Guest Blogger

Let's Break Free & Fix Society

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 18, 2015 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: art project, breaking free, gender confirmation surgery, gender dysphoria, hormone replacement therapy, Leelah Alcorn

Editor's Note: Guest blogger Audrey Remusat is a 31-year-old transgender lesbian with an MA in sociology who is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work. She hopes to become a licensed therapist specializing in LGBT issues. After denying the truth about her identity since age 5 and trying unsuccessfully to come out at 19, she came out for good at the youthful age of 29.



Trigger Warning: This post contains frank discussion of suicidal feelings.

Being a transgender/transsexual/trans*/whatever-you-wish-to-call-it person is not easy. Neither is being anyone in life, really -- but let's just say more often that not, life is significantly easier when you are not associated with those labels. These labels can bring a variety of different reactions to people's faces.

insomnia-wide-awake.jpgNot all are that bad though -- some people can be rather curious, accepting, and not just supportive, but even empathetic! Unfortunately, there are others who when they learn what you are (or even suspect), they want to beat you or kill you in the most brutal ways imaginable. Some of these people (family, friends, and doctors) want to put you through kinds of "therapy" that will more than likely cause more harm than good, in an effort to make you be "more normal." But what is "normal" really? (Insert eye roll here..)

Other people will merely abandon someone who identifies with those labels. When you think about it, I mean really think about it, it can be hard to determine which one of these reactions is worse. Sometimes people and society make you feel so empty (regardless of your housing status) and so worthless -- like there's so little left to live for -- that you end up attempting or sometimes completing suicide.

As a transsexual, I am a part of the 41% of trans* people who have attempted suicide. But I always feel awful when I think about wanting to kill myself over who I am. Still, despite how far I am into transition (one year and one month on HRT, all forms of ID changed, and surgery scheduled for May, 2016) I still think about suicide.

You see, having been down in that deep, dark, hopeless place before, it is very easy to go back there. Sometimes you don't even know you're doing it and you end up hating yourself more because you thought about it again and you don't even want to.

It's caused some minor concern for my therapist, but nothing that has caused me to be unstable or put me in protective custody. For me, I think existentially most of the time, and imagine those that I love finding me laying lifeless, or my dog licking my hand or foot to try to get me to feed him.

Promises to Keep

But I also now have a promise to keep with my parents. It's one I first read about in Katie Rain Hill's book Rethinking Normal, where her mother helped her complete the list of things she would need to transition, but only if Katie made the promise not to kill herself.

To be honest, that is a promise I am not sure I can keep. It is something I've told to a lot of people who ask me to promise them I won't kill myself. While I do not foresee any complications in getting gender confirmation surgery (GCS), if I ever get told I cannot ever get it, it would be signing my death certificate. I would take matters into my own hands.

Plain and simple: that apparatus that I am forced to carry around has got to go. However, it's not just that apparatus -- events sometimes trigger me. Sometimes they're physical things, but more commonly emotional things will cause me to go into those dark thoughts. It's why I rarely drink any alcohol, because my emotions and thoughts are amplified that much more while under the influence.

But events can also be triggering. When Leelah Alcorn took her own life, I was -- and still am -- incredibly heartbroken over that, so much so that when I read her story, I was feeling all those feelings all over again.

bigstock-Memorial-Candles-320417.jpgWhile I was showering and getting ready to attend the local vigil in her honor, I was thinking how easy it would be to just hang myself and be done with this body that I probably will always have some sort of dysphoria over (whether it's not being able have a period and get pregnant, or having this male bone structure) and suddenly be free of it all, free to be reborn into hopefully the right gender/sex in my next life.

But then, while being a crying mess, I remembered my promise and thought of my dog trying to move a lifeless body, and I thought of all the supportive people I would be seeing that night. That really helped. The whole thing really helped. But I still felt guilty -- guilty for even thinking those things when so many people I know in the LGBT community depend on me.

I am a leader of sorts at my local support group. I've advocated for my University (of Toledo) to be more inclusive with their health insurance policy by removing the exception for trans* people and covering GCS, like Ohio State University does. As far as I am aware that is happening for spring 2015, and for sure by fall 2015!

I've presented videos about trans* people and held a Q&A afterwards at the university. I am involved in a production of the Vagina Monologues and have a YouTube channel where I've shared vocal lessons, suggested steps to transition, and how to give injections. I've also discussed harassment, women's and LGBT equality, and even my entire coming out story.

I've endured a lot to get this far. I cannot wash it all away by taking my own life when there is still so much more work to be done, and so many more people I have to help. It's why I am enrolled in my second masters program in Toledo, to get a MSW and become a licensed therapist and be able to help my LGBT family, as well as others.

Inspiration for the Future

Art can be a wonderfully amazing tool to help spread a positive message. This powerful tool has led me to create works of art and poetry. Since I've started my hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in pill form, I've collected my empty bottles with the intent to do something with them in some artistic way.

This idea isn't originally mine though. I first saw this in a video on the YouTube channel known as "Life is good, make it better," where Danielle took her bottles and formed a powerful message out of it. What you see below is my creation:

break-free-pill-bottles.JPG

In this piece, you see the words "Break Free" made out of my prescription bottles and leftover syringes. (Of course, I properly disposed of the needles prior to using them.) This symbolizes that we have to break free from the gender binary, break free from social expectations of what others think we should be. -- that we can break free from the chains that are holding us back from doing what we need to do.

Social norms are there for guidance at best; that doesn't mean that we cannot or should not bend or break them.

authenticself-remusat.JPG

Here we see the male and female symbols with the word "to" in between, representing both MTF and FTM transgender people. Using my HRT bottles and syringes shows this change in me, going from male to female.

This poster was partially inspired by Huffington Post's Noah Michelson, with his articles featuring the #whattransgenderlookslike, #whatgaylookslike, and #whatlesbianlookslike hashtags. The responses to these hashtags covered a wide spectrum, showing hundreds of wonderful people who really look no different from anyone else. Being LGBT isn't a curse or a blessing, we just merely are -- like anyone else.

i-am-transgender-art-project.JPG

In the above piece, you see the words "I am" and the transgender logo. Additionally, you'll see a poem I had written. I created this poem at an open mic just ten minutes before I delivered it at the TransOhio symposium last May. It is very metaphoric and raw, from my heart.

The poem is as follows:

Darkness

Darkness,
Oh lackluster darkness,
The essence of no color.
You are a Salvation.

Darkness,
Sweet and wonderful, darkness.
You've become a beacon,
Allowing one to transform,
Into whatever we see ourselves to be.

Everyone goes into darkness,
All things go into darkness.
As a caterpillar's chrysalis occurs,
It occurs in the darkness of its cocoon.
Through its darkness it emerges to shine.

Darkness,
How bittersweet you are.
Darkness is a light.
Salvation to beautiful freedom,
A freedom we see each night.
May we all find our inner darkness.
To allow our dreams to become,
The reality we see in our darkness.

Please don't ever leave me darkness.
There is still so much more,
Work to be done.
After all, you are my,
Salvation.

More Than Just a Message

These pieces of creativity have since transcended into something more than just for me. Back on November 3rd, 2014 someone I know from my local support group was viciously assaulted, just because she is transgender. Thankfully, she survived.

We had an emergency meeting in Toledo about her assault, and as I sat in that meeting, I thought about the power art has to send a positive message. I thought about this again when I read my poem aloud to the attendees at a vigil for Leelah Alcorn.

Darkness has meant a lot to me. It was my only means of escape when I first tried to come out at 19 and no one took me seriously -- and when ultimately, the fear of losing everyone combined with the teasing I'd endured to drive me back into the closet. Every night as I slept, the darkness allowed me to be who I always wanted to be.

I've endured an eating disorder and countless attempts to calm my inner demons and fit society's mold of masculinity (which ended up giving me two major surgeries and a migraine problem!), and I've survived three suicide attempts. Some see my poem and use of darkness as a sign of evil, but in this case I am glad to give the darkness some light -- because even in darkness there is goodness.

Leelah is now in eternal darkness. I hope she has found her salvation in the darkness the same way I did and still do. For now, her message of fixing society is quite clear. It's fucked up that we trans* people have to face such high rates of all sorts of things from suicide to murder to assault. It all needs to stop.

This is why I am writing this, and why I am hoping my becoming a therapist will contribute to Leelah's call for social change. I hope through my life and her re-birth, that I will make her proud.

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