Ask A Trans Woman: Where Have I Been?

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By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you may have noticed that it has been absent for a couple of months. I know at least one loyal reader who has asked me in person about this, and my answer was that I was simply on a short hiatus.

I could offer all sorts of other excuses as well. I’ve been super-busy, I pretty much always am. I’ve had family visiting. I’ve been working on a bunch of other projects; trying to survive, like everyone else I know.

But here’s the truth. I’ve just been having a really hard time doing what I do. And, while all of the things I listed above are contributing factors, they aren’t the main reason.

The main reason is that I’ve been blocked. Given everything that’s going on in the world right now, and particularly this country, all I can think of when I open a fresh, blank doc on my computer is just how angry I am. And, scared.

So I write all these very political piecesexhortations to action, to storm the beaches speeches.

If I were to boil down what I do to it’s most basic job description it would be this: I think about being trans. Deeply. And then, I write about it.

I try to consider every aspect of what it means to be trans and how we fit in the world. I poke and prod at ideas about trans identities and any related branching of identities and experiences that I become aware of. I keep myself as informed and educated as possible about the full range of trans and gender-variant identities, experiences, and news in the world. I challenge my own assumptions; interrogate what I believe, and why I believe it.

I also explore and give deep consideration to any and all questions that come my way, whether from trans folks, or cis, including those questions that most of us agree, are either rude or insensitive to ask.

Because people are curious by nature, I feel like it’s better if I answer those questions than someone else who might not have the tools or temperament to answer accurately, or worse, be hurt by them. I also do it because I have seen first hand that sometimes leaving these questions unaddressed and unanswered can lead to the worst sorts of misinformation and ignorance. That was actually one of the initial observations that led to the creation of this column, 10 years ago.

To be clear, I feel extremely lucky that I am trusted to do this job, that people read what I write and genuinely seem to want to hear what I have to say. It’s an incredible honor.

It makes me part of a relatively small segment of trans people who seem to do the opposite of what everyone else is trying to achieve. Whereas many other trans and gender non-conforming folks simply want to be who they are and get on with living their lives; those of us who do this gig, trans people who write and speak and make art about the trans experience, we steer into the skid. We focus intensely on the things others would rather not have to—that can be very hard sometimes—especially when I hear about my siblings and comrades being killed or taking their own lives. Or, when I read in my morning newsfeed that my own government is actively trying to take away the still small number of rights and protections that I, and many others before me, fought for tooth and nail.

Because I am so inextricably tied into the news cycles, because it’s essentially my job, I cannot avoid the daily horror. Even when I try to distract myself, the algorithms that control what I see in all my news and social media feeds sneak it in.

Anyhow, I never have been the sort of person to look away.

These past several years, as my visibility has increased, and I’ve become even more tied to the vastness of our community, it has all seemed that much more personal. In many ways, it is quite intensely personal.

I have sometimes made the joke that there are three things certain in life. Death, taxes, and sooner or later you will meet me. In truth, I meet more people in a year than most folks will in a lifetime, and I genuinely care about all the people I am lucky enough to meet. I may not have a lot of time, but I try to make every connection as genuine and real and personal as possible.

One of the harder consequences of that, however, especially being a part of such an often marginalized and discriminated against community, is that a lot of people I know personally have been dying. Some have been murdered, some committed suicide, and others have died as the result of a shockingly inadequate national healthcare system. The numbers are, personally, quite staggering. For the past two years or so, someone I know from either the trans or queer communities, (often both) has died on average about every two months, often in clusters.

That’s the background for me to the daily stream of outrages coming from the Trump administration and all the news I read of “Straight Pride” and harassment of LGBTQ folks. There is this intense, and very personal pain that underlies every action I take, every word I write.

I want to write about more than this though. I don’t want to just be writing angry screeds and exhortations to action. Though of course, those are important—perhaps more important than ever.

Our lives are so much richer, beautiful, and more complex than the terrifying news of violence and discrimination against us. I want to be able to think about that and write about it, for all of you wonderful readers. One of my aims, when I started writing this column, was to be a voice for how incredible it is to be trans. It was also to talk about all the many positives of this trans experience, as a balance to all the horror stories and tales of rejection and woe that had filled the vast bulk of all I could find about our collective experiences when I was trying to figure out who I am myself.

After all, my original training was as a comic and improviser. My qualifications include having been the first Miss Trans New England. My greatest satisfaction is in making people happy, not angry. I prefer inspiring joy to spurring action.

And, I want to be able to do those things for you—and for me.

But, sometimes it’s just too hard. Sometimes I fail; the fight goes out of me. The words I have to say scare me.

And I can’t say them.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, I am not a superhero. I’m just a woman who knows how to speak and write and make herself heard, who cannot tolerate a bully. And, one who will not tolerate injustice.

But I also cry and hurt and struggle to do what needs to be done. I’m just human. Just like you. What I’m saying is, if I can get up and keep going, even If I have been laid low, then so can you.

My primary message is this: It doesn’t matter if we are knocked down or taken out of the fight for a bit. That happens. That will keep happening.

What matters is that we take the time to take care of ourselves when we need to and that we get up again and keep going when we are able.

So, keep loving and laughing, crying and fighting; and we’ll all keep moving ahead, together.

See you next month, beautiful humans.

Slàinte!

*Lorelei Erisis is an improviser, storyteller, activist, adventurer, pageant queen and the bane of bigots everywhere. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at askatranswoman@gmail.com.

 

1 Comment on "Ask A Trans Woman: Where Have I Been?"

  1. Gather your strength and center yourself, as you need. Know that we readers understand that even the best marathoner must occasionally stop and take a breath. You have made and, Goddess willing, will continue to make a difference.

    Even the most articulate of us can sometimes become so frustrated by events that the only recourse is a wordless scream of rage and pain. It is so sad that our country has come to this at the moment, but the political climate, like fashion, changes with the season. If the community remains steadfast and resists the impulse to return to the shadows, eventually we will again be embraced by astute politicians and the current draconian policies will be reversed, hopefully in a way less subject to caprice than by the route of executive orders that the Obama administration took.

    This reader thanks you for all you do. Consider this comment a virtual hug.

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