I haven’t written since I came out in June to a small group of people, and then on August 3rd to just literally everyone. I’ve felt so disorganized and preoccupied with the work of transitioning and living that I’d never really stopped to catalogue my thoughts on it and leave some kind of record. It seems banal to talk about the medical aspects of my transition or the social struggles, of which I have a much lighter load than some of my trans siblings. I think so many great people have written about that better than I can. I’ll still try, but it didn’t feel like the place to start. A week or so ago I had a conversation with someone very close to me that absolutely broke my heart and I knew what I needed to write first.
I’m gonna preface this by saying this is going to go to some dark places so if that makes you uncomfortable you should stop reading here. I’m ok, but I wasn’t always OK and it’s important for me to be honest about that. CW: Suicidal Ideation
We talk about identity a lot in trans spaces. Discovering ourselves. Knowing who we were meant to be. These spaces are echoing with positive affirmations about becoming who we are and I think they’re all very honest and wholesome for most people. I thought for a while that I knew who I was. I had confidence in that.
That confidence shattered when a family member, who has saved my life more times than she knows and walked me back from some very self-destructive places, told me that she was happy for me, proud of me, and didn’t love me the way she used to. And she said it in the most loving and supportive tone a person could summon while they carved my heart out. I wasn’t the same person that she loved so dearly. She still loved me, but it was different now. It wasn’t as special. I know from her voice that she meant no harm, maybe even the opposite, but I was still gutted.
It had never occurred to me that I was a different person. Sure I’d changed — put on some new labels and clothes, lost a few pounds, grown my hair a bit, and made this body more healthy and comfortable, but I was still the same person underneath all that, wasn’t I? I changed maybe a little more radically in some ways than folks do, but show me someone who doesn’t change as they get older. Yet, here I am, a walking funeral for a dead boy. I had stolen the life from someone she loved and paraded around wearing his body as a dress.
And that’s so frustrating because for years I’ve been in therapy for gender dysphoria and trauma, keyed into online support groups, nose deep in philosophy and Buddhism, and buried in brutally optimistic books and slogans about self worth and Getting Things Done. I spent every day subsisting on positivity and productivity culture, and I spent every night tired of living. Every morning I woke to the same ominous possibility that that night I would kill myself. It’s a special kind of hell to spend all day working to survive the night. I tried so much to grow into the person, the identity, I was handed that it nearly ended me.
And I turned over every stone I could trying to find contentment until I realized I could never be that person — he was a story. People around me authored the first chapters of that story before I was born. He had a name, a body, and so much potential. For the first years of my life they punctuated that story with affection and time, then at some point they handed me the pen and told me to write the rest.
I know how his story ended. I wrote the ending myself dozens of times in suicide notes that I almost sent out in emails or left in a pool of blood on my kitchen table. His story was horrific, and he would be a tragedy for everyone that breathed life into him and crafted him.
And I guess that’s where I struggled. So much of my identity was written for me lovingly, and sometimes violently, without my consent, that when it came time for me to take over the narrative I wasted years trying to draft my way to happy ending that could please everybody. And I know why people around me are sad — they poured love into those first chapters and they aren’t going to get the ending they hoped for. I wish every day that were my story. It would be easier.
But I’m writing the only story I can and I know it’s been a circuitous way of getting here but this is what I want to talk about. I don’t know who I am. I wish I had the confidence that some of my trans siblings do that they’re becoming the person they always were. I wish I had the certainty that my cisgender siblings do about an identity they didn’t have to write for themselves. The only thing I know, that I have always known, is that I wasn’t the character people wrote for me because that wasn’t the story inside of me.
One of the greatest pieces of writing advice I ever received was that I should write to find out what happens and leave blank spaces. And now I know the story I need to write and she has a name, and a body, and a future. I don’t know what’s in her chapters and I don’t know how her story ends. She could be a tragedy too, but she could be a romance. Maybe she could be a drama. Maybe she’s boring or a thriller. Maybe she’s an adventure or a mystery. She is the story I’ve wanted to tell since I was old enough to have thought.
Her story, my story, is authentic and true. I’m finding my story day by day as she reveals herself to me. Her name is Evey Nadia Winters and I love her and I am so happy to be her.