroom all night every night. The entire reason that my living there came to a head was my being transgender and her unwillingness to “allow” it. So I was forced, despite paying tons of money each month in rent, to cower in my room all night every night, always ready to quickly change clothes when my nephew came and knocked on my door and barged in without waiting for an answer.

I simply will not do that again.

I don’t care if his son finds it awkward and uncomfortable. His son can either stay someplace else, or he can throw the gauntlet down to his landlord that I make him uncomfortable, and I can be forced to move. I do not care which happens, but under no circumstances will I cower in my house with the curtains drawn, not allowed to go outside at certain times of day because he’s home or whatever. I simply will not do it.

I am already enough of a prisoner here in Mississippi. There are already many places that I cannot go. I have to constantly be on guard, because too many people would recognize “my male identity” within my female one, and, yes, our clients would stop working with me over that, and the reality is that I need that money.

This would likely place the landlord in the position of having to choose between his grandson and a loyal tenant who has been living here for 8 months. I have no doubt that I’ll be told to leave. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

There is very good reason to believe that the kid in question will not be okay with any of this. He’s evidently vehemently racist, according to his dad, and I know that his mom takes issue with me being transgender:

life changed 2

Of course, “more later” never came, though I explicitly asked him twice.

The same thing has happened here. He has not replied to my response. When I texted yesterday to find out if he was going to be staying down here last night, four hours passed before I got a response via text message. For four hours, I languished in a state that could best be described as “between genders” (primarily because my hair isn’t very long yet) trying to figure out whether it was safe to just be myself. That is a condition that will become permanent with a neighbor living in such proximity to me.

I talked with my landlord briefly this morning, and he suggested it’s a foregone conclusion that the guy will be living there.

I do appreciate the awkward situation my employer is in. He’s the “gatekeeper,” so to speak, but that’s a responsibility that he chose when he directly asked the question and I answered. I’ve since repeatedly made it clear that I do not live in secret any longer. I will go out in a heartbeat as my true self, and people can deal with it or not. I do not exist on their terms.

This is, however, his son, and my landlord’s grandson. That only raises the awkwardness of the situation.

And I was not the one who put us in this situation. I will not suffer for it. I will not be made into a recluse again.

I’ve been upfront and clear that I will not let this remain a secret or an elephant in the room. The guy can deal with it, or not. But I will not allow him to hide from it, because I will not hide from him.

But I’m not kidding myself.

I know how this will go down.

I’ve been down this road before, after all, with my own sister.se.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Podcast: "As I Live" & Video: "A Message to Transgender Teens"

I used the Podbean app to record this podcast, and I’m really sorry that the audio is so low. Use headphones, but be aware of volume spikes. I hate that about the Podbean app: it records at super low volumes. 🙁

I also published a new video this morning: a message to transgender teens, because it was on my mind as soon as I woke up. I hope you enjoy it:

Hopefully, I’m not talking a mile a minute in it!

Looks like my internet has finally straightened itself up! Huzzah!

But yeah.

I don’t typically check my Analytics page on Google, because I’m not really popular enough to get good info. I know most of the people watching my videos, listening to my podcasts, and reading my articles, and they tell me directly what interests them and what doesn’t, and I try to accommodate that anyway. So until I’m average 100~ downloads per podcast, and 250~ views per video, Analytics just isn’t much use to me. However, I like to keep it in place, because it’s not that all the data is useless; it’s just that the data doesn’t have a very big scope.

Last night I merged my Podbean analytics with the new website (the one you’re reading), and in so doing caught a glimpse of the last 30 days of data. My view defaults to the United States, because that’s obviously where most of my audience is, and I’m simply not trying to appeal to people in Uganda, you know? It’s all well and good that they like it, but I’m not really going to take Pakistani people’s interests into account when I do a podcast. And what I saw was that Nevada had an unusual number of views–more than any state but Tennesse, and Tennesse is supposed to have a lot of views, because that’s where my gateway is. Every time I visit the site to upload a podcast, change something, or whatever, it logs another visit from Nashville. The only state that came close to Tennessee…

was Nevada.

So I clicked the state, though I knew what I would find. I was not surprised to see this:

stay away from me

I eliminated the #2 location of Paradise from the image. Paradise is still Vegas anyway, and it’s still you.

Why?

Why are you here?

It's a Holiday

And what am I going to do?

I didn’t do anything over the weekend to celebrate the Fourth of July, which is odd because it’s one of the few holidays that I actually like. Of course. This was the day, 240 years ago, that we declared independence from the British Empire. As an anarchist, I stand in favor of that. But I didn’t do anything.

My family had no cookout, and even if they had, I wouldn’t have been able to go, not really, because it’s the weekend–and, during the weekends, I spend as little time as a male as possible. The last time I went out to my grandmother’s my dad pulled me aside and told me not to come back out there with black fingernail polish on anyway, which just adds to the list of things I’d have to do if I wanted to go out there. But we didn’t have one anyway.

My sister occasionally does such things, because she’s trying to step up to fill my grandmother’s role in the event of my grandmother’s inevitable death. It’s always my grandmother’s that we go to, for family shit, and my sister badly wants her house to be the nexus when my grandmother dies. But it’s not going to happen, for a few reasons–the most important is that family unity dies with my grandmother. There’s no chance of my my dad’s brother and wife coming out to my sister’s for a Thanksgiving or Christmas thing, and if they do, they’d only stop by for a minute on their way somewhere else. And then the next year, they’d stop by for a few minutes less, and then they’ll stop coming altogether.

Of course, I’ll be long gone by then. Not just because I’ll have moved, but because I’m transgender and simply won’t be welcome there–end of story. I’ve addressed it several times, but here, one more time, is my sister’s long reply when I finally broke down and was honest with her about me being transgender and how I wasn’t going to continue to hide it:

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

But the real reason that no one in our family did anything is that everyone is broke. My sister still hasn’t found a replacement job from when she unwisely quit her job as a bartender from the Diamond Lounge at the Horseshoe, where she made about $600 a week in tips alone, and received a full wage. And she’s not going to, because for 9 years she worked as a bartender; it’s the only thing she knows.

The county we live in is an honest-to-god dry county. I invite you to ponder how many bartending opportunities are available here. The only real opportunities were at the casino, and they demonstrably prefer hiring 21 year old women, not 31 year old women. While they’ve enough lawyers to ensure they are never called out on this, it’s certainly true. And, even so, they’d rather hire someone who went to bartending school, and my sister did not–she was a cocktail waitress who was “promoted” to a bartender.

She cooked her own goose, as it were, and everyone warned her not to do it. However, her husband and father of their newly born 3 month old child, threatened to leave her if she went back to work at the casino, so she quit the day that she was supposed to return from FMLA. I don’t blame her for that, because she had a really shitty choice to make: let her husband leave when she knew she couldn’t pay the bills, or quit her job when she knew that he couldn’t pay the bills. And he hasn’t. Much as I have been, they’ve been treading water through the last year, except they’ve had to borrow money almost constantly to make it, and they are months behind on their house note with foreclosure inevitable. There is a reason why, last July when my sister quit and I was still living there, that I immediately contacted my uncle and asked him to rent me the one bedroom apartment that my dad and I had lived in–because everyone who knew the situation knew that the Sword of Damocles hung over her head. I’m surprised they’ve made it this long, but I don’t think they’ll make it much further.

What few friends actually would have done something for the holiday would not have invited me, because they don’t want to ask the question, and they don’t want to say it.

“Would you be coming as Aria, or as a guy…?” is the question they don’t want to ask, but it’s also a question that they must ask, because…

“You can’t come here as Aria,” is the thing they don’t want to say.

Which is something I allow from them simply because I don’t have other friends. How could I? These are the tolerant Mississippians; these are the open “I don’t give a shit what people do” Mississippians.

And though the reality is that they don’t care, they also wouldn’t be the only people at these parties, and it’s simply true that… “My wife’s brother would spend the whole night mocking you, and he might even threaten you and attack you.” “Someone would bring a friend of a friend, or a date with them, and they’d find out, and chaos would ensue.” “My parents would leave as soon as they found out. You can’t ask me to choose between having you at my party and having my parents there.”

That’s the reality of Mississippi–the same reason that it would be mostly ineffective for any of them to share my GoFundMe campaign. Not only would inviting me to their party probably put me directly in danger, but it would force them to stand up and take a side–and not everyone is willing to do that. Not everyone is willing to face that situation where your brother-in-law is threatening your transgender friend.

So I did nothing for the holiday except think about all the things that I will do next year when I am in Vegas, living free, living securely, and without danger constantly hanging over my head about someone’s brother-in-law, a friend of a friend, and other shit like that. I thought about how next year I will be hosting the party with all the friends I make quickly and easily by hitting up local LGBT clubs and hotspots, of being a fascinating and interesting person to hang out with. I thought about how I will be telling people, “Hey–if you’ve got a fucking problem, you can leave” if they mouth off to a straight friend, a transgender friend, a gay friend, or any other friend.

I thought about how I’ll surely have Dancing in Hellfire published by then, and how I’ll be making bigger and better videos on Youtube, possibly writing for mises.org. Maybe I’ll even have finished Steam Greenlight & Anarchy by then.

I thought about how I’ll be looking back on this day and being shocked by how desensitized I was to how much Mississippi truly sucks–in the same way that we become desensitized to everything. It’s amazing what a person can accept as normal simply because they see it everyday. I thought about how that would probably be my last post to the GoFundMe campaign–a picture of me in my new home, surrounded by friends and not worried that someone’s brother-in-law is going to start shit with me because he “don’t like them queers and transsexyals.”

That would be fitting, I think.

Well.

IMG_1469I did make the music video again–I’ve actually done several today, and I got one that was finally acceptable enough that I was willing to upload it. Then, as soon as I uploaded it and went to transcribe it for the lyrics, I deleted it. I’ve asked a friend to do something similar, but I simply can’t–my singing voice just sucks too bad. And I knew that when I uploaded the video, but I thought maybe it was alright. But no.

That’s frustrating, because I think something like that would be an effective way to get the word out.

Apparently, if I block someone for hate speech, it doesn’t delete their comments on my video. It just hides them from me. Well done, Youtube. That’s completely fucking broken. I only became aware of it because my first video about the GoFundMe campaign has like 15 comments. So I switched to a different profile, and there they were–the initial asshole’s comments, as well as someone who kindly took on the dipshit for me by pointing out that the rules of most places don’t really apply to Mississippi.

I’m really frustrated with my friends, but there’s no point in continuing to harp on that. But it’s really anger-inducing, because I can look over there, to the list of friends on the right and say:

  • I just sold you a $55 part for $15, taking a $40 loss to my company. I also gave you 45 minutes of labor and a $55 part for free, on top of the one I sold you.
  • I gave you a half-ounce of weed (years ago).
  • I borrowed a suboxone from my sister and gave it to you because you were withdrawing from heroin.
  • I gave you a ton of rides all over the place, and ecstasy (years ago, granted).
  • I’ve removed viruses for you and helped set up your controller for your PC.
  • I gave you money for you to start a company.
  • I shared your music for years, even though I don’t even like hip-hop.
  • You came in me.
  • I’ve been supporting your bid for state representative of Pennsylvania.
  • I share your podcast.

And yet none of them have liked, commented, or shared any of my statues. I posted this one early today, a warning to them all masked behind subtlety:

getting snippyIt’s certainly fair to say that I’m getting a bit snippy, but obviously it’s subtle enough that no one would feel like I’m taking shots at them. Unless they actually scrolled down my wall, in which case they’d see:

The answer to my question is "No."

The answer to my question is “No.”

Here I am, literally doing everything I can to try to improve my life forever, to get out of this hellhole, and put all this bullshit behind me, and I’ve resorted to running ads on Facebook and Twitter because I’m more likely to get likes, comments, shares, and donations from random strangers on the Internet than I am people that I’ve known for two decades. There are a few reasons for this:

1 – They’re Broke

I don’t expect any of them to donate money to me. Most of them are at least as broke as I am, and some of them are doing even worse. A few of them aren’t doing very badly, and I certainly am surprised that one in particular has not donated a fucking thing, but I’m not going to begrudge anyone for not donating money to me. Even though they’re the people who know best that I’ve spent my entire life trying and overcoming obstacles. What sort of message does that send people on the Internet, if my friends and family are unwilling to even pitch in a dollar? If the people who know me best and who, allegedly, care the most about me aren’t willing to throw in at least a few bucks, what does that tell people on the Internet? That’s why it pisses me off so much.

None of these people even bought my story on Amazon, despite the fact that nearly every friend I’ve ever had has told me, “Let me know when you have something published! I’ll definitely buy it!” Then none of them did. Well, one friend did, and then promised to leave a review. He never did, because he never actually read it. I don’t know how to feel about that. Thanks, I guess, for paying that whopping 99 cents to buy my story. Would’ve been nice if you’d taken the time to read all eleven pages of it and leave the review that you promised to leave, but I guess one can’t have everything. Other friends frequently post shit about how important it is to help friends get started. Seriously.

2 – They’re Self-Absorbed

bullshit

Yes, I had to call him on that, and there remain only two copies sold of my story. Out of all 7 billion people on the planet, two of them bought my story. Worse still, a few friends even have told me that they did purchase it. They assumed, presumably, that I had sold at least a few dozen copies, and that they could therefore hide in the numbers and say that they’d bought it when they didn’t. But only two people have bought it, and I can identify both of those people. But yes, I had to call this guy on his thing about how important it is to support local businesses and family and stuff, when he had never even shared any of the dozens of posts on my wall about my story. It’s ridiculous Feel Good bullshit. “I want to act like I believe this, but I don’t really want to do it. Help a friend? Fuck that.”

Take this, for example:

disgusting

This was so horrific I had to call the guy on it. “Are you attempting to sell something that you’re otherwise going to burn?” I added the “lol” because he was a friend, and for no other reason. To my horror, his response was “Yes. It’s garbage to me, but if anyone wants it, they have to pay for it.”

He literally tried to sell his garbage to people.

Literally. He literally tried selling his garbage to people.

Then the very same friend will post this, making fun of other people doing exactly the same thing:

garbage

Like “Dude. You literally tried selling your garbage to people. Something that was of no use to you whatsoever and that you were going to destroy, you attempted to sell to someone. And if someone had come to you to get it, and asked for it for free, you would have said, ‘No.’ You might have gone down to $3 or something, but that doesn’t change the fact that you literally tried to sell your garbage to people–and you knew it, and you admitted it. You value things not by how much value they have to you, but buy whether or not other people want them.”

The ultimate irony is that, yes, the same friend posted both things. The same friend that literally and knowingly tried selling his garbage to people made fun of people in Buy, Sell, Trade groups who do the same thing. I’ve rarely seen such a lack of self-awareness.

He has picked up on my agitation, though, because earlier today he shared one of my posts about my GoFundMe campaign, and he did it in exactly the way that I said he would: without text, without saying anything. Just an empty click of the share button, a gesture, a token–an obligation. I don’t want my friends to feel obligated to share my stuff, and I don’t want them to feel obligated to help. I want friends who want to help, and mine simply don’t.

obligationNothing like

This person has been my friend for 15 years and has overcome a lot of bullshit, and now needs a little help to get out of Mississippi and go somewhere that she’ll be safe and secure.

No

I’ve known this person for 15 years, and if there’s anyone who has tried hard to move forward, it’s her. Now she needs a little help.

Just an empty share.

I said two days ago that this is exactly what I didn’t want:

called it

I want friends who act like fucking friends. Is that so much to ask?

I’ve always been there any time these people needed. With this particular friend, let me tell you a little story.

His wife had a skirt that she couldn’t wear because she’d bought a Youth 24 instead of some other 24, so the skirt was more like my size than hers. He asked if I wanted it. After looking it over, I told him that: While I did like the skirt, it was simply too short, and I wouldn’t be able to wear it in public. Therefore, I couldn’t purchase it. I have enough clothes that are too short/tight for me to wear anywhere but home, and I’m not going to pay to add to that. He told me to hang on to it anyway, because he had no use for it.

A few weeks later, I decided that I liked it after all, and he asked if I was going to pay for it.

Process that for a minute.

If I didn’t want the skirt, then I could have it for free. But if I did want the skirt, then I had to pay for it.

I don’t typically keep cash on me, and he dropped by my house like three times unexpectedly and out of the blue, asking for money for that goddamned skirt. It got to the point where I was considering just telling him to take the damned thing back, because it was horrifically offensive (Yes, offensive) that he had given me this skirt until I decided that I liked it, at which point he wanted $15 for it. Rather than telling me at any of these points that he stopped by unexpectedly and I had no cash on me, despite my telling him that he had to give me advance notice before he came by because I don’t keep cash, “You know what? Don’t worry about it. I told you to just keep it, so just keep it. I gave it to you as a gift because I had no need or use for it, so it wouldn’t be right for me to take your money for it now…” he just kept asking for money for it. I was in a video session with John McAfee the last time that he stopped by, and I was just so goddamned tired of dealing with it and happened to have cash on me that I put a $20 bill under my windshield wiper and ignored him the rest of the night. How dare he take that money?

Only when I was writing this post did I realize that he sold me his garbage.

I would unfriend all of these people right now if I knew how long it would take to garner the money I need to go to Vegas and escape this living nightmare, but it’s not like he’s a bad guy. He’s not. He’s just… very greedy when it comes to money, clearly–and I don’t like saying that about my friends, especially since there is the possibility that he might read this, but the dude sold me his garbage. I don’t know how else to characterize that. He’s a great guy in other respects. Hey, I’ve got lots of flaws, too. I’m extremely argumentative, and I’m sure that’s pissed my friends off on several occasions. I’m very thankful that they’ve dealt with that and generally just ignore it.

But one thing that I can’t simply forget is that I’ve always been willing to help my friends, and I don’t think I’ve ever refused to help a friend. When this same friend called me while I was at work, and his wife’s car was messed up in a nearby city with a dead battery, I was willing to contact someone I knew in the area and ask them to go jump off her battery. Because I’m willing to help friends. Maybe my mistake is expecting that people value me as much as I value them.

3 – Fear

Almost none of the selfies I post ever get Likes, and the few likes that I do get always come from female friends. None of my male friends will go anywhere near that Like button on one of my selfies, and we all know why. In the back of their mind, they don’t know what it will mean if they Like the picture. “Does that mean I think she is hot? Will everyone else think that I think she’s hot? Will she think that I think she’s hot? Does that just mean that I like the picture? What if I just like the picture because it’s a good pic, but everyone else thinks I liked it because I think she’s pretty in that picture? She’s got a penis, so I can’t think she’s pretty without being gay, and I’m not gay…”

Some of my pics are pretty damned good, if I do say so myself:

I gotta tell ya... I'd lick the hell out of that belly.

I gotta tell ya… I’d lick the hell out of that belly.

IMG_1466As I’ve said before, I’m not in the least attracted to guys, and I never have been. To be totally honest, I find the idea of two guys kissing to be repulsive, but it’s not because I think it’s wrong for two guys to kiss–it’s because I don’t think guys are attractive, so how could two guys making out be anything less than unattractive? I find the idea of kissing a guy to be gross. I like girls–it’s a major part of me being transgender, after all.

The point of all that is to say that the pic on the left is one of the few pics I’ve taken where I can honestly say that I’d totally make out with that person. And I’d really enjoy it. I happen to think I look pretty hot in that pic. Not incredible, gorgeous, or anything like that, but… fairly hot. And when I went outside to tan yesterday afternoon and removed my shorts, I realized… “Holy shit. I look like a bronze goddess.”

I’m not saying that I expect you or anyone else to agree with those statements; in fact, it’s irrelevant to me whether or not you do. I want to look at myself and think that I’m hot. It means absolutely nothing to me whether anyone else thinks I’m hot. Obviously, for the sake of having a relationship, it would be good for another girl to find me attractive, and I think I’ll be able to find such girls without much issue in Vegas, which I’m really looking forward to. I can’t wait to go out on the city, and be safe, hit some LGBT clubs, and meet some fellow lesbians.

For similar reasons they won’t like my pictures, my friends won’t share my statues about the GoFundMe campaign. Though they may not have a problem with transgender people, what about their family? How would this friend’s mom react if she found out that he was supporting a transgender friend? How would that friend’s church group react if they saw the post? How would that friend’s coworkers react? The answer to these questions, since we are talking about people in Mississippi, is “Badly, Badly, and Badly.”

“Oh, I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing!” would be the mildest of the messages such a friend would get from other friends and family–joking jabs meant half in jest and half in sincerity, to get the person to explain. For the most part, though, they’d get comments and messages saying things like “Instead of donating, we need to be praying for this poor soul, for the devil to release his hold on him.” For the most part, it would be largely ineffective for them to share my campaign.

But it wouldn’t be totally ineffective.

Most of my friends have other friends who live in Washington, Canada, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and other places where people are far more tolerant and open.

I need $3,865 more. If I could reach 3,865 and all of them give just $1, then I could forever be free of this nightmare, could move to an economically stable city, and live in peace and security. If I could just reach 1933 people, and all of them give just $2, then I could put the despair of Mississippi and the American south in the past and relocate to a city where I will not have to sleep with a loaded gun on my headboard out of fear for my life, where I can’t even go to the nearest LGBT bar because people are routinely attacked as they leave them–the news stories for which have been buried by the Orlando attack. When I first looked into going, however, that’s what caused me not to: the LGBT bars in Memphis are often in the news because patrons are attacked, beaten, and hospitalized after leaving the club.

But as I said: I shall endeavor on. And I will continue donating everything I can to the campaign in the hopes that it sends the right message to people, in the hopes that the word spreads, and in the hopes that people outside of Mississippi are as good, kind, and compassionate as I know them to be.

To me, friendship is reciprocity of care. I don’t think I’m yet jaded enough to say that people only have friends based on what those “friends” can do for them, but there’s certainly a case to be made for that. Even myself, I would argue–I have friends because I don’t like loneliness. But this cold statement hides the real emotions that underscore a friendship: the care and the concern. If these things are not reciprocated (which is clearly shown in a person’s actions), then there is hardly a friendship there. There is only a parasite and a host.

C'est la vie.

I don’t like self-promotion. Even when it’s relevant, I don’t like self-promotion.

When I answer questions on Quora, I tend to answer questions that I’m interested in–obviously. This means that I’ve probably done a podcast or video on the subject, or at the very least have written an article about it, but I always find it so hard to link the content in question. Because I don’t like the idea of self-promotion.

Yet as I stand here trying to promote a GoFundMe campaign, I’m terribly aware that the only way… is self-promotion.

That’s what I meant to discuss in the last article, before I digressed, so now I’m writing about it.

As I said there, it’s no surprise that my friends don’t throw up donations. I don’t expect them to. Most of them are doing as badly as I am, and some of them worse–I at least have my own place and am not living on my parents’ land, after all. But there’s another place that I can’t turn: family. Not only do I have to be careful to ensure that my family doesn’t see me on Facebook and Twitter (I’m the only person in my family who even uses Twitter), but even if they did, there is no chance whatsoever that they would share the post, or that any of them would donate.

That’s what frustrates me about the #1 suggest on GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and everywhere else: “Share with your friends and family!”

Yeah, because I enjoy being ignored.

Of the many posts I’ve made about my campaign on my artist page and my personal Facebook page, no friend has shared anything. And they never will. These are the same people who wouldn’t spend ninety-nine cents buying my short story on Amazon. Hell, they couldn’t even be bothered to share those posts, either. I’ve often said that I’d have more luck getting them do share a kidney than I would getting them to share a post, but I’m not sure that’s true, either. I think they’d probably just sit back and do nothing.

That’s particularly frustrating because I’ve always made it a point to share things and help in whatever way that I could. When a friend of mine was raising money to start a business making vapor liquids, I donated $10 to him. I’m the only person who donated to him and shared his campaign, so it’s not just I who have the problem. It’s seriously not me; it’s them. And while I love these people to death for the (albeit limited) emotional support they’ve provided by being my friend, and for putting up with my rather… argumentative… comments without telling me to fuck off, that doesn’t change that it hurts to be trying for six months to do something, and to be able to count on one hand the number of times that friends have shown any interest whatsoever in it.

I’ve now paid $7.00 to Facebook for promoting one of my posts about the campaign, and that has yielded no result. Today I added Twitter to the list and am paying $10 to have one of my tweets about it posted. I have to do for myself the things that friends and family ordinarily do, because my family is non-existent (for all intents and purposes) and my friends are… a tad self-absorbed. They see the posts. And they just keep scrolling.

They say that you pick your friends, but not your family, and I’m not sure how true that really is. I didn’t have much choice when I picked my friends; we generally came together out of circumstance in high school, because we were the rejects, the ones who fell through society’s cracks. But realistically, I didn’t have a particularly large group of friends to choose from, and there was never really any “choosing.” The environment and circumstances handed me friends in much the same way that it handed me family.

Out of all my friends, I would have to say that the only one I think truly qualifies as an actual friend, and not merely “an agreeable person met through circumstances” would be Michelle Kelly, who I’ve never even met. And that’s not because she’s done this, that, and the other thing to help me; it’s simply because she shows the characteristic that a friend actually should: support.

When I came out as transgender, I made it clear to a lot of my friends that I was going to be leaning pretty heavily on them. They understood, because being transgender meant that I was about to be dead to my family. One girl in particular was supposed to be there–and then wasn’t. C’est la vie.

I’m not bitter or angry about it, not really, but it does frustrate me and sadden me. It’s a large part of the reason that I was so willing to drop everything and move to Vegas–thinking I had found that, as I said, “kindred spirit.” That person who would ensure that I wasn’t totally alone. That’s really what matters to me, as I have spent the better part of my life alone–something that a lot of people simply won’t get. Most people do have at least a parent they can go to, after all.

C’est la vie.

When a friend of mine called me a week ago and needed help with his computers, I told him to come on out, and I looked for power supplies to sell him that he needed. I couldn’t give them away, because they were business inventory, but I sold them for $15 each–one third the actual price. Not only was there no markup, I actually took a loss by selling them, and converted one computer from a “Just needs a hard drive” to “pretty much junk now” by removing its PSU. Then he arrived and I spent about 45 minutes troubleshooting things with him. I only put a stop to things when he basically wanted me to open up a brand new case, brand new motherboard, brand new CPU, brand new RAM, and put one of the computers together for him. That… crossed a line of friendship to me, especially since this was something he’d already done twice himself. I’m all for helping someone with something, but I’m not just going to do it for them. My colleague was coming down anyway, so I didn’t have another hour to dedicate to building a computer. And while I wouldn’t have let him pay me for my time, he also didn’t offer.

Two weeks later, and my GoFundMe campaign sits on my wall ignored, not even a Like. And if it did get a share, it would be an empty one, an obvious gesture, with no text or anything added, no, “Hey, this is a really good friend of mine who has worked really hard to overcome obstacles, but who needs a little help right now…” or anything like that.

No sign of friendship. Just a sign of obligation.

An obligation that would only be acknowledged if I brought attention to it.

When he first asked if I had a PSU, I said “No,” because I didn’t have one just sitting around. When he made it clear that he really needed them, I took time out of my day and pulled three. Then helped troubleshoot the problem.

Another friend contacts me somewhat regularly to have me do things remotely for his computer. I’ve installed and setup MotionInJoy for him, so that we could trick his computer into reading his 360 controller as a PS3 controller and remap the axes on it. I’ve helped him remove malware. All things that I charge people for on a daily basis, but the thought of charging him never crossed my mind–because he was a friend and needed help, and I was able to give it.

It’s a nuanced issue, obviously. I never helped them because I expected reciprocation. I never envisioned a scenario where this friend 3,000 miles away would be able to help me with something; I simply did it because he was a friend and I cared, not because I was obligated to or because I wanted him to be obligated to return the favor. But I think someone’s willingness or unwillingness to take three seconds out of their day to click two buttons and type a short message is probably a pretty good indicator of how much they value you as a friend.

My campaign can’t go viral if the people to whom I’m sharing it don’t forward it on. That’s how this sharing thing works–it’s a spider web. I share it with the thirty friends I have, and they share it with the 30-300 friends they have. In one act, I went from sharing with 30 people to sharing with 900 people.

In theory, anyway.

How it actually works is that I share it, and that’s as far as it goes.

When you’re literally trying to do something that will improve your life by leaps and bounds forever and that will allow you to actually move from a place of economic despair to stability and progress, it goes a bit beyond “disappointing” and flirts with “insulting” to hear only the crickets and see only the tumbleweeds after I effectively ask, “Hey, could you share this?”

But I will keep going. I will endeavor on. And when I have moved to Vegas and make new friends, they will find themselves systematically removed from my life. They weren’t there when I needed them, so why on Earth would they be there after the dust had settled?

3

I will succeed. I will leave this wretched place, and I will put all this shit and this horrid environment of selfish people in the past.

And I won’t look back.

That Day.

I’m consciously aware that my life is pretty easy at the moment–I mean, relatively. That’s kind of depressing, but I’m speaking of being transgender. At the moment, I still work as a male, and generally just go to stores as a male. I very rarely go into public as a female, and then only to places that I know very well, or that are open to that sort of thing anyway, like a LGBT bar. It won’t always be this easy, though. There will come a time when I can’t pass as a male–my hair will be too long and feminine, my facial features (which are already changing subtly) will have changed too much, and I’ll have boobs that will be impossible to hide.

No matter what, there must come a day when the transgender person must cast aside the old shell and step back into the world. That will be difficult no matter what part of the country one is in, and I would certainly say that it will be substantially harder in Mississippi, but it’s never easy. In so many ways, it would have been easier to do this in high school, but I didn’t have that luxury. I envy those who did.

I regularly stop by a gas station and am on excellent terms with the people who work there. It’s one of those ones owned by Middle Eastern people, which means they’re probably Muslims and have much the same position on transgenderism that Christians have. I see these people as my male self every single day. What am I to do that morning when I wake, and it’s That Day–That Day when the shell has been shattered beyond repair, leaving the facade that was my male persona rotting in the past? Must I simply walk away from that store, never again to see those people? No amount of time could pass that they wouldn’t recognize me–people remember me. They always have.

I live just a few minutes from a general store that I go to a few times each week for miscellaneous things that I don’t get elsewhere. When I wake up That Day, will I simply never go to that store again? How could I? With the cashiers staring, their mouths agape, speechless and all of them thinking the same thing:

“What… the… fuck… Do we… Do we call the police?”

I have not yet had the luxury of even going clothes shopping. How can I, when my voice still needs so much work? How would the cashier at Rue21 react when I replied to her greeting, with my masculine voice that clearly marks me as “not quite simply a woman”? I’ve done most of my clothes shopping online, or with friends–then I have the excuse that the clothes aren’t for me, but for my friends. But there must come a day when I go to Rue21 as myself, or to TJ Maxx as myself–what shall I do on That Day?

That’s undoubtedly the hardest part, and I’m afraid–of course I’m afraid. Even if this wasn’t Mississippi, I would be afraid. I once made the analogy that it’s a bit like going to school after getting a new haircut, and the anxiety one feels the night before, totally convinced that other kids are going to laugh and say that it looks stupid. And they might–it’s always a real possibility that the haircut does look stupid. But this isn’t high school, and this is so much more than a haircut.

One day I will think nothing of it as I leave my house, get into my car, go to the store, and do everything I need to do as Aria. That day must come; that day is coming. It is, perhaps, approaching faster than I thought it would. But before I can do that–before that day comes that I am simply comfortable doing what I must do–the penny must drop. It is something I have put off–understandably so, as I’ve said, because it’s simply not reasonable to do such a thing until I have progressed further along this voice issue.

But I am not known for being a coward. Neither will I put that day off one sunrise longer than necessary.

But I will be afraid.

Ignorance: The Psychopath's New Weapon

I actually do want to make the case at some point that humanity is in real trouble, especially in the United States, where we have cultivated ignorance and exonerated it consistently enough that there’s little prospect for continued growth. I frequently have people say “I’m not reading that book you wrote” about one of my comments, proudly broadcasting to the world that they can’t be bothered to read, and this is worsened by it being said as though I’m the one in the wrong, I’m the fool, for writing a reply that was too long for their particular brand of idiocy. But that’s for another day, and the title I’ve chosen isn’t actually related to that.

Someone recently asked me how I can publish a story that Bradley* wrote, and I was told that “Aria didn’t write the story. Bradley wrote the story.”

Needless to say, my mind was positively boggled. And, of course, this was from the psychopath (told you–see this post to learn what I mean), no doubt trying a different tactic to get an emotional reaction out of me–you know, as the psychopath needs. I’m proud to say I didn’t give it, and I won’t give it now, because there was no emotion to my reply. There was only cold brutality.

I replied pointing out that humans evolved from apes, yet there are still monkeys. My point was actually that the psychopath’s question was just as ignorant as the Christians who ask how there can still be monkeys if we evolved from them, and to point out that, yes, I did evolve from Bradley. It was the perfect metaphor for the situation. But the psychopath doubled down on the ignorance and said “Yet we don’t claim credit for the work of the monkeys” or something like that.

I replied three times. First, simply “I did write it.” Then I gave a mini-explanation, a very short one of just a few sentences, and then I said predictable. Well. The psychopath was predictable, to the extent that I couldn’t even pretend to be surprised or pretend to have an emotional reaction. That’s what the psychopath does, remember? I explained that in the last post about it. The psychopath attempts to elicit an emotional response, presumably to feel in control but I don’t care enough to ask “Why,” and then immediately drops back to short replies and no replies. The psychopath simply wants drama, simply feeds on emotion, and is incapable of caring what those emotions are.

So rather than feeding that, I rebuked the psychopath extensively, shredding the thought process and revealing the ignorance underlying it. “You can’t publish that story you wrote yesterday, because you were wearing different socks yesterday, and since you’re not wearing the same socks today you’re a different person and therefore not the person who wrote the story,” I used as a slippery slope. It’s perfectly true, though. The reasoning is as asinine as it was faulty, and rivaled only by the almost pathetic attempt to elicit an emotional response.

There’s just no context where the psychopath’s question and replies make any sense. Even the people at the Westborough Baptist Church aren’t that looney. No one is so confused on the matter that they think a transgender person is literally a different person mid and post transition, especially not to the extent that I wouldn’t be able to rightfully claim to have written something that I wrote.

In another brazen display of the psychopath’s out-of-control ego, I was asked how I expected her to react. I must admit that I took some vindictive pleasure in pointing out that… I didn’t. I never gave a moment of thought to how the psychopath would react. I didn’t consider how George W. Bush, my Aunt Diane, my ex-wife, or Asheik Mohammed Samar, random name in India that I just made up, would react, either. Because these people aren’t part of my life. I don’t make it a habit of wondering what random people who aren’t part of my life will think or feel about what I do. I consider the reactions only of people in my life and people who care about me–not random people thousands of miles away.

Of course, it’s not true that the psychopath is a random person thousands of miles away, but that’s the thing–she might as well be. I didn’t destroy the relationship and friendship, and I clinged to them far longer than I should have.

When I told a friend of this, she asked what could the psychopath say that I would take as sincere. The answer is…

Nothing.

The time for words is long over. There is absolutely nothing that she could say to me that I would accept as sincere. Only actions can speak loudly enough to be heard over the blood pouring from the knives she put in my back.

It still isn’t any easier for me. I doubt it ever will be, and she surely knows that; she certainly knows that I still love her and want to believe she’s sincere. But I can’t.

In the interest of our friendship and years of circles, I did give her time to reply and apologize for the fucked up thing she’d said. She hasn’t done so. Again–predictable.

One thing is all it would take from her. And, believe me, I want to let it all go. You have no idea how badly I want to just release all of it. It would be so easy. One thing to convince me that she’s sincere, that she’s not just a psychopath, that I’m not just her victim, and that she is the person she claims to be. One thing.

And it is the one thing a psychopath would never do.

As I said.

Predictable.

* My “Other name” isn’t Bradley, but that’s close enough.

Beneath the Chestnut Tree

The final chapter of George Orwell’s 1984 has always resonated strongly with me. Though I’ve obviously never been in the depths of Minilove, the arc of entering the labyrinthine darkness to square off against the greatest foe is something I can relate to, as well as the after effects: nothing is the same, and there is no going back. The only thing that can be done is to shed a tear beneath the chestnut tree, where “I sold you and you sold me.”

Similarly, the mythos of Ariadne and Thesseus resonates strongly with me, and I have a musical duology called by each character. The Hero’s Journey is always an inward journey; everything external is merely a symbol of the hero’s own inner conflict. Descent into the labyrinth to face the minotaur is not about a mythological beast nearly as much as it is staring unblinking into the mirror and facing mistakes of the past.

The Hero’s Journey, as Joseph Campbell observed, has clear trends across all manner of fiction. The Hero begins at home, but it is not long before the Hero’s Journey begins; indeed, it has already begun. The Hero leaves, endures trials, and returns home. The Hero’s Journey is far from over, though, and there is never anything to which the Hero can actually return. Often this is achieved through the destruction of the home, as in Star Wars and Dragons of Autumn Twilight, but not always.

The key aspect is simply that the Hero can’t return to the pre-journey life. Something has changed; something is different. In The Anvil, Leraneon returns to his home and finds that it’s no longer his home. He can’t explain it, and he doesn’t understand it; it’s simply a feeling: I am not home.

Years ago, I thought I was losing my mind, because I was handwriting something. I was really high, sitting down, and just writing. Then suddenly “I am not home” appeared on the page, and I had written it. A friend started talking about freewriting, and I guess that’s what happened, but the strange thing about it is that I’ve never really had what most people would call a home. Since kindergarten, irresponsible parents have carted me all over the place, so what “home” was I talking about?

 

“What is this motherfucker prattling on about?” you may be asking.

I’m not entirely sure. A longtime friend came and stayed the night with me last night, and some bits of the conversation have really stuck with me. This is someone who knew me before I left the ex-wife, before I went to Vegas–she, in effect, saw me before the journey (because we are all the Hero in our own story), and she’s seen me after the journey.

 

Clearly, the damage that has been done to me is readily apparent to anyone who knew me previously. Whereas before I was quiet, now I am withdrawn. Whereas before I was a bit distant, now I am surrounded and protected by impenetrable walls. The most glaring, however, was that before I participated, but now I observe.

It was really disheartening to hear her constantly refer to a transgender friend who had undergone full SRS as “he,” and three times I had to ask for her to not call this person a male. I understand that part of this is that old habits are hard to break, and I completely appreciate that, but the old habit won’t break if she doesn’t try to break it. Another good friend of mine had issues when he and his wife came over, and he constantly paused to correct himself when referring to me. It’s not something I’m going to get hung up about, not now, but there will come a time when it will be flat out insulting to me. I can’t imagine undergoing SRS and still have people refer to me as a “he.”

A lot of people don’t get the significance, but how many women do you know who get offended when someone on the phone says “Yes, sir” to them? How many men do you know who would lose their minds if someone says “Yes, ma’am” to them? No one likes being referred to by the wrong pronoun–no one. So why are transgender people, for whom the gender identity question is even more important, expected to be less bothered? Logic dictates that the transgender person would be, and even should be, more bothered.

But, as I said, I don’t tend to get torn up about it. Call Caitlyn Jenner a man, and, yes, that will press my buttons. That goes beyond force of habit and leaps boisterously into the territory of offense. Call anyone who has had SRS by their own pronoun, and, again, you’ve gone too far.

It’s actually rather simple. Bruce Jenner is a male. Caitlyn Jenner is a female. Bruce no longer exists, so when referring to this person “she” is the way to do it. By the same token, I have to be a male for work. So when friends see B., it’s normal and expected that they’d say “he.” This is part of the reason I don’t fixate on the pronouns presently–I do still present myself as a male to much of the world. And no doubt, this person that is me who encapsulates both B. and Aria is, on the whole, female, and it’s certainly true that Aria is “pure me” whole B. is “sorta me, but with a lot of masks on.” But that doesn’t change that it’s unreasonable of me to expect my friends to look at B. and say “she.”

Anyway, before I somehow digressed onto that, I told Calliope years ago, when our relationship was on the rocks, that I’d been into the labyrinth, I’d faced the darkness, and I came out the other side. That’s certainly true, but what I entered was a small section of the labyrinth. With each return, I realised that it was larger and filled with enemies deadlier than I’d ever imagined. Most of these returns were not by choice. Unlike Thesseus, I did not choose to go down, and the motif of my songs deals with Ariadne failing to give Thesseus the sword and string; in my versions, Thesseus enters unarmed and without a method of finding his way back.

There was a time, years ago, that I stumbled by accident into the labyrinth, and there was a time that Ariadne failed to give me the sword and string, and I trusted her to do so. That’s not an unreasonable trust: I had married the girl, after all, and if you can’t count on your spouse to help pull you from the darkness then who can you count on?

“No one,” I learned, and that’s the best way to characterize me. I trust no one. Everyone I’ve ever trusted has either let me down or betrayed me outright.

I fell into despair and darkness. “I’m lost,” I said, because it was all that I could say. I have no idea what I went through, or what caused it, but in less than a month I’d left my ex-wife, and she immediately turned her back on me, even though all I freaking did was go to my sister’s. Of course, it would never have reached that point if she’d done as I asked and just left me be, but she kept pushing and pushing, caring only for herself and how it hurt her that I was distant, and caring nothing for the fact that I was in far worse shape.

For months afterward, I felt that I’d lost my center, that I’d drifted away from myself, and that I’d never find myself again. And I tried repeatedly to get her back, but she wasn’t having it. Her dad, who vehemently disliked me and spurned her through our entire marriage, welcomed her back as the prodigal daughter–suddenly, she had daddy’s happy love again. On top of that, a longtime friend with whom she’d fallen out of touch (because the friend didn’t try to keep the flame of friendship alive and got caught up in her own world that my ex wasn’t part of) had just left her own husband, because he’d been using Craigslist to… do things a husband shouldn’t be doing. So she also got her old friend back at exactly the same time, and though neither of these were my fault, it felt to her that she’d been rewarded when I left her. I left her, then she got her daddy and friend back–though these people had each turned their backs on her for different reasons, that’s simply not how the ordinary person views things; the average person doesn’t bother to analyze to such depths.

Meanwhile, I re-enrolled into college and graduated, opened an I.T. firm, got to speak on Fox News as an I.T. Expert regarding cryptoware, got published, became a writer for Cubed3, wrote two books, moved to Vegas…

…and was promptly thrown back into the labyrinth, and this time I was beaten to near death before I woke to find myself shrouded in the darkness of the underground maze. This time… was different. The stakes were high–so very high–and it was far more like:

 

 

This time, it was that. That right there, that video… That’s it in a nutshell. Except, instead of donning a totalitarian mask as does Pink, I removed the mask and there was Aria.

 

If you liked this post, feel free to click Like, Share, and Subscribe. 🙂 I’m also interested in swapping guest-writing posts. You might also like “Dead or Alive”, on Amazon for 99 cents: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AS5NJHM?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

You may already be interested in helping with my transition. Www.gofundme.com/ariatransition

Or you can just pop in occasionally and see what I’ve written. That works perfectly, too. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantastic Friends

I have to take a moment to gush about how great my friends are–and how great I am at choosing friends. They say you can choose your friends and not your family, and that’s obviously true, and the past six months have shown me that and why it’s so important to have good friends.

Considering that my family is awful and exactly what you’d expect southern fundamentalist Christians to be, I knew I was going to be leaning heavily on friends to keep me going. For all intents and purposes, I no longer really have family. Though most of my family still doesn’t know, they will soon, and they’ll turn their backs on me much faster and easier than my sister did. Strangers say, “You don’t know that. Your family may surprise you.”

None of my friends say that, though, because my friends know how my family is; they know how their families are, and this isn’t a movie where the side of tolerance and openness triumphs over bigotry and closed minds; this is Earth, the United States, the South, Mississippi. The only state in the union to keep the confederate flag as part of its state flag. And I’ve often spoken against the way the media and television portray the South, because my friends and I are such enormous exceptions to how the area is portrayed, but that doesn’t change that the average person IS pretty close to how Family Guy portrays them.

 

When I began coming out as transgender, I added my friends on Facebook slowly. It was because I didn’t want to overload myself, and I knew everyone would have questions. And they did have questions, but I also knew that none of them would take issue with it.

Among the most amusing replies was when I was talking to DB, and we were talking about an old friend of ours, DC.

“Oh shit heads up DC and CP are married and get this they are Bible thumpers now and they live close to there. I’ve tried to stay in contact with DC but he’s just weird now and he always blows me off he’s not rude just not pursuing the friendship so fuck it.”

To which I replied:

 

“‘Daniel is just weird now,’ said Dustin to the shemale lesbian.”

Other friends were more direct in the conversation.

“So that’s where the hell you went off to.  Well, don’t let anyone get in the way of what your heart is obviously telling you to do.” And that was it in regard to that. All I did was add him as a friend, and that’s what he said.

And another:

 

“I think everyone should be free to express themselves without fear of persecution, no matter how they do it, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Staying true to my own personal views, I must even include religion. Of course you know I’m not religious myself, but if a person is for whatever reason, I think they are entitled to that. As long as it doesn’t become an organization that tries to push those beliefs on others or does anything else that “inconveniences” others, for lack of a better way of putting it, I think that’s ok. Same goes for anything else an individual feels they have to do to express themselves or feel whole. There isn’t a single, solitary thing wrong with what you’re doing and if ever necessary for whatever reason, I’d be prepared to publicly support you.”

My friends have all been really great. I even preemptively attempted to explain to one of my oldest friends, and he cut me off with:

“It’s all good. You don’t owe me any kind of explanation. Just as long as you’re doing what YOU want to do.”

My friends stand as a stark contrast to my family, but I couldn’t choose my family. I did choose my friends, and I fucking chose well. Longtime friend and colleague JM was going to be the last to know about it, and asked pointedly in response to something I’d sent him if I have an interest in cross dressers or in cross dressing. To clarify, he is a friend, and our relationship is far beyond “just business.” And he said:

“For what it’s worth, I’m glad you told me that, and I don’t care. Really. I’d rather you express it than suppress it and get sick. Who knows why we like and don’t like what we do and don’t. Billions have been made speculating, but in the end, fuck knows. That’s who.”

So I just wanted to give a shout out to the important people in my life and say “thank you.” It could definitely be a lot lonelier, but it isn’t–because of wonderful friends.

Though they are great friends, none of them can employ a transgender person. Though it will be possible for me to secure clients who are unaware that I’m transgender, losing my current clients is going to be devastating financially. Any help that can be provided would be appreciated, especially sharing the url:

 

http://www.gofundme.com/ariatransition