When I was a child, I used to walk along the cracks in the pavement at recess. Carefully walking as if on a tightrope. Each step I took a vivid reminder of the fine line I walked at home and at school, where one false move and I might garner attention. Whether it was good or bad attention, I could never guess, and there were times when being invisible seemed the best option. I often dreamed of flying in space, of going to Mars, and it didn’t bother me that such an endeavor could take months if not years. I’d read those words and think, “I could be myself up there. And it’d be safe.” I may not have understood some of the more dangerous aspects of space, but I did understand it’s isolation. There in space I could be by myself, away from the scary and dangerous aspects of life on Earth, and look back on the beauty of the planet without fear.
It was sometime in second or third grade I decided I would seek out good attention by being everyone’s friend. I’d become Samwise Gamgee, who was loyal to a fault. When my friends started to falter, I’d channel my inner Samwise, pick them up, and carry them until they could walk again. I adored the verse in the New Testament that read, “No greater love has one than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend.” I imagined the many ways I could die, saving the life of another. There in the streets of a large city, a gunman would start shooting at my friend, and I’d leap heroically into the line of fire. My friend would run to safety, and I’d kick the gun out of the attacker’s hands and somehow win the fight despite the multiple gunshot wounds.
If I was anything, I was ambitious. Heck, as a young child, I wanted to not only be the first person on Mars but also the first person to write a novel in space on the way to Mars. I always had lofty goals, even when it came to defending my friends against the terrors of the world.
But there are some terrors in which you cannot defend. How do I fight an oppressive system that views people of color as less than human? That strives to strip them of their humanity and often their lives, without warning? I have no defense against a system that de-values the lives of transgender people like myself, where it misgenders us, violently attacks us, and tries to strip away our humanity. No matter how hard I try, I can’t demolish a system that tries to rape, demolish, and exploit anyone who identifies as female. How do I stop a culture that treats rape as a joke, vilifying survivors, and sympathizing with rapists? How can I defend those I love against toxic forms of religion that seek to strip away our rights, steal our humanity, and leave us for dead on the side of the road?
I’m just one person, and a flawed one at that. I’ve been an outcast in every group I’ve tried to join. I have been that friendly person that people admit is nice but never stop to truly see me as me. I am just a wall decoration, a friendly atmosphere, a hopeful sentence or two that uplifts their spirits. I am nebulous and undefined, and when they turn to look at me, they force labels on me, often against my will, where I am confined to their version of me, their version of reality. There is no room to breathe, and if I speak up?
Speaking up is out of the question, for now, as I struggle with my gender and seek transition, I’ve lost that right. I am the one that fell between the cracks. The survivor that never really had a support system, not even when I presented as a woman. I am not a woman, but I’m not a man. How can I walk into these women-only spaces seeking safety and healing from the horrors of our rape culture? I can’t for I don’t belong. How can I enter into feminist discussions about sexism in society? I lost that right the moment I injected testosterone into my system. I had no voice to begin with, and now that I finally decided to be myself, I find that I still have no voice. Many demand I stay silent, but hasn’t my entire life been silent? Written in bits and pieces and scattered through a thousand journal pages, many of which will never see the light of day. Instead, I try hard to amplify the voice of others, but in the end, it is never enough.
I am not a woman, but I’m not a man. I lie somewhere inbetween, lurking in that grey area that lacks definition. My body is my own, and the alterations I seek aligns it more with my brain and my own self-image. But society and parts of my family would not see it that way. To them, people like me are the problem, the reason for the war.
People want black and white depictions of the world, where everything is neatly ordered and fits into simply defined categories. That’s not how reality is. Nothing is ever neatly defined, and there is a whole spectrum of color beyond these narrow two-sided definitions. Our culture scorns diversity, and those that dare to fight against its tyranny, hostility, and discriminatory transgressions — they are met with a war that seeks to destroy them through a mountain of misinformation, death threats, and loss of life. For people like me, we are the casualties in a fight society wages against anyone who doesn’t fit the narrow cisgender, white, straight ideal. We ask for equal rights with those who already have them, and we are shot down and painted as monsters and freaks.
When I stand up in those dreams and take those bullets, the bullets are the transphobic remarks, racist diatribes, homophobic slurs, sexist actions, harmful words that society hurls at us by the minute.
I stand here shattered into a million pieces. For years I kept trying to piece myself back together, to try to see the whole again, but now I stand here amongst this shattered glass, amongst the streams of blood, and raise my hands toward heaven. I can’t fight an oppressive, sick system that seeks to destroy the marginalized and anyone it deems ‘not good enough’ to live. I keep trying, and in the end, I have realized my own deception.
My death will not save anyone. No matter how much I love, how much I try, my death is not the greatest love of all. And what about my life? Will it mean anything in the end? Will my words, my actions, my dreams ever matter to anyone? Will the bullets I’ve taken, help others in their journey? Will the trauma I’ve experienced ever truly heal? Will I ever be able to feel safe in this world? Will those I love ever feel safe? Will they ever be heard and respected as they are? Will I?
I don’t know. I walk along the cracks, balancing precariously between hope and despair.