creative writing

After Another Death, What’s Left When Coping is Killing Me?

This is an account of the days leading up to and following the murder of a young trans woman of color in my community. It is also about falling in love, and how my anxiety and panic are intertwined with an internalized acceptance of my own social marginalization, especially relating to drug use and sex work. Finally, it is about my conflicted (sometimes irrational, self-destructive) strategies for surviving those things.

I wrote it awhile ago during a very dark time. I had to wait for the wounds to heal a bit before I let people read it. They are still raw, and it’s still hard for me to say these things. It’s especially hard to admit my recent addictions. There’s a lot of judgment around being poor, trans, crazy, and a sex worker — but for whatever reason, that derision is easier for me to shake than the bullshit drug users have to put up with. But I think sharing it will help. I hope it means as much to someone else as it does to me.

It is a hard read. It has already made people cry. When I wrote it, I was very lost. I was facing so many tragedies that I couldn’t see the blessings. If you’re looking for something to give you hope, this is not it. This is a story about how sometimes, even when I have completely lost all hope, I just keep going — simply because I just don’t know what else to do.

It ends somewhat ambiguously, because that is honestly how I felt at the time. I still don’t have an answer to the question that is both the title and subject of this essay: How can I rationalize continuing to live when the pain always seems to outweigh the good, and when my coping mechanisms for dealing with that pain are often causing more harm?

Trigger Warnings: Contains vivid descriptions of drug abuse, addiction, mental illness, panic attacks, sex work, violence against trans women of color, and references to sexual assault.
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Silences Such as These (A Coming Out Story)

This is an old one! I wrote it years ago at my beloved hippie college. I was challenged by my advisory to write a personal narrative, so I wrote about starting hormones. I reflect on my life up until that point and attempt to answer the unanswerable question, which was demanded as a condition for being allowed to medically transition, “when did you first know you were meant to be a woman?” I’m still really proud of the result.

If you’re familiar with trans narratives, some of this might sound familiar. However, sadly, most trans autobiographies fail to contextualize the story within broader social histories. I wanted to talk about my identity as it both reflects and challenges a world where gender assignments are binary, naturalized, compulsory, and violently enforced. I also think about how my body interacts with the medical establishment that has been erected to maintain that very gender system.

I’m sharing my story because I haven’t posted much creative nonfiction here, and for all of the young trans folks who, like I once was, are pouring over the internet for empowering alternative ways to make sense of their desires outside of the prescribed Harry Benjamin-esque narratives of the medical-psychiatric institution.

Trigger warnings for mentions of violence and mental illness.
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On Surviving When It Doesn’t Get Better: Poverty, Food Stamps, and Transness

Trigger warning: poverty, bureaucracy, depression, and transphobia.

I wrote a few pages about the day I applied for food stamps from the vantage point of a trans woman, sex worker, burnt-out activist, and crazy person. It is an autobiographical reflection on what it means to struggle not only against unjust social conditions and poverty, but also against complex internal forces we call “mental illness” for simplicity. (And how the two reinforce one another.)

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