I am not the first person in my family to go west.
There’s actually a long tradition of the family’s black sheep going into self-imposed exile because we can’t face our families as we are.
I had some second cousins or adopted great uncles on Dad’s side who were gay; I think one of them died young and the other went to the West Coast. He died years later, gassing himself in his car.
My uncle went to Nebraska to be with his girlfriend. They split, and shortly after he went back to South Carolina, he committed suicide.
My aunt lived in Seattle until her husband died of an aggressive brain tumor, then moved back to South Carolina only to die under suspicious circumstances.
Then there’s me… I can’t go back to South Carolina as I am. I wouldn’t be able to afford HRT, I wouldn’t be as safe walking the streets (anti-LGBT hate crimes have gone up in Myrtle Beach and Charleston), and I wouldn’t be able to get a job because unemployment’s so high down there and no one would hire me anyway if they found out I was transgender.
I’m afraid to even go back to visit because I’m always afraid something will go wrong and I’ll be stuck there. There’s nothing I miss about living there because someone like me is a non-person in that environment. No rights, no chances.
I understand now why so many of my family were aloof to us for so long. I never understood their dilemma until now. I never understood what it meant on their rare visits to see us bright-eyed kids saying “When are you going to move back?” when that’s the last thing they wanted to do.
I feel like I’ve fallen into a complex trap of some kind. I know how easily things could end in disaster for me because I’ve seen it. I’m living in a house of cards and I don’t know how long I can enjoy the stillness. I’m always one slip away from losing everything, and I had to work hard to get this stable! I put everything into my studies, just like I did into the few jobs that ever hired me. But careers in academia usually don’t pay very well. I might be lucky to pull $35K to start. It’ll be apartment, groceries, and used car money and that’s only if I can keep my payments down.
I could save a lot if I stopped my transition, but putting it off would probably have a very adverse effect on me. Part of what drove me nearly to the point of a total breakdown was bouts of gender dysphoria so intense that I lay bed-ridden some days. That downward spiral made it even harder to get work, and it’s taking me so long to climb out of that.
I hope my writings- my stories, books, and journals- will give a good account of what it’s like to live in this age, where boundless opportunities are overshadowed by boundless dangers, the country shudders on the brink of a likely revolt, and poverty begins to look a bit Dickensian.
I hope I can navigate a happy ending to this star-crossed life, many years from now and in my own bed, and not have it end in tragedy. Or if it must end in tragedy, then a senseless tragedy that moves people to organize and change their ways. Either way, I think, death can have meaning. It means “mission accomplished,” for real if you live long and prosper. It means “don’t let this happen to you” if it goes the other way. But either way, it makes our lives seem like they’ve been worth living to have one or the other to look forward to.
Every day I think of Tycho Brahe’s last words: Ne frustra vixisse videar. Let me not seem to have lived in vain. I wonder if my life will be of any consequence to the world at large. I’ve seen so many people whose lives didn’t matter to those who didn’t know them, their struggles, their triumphs, their final agonies were all forgotten and they lie cold in the ground. I don’t want that to be me. I want to leave the world a better place, but I also don’t want to suffer horribly to do it if that can be avoided.
I’m confused and scared. Don’t ever claim that I didn’t know what I was up against, or that I wasn’t trying my best to prepare for the future. It’s how little I’m able to prepare or have any room for error that worries me. I need a big break, and I need it in the next year or two.