‘here I am. Please see me. I am real. I exist.’
By Fae Shakara
For those of you who don’t know me I’m Fae and I use they/them pronouns. If you don’t know how to use those pronouns, let me give you a quick example. “This is Fae. They are nonbinary, or enby for short. This means that they don’t fit into the categories of boy/girl, male/female. Their pronouns are extremely important to them, and they love themself enough to insist that their friends respect that.”
As I write this I am desperately trying to figure out out what I can say to move hearts. What words can I find that will convince cis people that trans people are human, and that we deserve to live. Why is that something I feel like I have to convince people of? How do I even begin to convey the trans experience in all its devastation and euphoria?
That’s something I feel like I have to do in every space I enter. Convince people I exist and matter. I start from square one with most people I meet and it’s exhausting in ways I can’t even begin to articulate. “Hi, my name is Fae, and I use they/them pronouns. Yes that’s grammatically correct. No I’m not going to argue about it. Yes you have to at least try to use them, or we’re not going to be friends. Yes that’s fair. Would you want to be friends with someone who insisted you are something you’re not?”
There’s a sort of joke that circulates among my friends every so often that goes ‘shout out to all the invisible queers, to the asexuals, pansexuals and nonbinary people’. Of course with my luck I’m all three. I joke I’m a ghost, *ghost sound: ooooo*. Even my Facebook profile picture is often a picture of an adorable ghost.
It’s not really a joke though. I laugh about my pain because it’s all I can do not to cry about it. I feel like a ghost everywhere I go. In every aspect of society I am erased, from ID’s to bathrooms, to how people choose their words for the kinds of people they welcome. It can be so lonely. Sometimes I just want to scream ‘here I am. Please see me. I am real. I exist. I am an open, open, open book.”
This experience isn’t unique. Just this week Kyler Prescott, a trans kid, only 14 years old, killed himself after the hospital he was in refused to see him as anything other than a girl. May he rest in power. He went to seek treatment for his anxiety and never left. How alone and unseen he must have felt. How deeply I know how that feels. How often I see yet another of my siblings die and see my life and experiences reflected in theirs, a mirror to their pain.
For those who don’t know, trans folks are one of the most vulnerable populations right now, not only because of our transness but because of the intersections many of us live in. The intersections of race, religion, disability, mental illness, sex work and poverty can be deadly.
Trans folks experience poverty, violence, homelessness and unemployment at frighteningly higher rates than the general population. More so the more intersections one inhabits. Black trans women often being the most vulnerable.
As a community we pass money around to keep each other alive, and there is so little to go around. A friend once said that trans people pass the same nickel back and forth and back and forth. So often feels like that. The struggle just to survive is so overwhelming most days.
22 known trans people have been murdered thus far this year. I say known because too often in death we are misgendered and misreported. Two were members of my community back in Chicago. They were loved by people I love, and now they are gone. Some days it feels like the mourning never ends, like the tears never stop flowing.
But I don’t want to only focus on the hard things. One of the things our community has started to push for is to try and celebrate our strength, even in our suffering. It’s so easy to get caught in our pain and not be able to find a way back out. I know I struggle daily.
But we do find our way out. We come together as a community in shared resilience – even in our heartbreak. With tears streaming down our cheeks we honor and celebrate each other’s humanity and survival. We fight side by side. We support each other in ways that are so unique to us. There is so much love and appreciation and empathy.
There’s been this push within the community to define transness as not a state of having dysphoria, not of suffering, but of experiencing gender EUPHORIA which is when you are seen for who you really are. For the majority of us being seen is worth everything else this world will throw at us.
There’s this duality to transness. So many of us are balanced on a razor thin edge between suffering and euphoria. Too many days swing the wrong way, but we make the choice to be ourselves anyway.
When my wife first came out as trans we had so many conversations to make sure she was SURE. I swear her gender is all we talked about for weeks. This isn’t a path to tread lightly. There would be much loss and suffering. I knew from experience. Her answer? Being herself was worth the risks.
There’s a poem by my favorite poet that I revisit a lot. Andrea Gibson. A brilliant nonbinary human. If you haven’t heard of them, trust me and go google later. I’d like to read a piece of their poem Your Life tonight.
They’re going to keep telling you your heartbeat is a pre-existing condition
They’re going to keep telling you you are a crime of nature
And you’re gonna look at all your options and choose conviction
Choose to carve your own heart out of the side of a cliff
Choose to spend your whole life telling secrets you owe no one
Till there isn’t anyone who can insult you
By calling you what you are
You holy blinking star
You highway streak of light
Falling over and over for your hard life
Your perfect life
Your sweet and beautiful life
I’ll leave you with this: there is so much work to be done and we need allies. This isn’t the time for
passivity or silence. We need you fighting by our sides. We need you to see us, to accept us, and to join us in the work. Please.