Near Death Experience
Now comes the part when I might ruin the poem and decrease its universality by adding a long biographical narrative – so those of you who think a poem is a naked person that should not be adorned with explanatory narrative, feel free to skip the next part – I understand.
This Shadorma is a reflection on suicidality. I recall walking along this riverbank near my home about four years ago. I did not fill alive. I felt like I needed to be dead, I thought it would have solved so many problems for my family and ended the escalating misery that my gender dysphoria was causing. I thought of Virginia Wolf, and I handled and counted out some heavy stones that I could put into the five different zipper pockets of my bright blue Jacket. The river was swollen and swift.
I did think of the pain and problems it would cause my family if I drowned myself. I was rational enough to construct a calculus that the pain from suicide would be worse for my family that the other pain I was otherwise causing them. I did not put the stones in my jacket. I continued walking along the path, but watched the swift waters all along the way. I love this path and the river and the trees, but was not sure I could ever enjoy them again.
Just a few days ago, on the morning of New Year’s Eve , I was walking along this same path, and thought of how different I felt than on the day I had counted out the stones. So many things had happened in the intervening years tht would not have happened if I had followed the “what if” of that different time:
- I had continued to work with my super-duper (not ironic- she is super-duper)therapist
- I had begun cross-gender hormone therapy (estrogen)
- I had made progress on eradicating the self-loathing intrinsic transphobia that I had aimed at myself for decades
- I had many difficult and wonderful discussions with family members, and I am lucky enough that I have been treated only with kindness by them in my circumstances.
- I had started writing poetry again and found my friends at dVerse.
- I had come to feel that God loves and accepts me regardless of the dogmas and doctrines that people use to try to fence the wild tides of Creation.
Many difficulties remain. Medical transition with the hormones has decreased my suicidal impulsivity and has helped me to feel right with my body, but I have not come to express my gender socially – primarily because of concern about discrimination in my career and possible negative peer reactions directed at my adolescent daughter. As a result I often still feel like I am living outside of who I really am, and don’t always feel like I am living – but things are so much better than before.
Up to 40 percent of transgender individuals have attempted suicide, far too many have completed it, and the fact that we think about it often is almost seen as a strange and sad little matter-of-course among us as we meet in support groups for each other. It’s almost (darkly darkly) funny. The ironic thing is that this danger of self-harm seems to be associated not really with the inherent fact of being transgender, but rather with the feeling of hopelessness and depersonalization that comes first when transgender person sees no hope to be able to transition because of a lack of support in their milieu, and second when the milieu becomes outright hostile when the transitioning actually does happen. It is not crazy when a transgender person says that they are not crazy, but the rest of world is. Therefore the clarion: “Fix Society.”
S.M. Barr has written a fine concise and well referenced summary of the reasons why suicide risk is tragically high in Transgender persons.
On this recent 2018 New Year’s Eve, however, I was feeling only calm and joy, and was feeling so glad that I had not acted on the suicidal thoughts that had once been such a prominent part of the dysphoria. I was amazed that I could have felt such wide differences of emotion on two different days in the exact same spot. The River is once again swollen after rains, but it only looks beautiful to me now, like a force carrying the dirt and darkness of suffering far away. I had been a little brave and had donned a pink cap and some ridiculous pink lipstick for the walk. I was relishing the desire to live in this beautiful world, and by gosh-dern I am going to live. Competing imperatives may delay my transitioning for a time, but by holding that hope and actual determination in my heart, I actually feel alive and don’t start to die. I am paradoxically less driven to socially transition when I make no promises that I never will.
Merril’s prompt on “time and what if” has caused reflection. What if I had died? I would not be here now with y’all. We are all going to die, and I am not afraid of it, I will kiss it on the mouth when it comes. But I am determined not to rush it. I love the living and the breathing and the dancing that I get to do until then. I am grateful to be here. How does the story finish? Well, I finished my walk, and then I went shopping. Love y’all. Be well. Lona.
Text and Photos by Lona Gynt, All rights Reserved, January 2019.