I am a few days late posting this, but on this week of the Transgender day of Remembrance, I have been thinking about not just those who have had their life taken in crimes of hatred, but also all those trans people who have taken their own life out of despair.
Different studies give varying percentages and numbers on the amount of suicide attempts, but all the articles I have read agree that trans people have the highest rate of suicide attempts, with the highest rates being trans people of color. It is difficult to gather numbers of how many suicides among the trans population have been successful, as many families don’t disclose that the deceased is trans. With national suicide rates rising drastically, it seems obvious to me that we are in a major crisis.
I wonder how many youth have taken their lives due to a crisis of gender identity that they do not disclose even in death for fear of shame.
Shame is one of the most terrifying emotions. How can one even speak about it through the shame?
I empathize. I have struggled with depression and suicidal ideation my whole life.
I remember being so young, maybe 5, and telling my mother that I looked forward to puberty, because then I’d grow a penis. And I remember the look on her face and knowing NEVER to say anything like that again. I remember overheard whispered words of “she who used to be a he,” and always asking, feeling hope, wanting to know more, and being shushed.
I remember so many incidents that kept me pushing my natural truth deeper and deeper inside me, until I was so cloaked in shame and theatrics that I could not bear to be alone in silence with myself for fear my secrets self would creep up and betray everyone who loved me.
Now, in this place of self-knowledge and the empowerment of my adulthood, I am inspired to be more visible, to be a role model, so that trans youth can know there is a possible bright future for them. How can you see a future for yourself if no one in the world reflects how you feel on the inside, if that potential reality has never been shown to you? How can you have hope when the people you love and who believe they love “you,” deny who you are?
My suicidal ideation and depression has been compounded by more than just my gender, as I am sure it is for all people. I have been peeling back the layers, becoming more and more myself as I’ve learned to process emotions and traumas throughout my life. In this process I have had to face the importance of my non-binariness, and my need to be visible as myself in the world. Even with all the mindfulness skills I have learned, this part of my journey is still challenging me with deep valleys and hills of emotion.
I am acutely aware that I am not alone in my struggle. Every depression I find ways to overcome is a potential helping hand to someone else struggling in the future. When the depression makes me unable to struggle forward for the sake of my own healing, I keep moving forward for those unknown others. When the spirit inside me calls me to step forward in a courageous step of honesty, and I almost freeze in fear, I take that step because I know that courage in contagious. If I can live my truth, it will be easier for the next person.
If I said it was easy, that I haven’t lost hope at times, I would be selling myself short. I am part of the statistics. I have a past of self-harm, drug abuse, and suicide attempts. It was only three years ago I ended up in the ER after an out of control self-harm episode that almost took my life.
This shit is real, and these are important details in my story that are hard to share. And necessary to share if I want to help those in the same boat.
That episode inspired some major changes in my life, but I don’t take where I am for granted. I hope to never be that close again. But I try to use those scars as inspiration now to not stay in the depression, to remind myself how badly in that moment I wanted to live. And that reminds me to keep moving through the mire and muck, to keep trying to listen to what those dark places have to tell me, then get the hell out.
I am thankful to have inner resolve that empowers me to seek out resources that work for me. I am thankful to have resources, not everyone does.
We all carry the wounds of our family and ancestors, and the traumas of this life and past lives. Our cultural wounds run deep, anchored in history and reaffirmed in this society that has moved so far from interdependent tribal cultures. We are raised to believe we are isolated. We have been raised emotionally uneducated, unable to allow ourselves to feel, process, and then therefore move through difficult emotions. Television, our parents, the internet, music, show us how to distract ourselves, numb ourselves. We are trained to do anything besides cry, rage, and grieve the depths that we need to so that we can begin to heal.
This week I am carrying a lot of grief. Grief for the child in me and all the children who carry the burden of lying to themselves for the ease and comfort of others. Grief for the child in me, and all the children, who cut their own skin, hating the burdens of their physical body and all their culture told them their body implied. Grief for the oppressors, all those who deny the reality of all that being transgender implies. Grief for the mis-education, that so often turns to hatred, that so many people express and grief for those to whom that hatred is expressed. Grief at the depths of our cultural wounds and all the different ways we express it. Grief for all the lives taken in acts of hatred.
And I am angry. Angry at our culture for not having the container to hold a very real identity, one that has existed in all times. Angry at the lack of resources for people who are suffering. Angry at the over prescription of anti-depressents and drugs coupled with the lack of accountability and care for very real people in real situations. I am angry at ignorance. I am angry at all the selfishness of those who refuse to recognize our existence.
I am honored and grateful to feel these emotions so profoundly. The more we share the burden, the less individuals will feel isolated by the depths of their difficulties.
So I take the week of the Day of Transgender Awareness to reflect on the sacredness of all life, and to try to hold a space for hope.
And if you’re a person struggling with depression right now, I suggest you check out Sam Dylan Finch’s blog, a trans writer who has excellent articles about mental health. Start here- 10 Ways to Reach out When You’re Struggling with mental health