In the wake of tragedy an ad campaign has been launched to tell TBLGQ youth, “It gets better.” I think others (see Lisa Harney’s remarks at Questioning Transphobia, for example) have already done a good job elucidating what’s wrong with the ads. I will simply say that however well-intentioned the campaign may be, it would not have helped me when I was close to suicide, because I would not have believed that my situation would ever get better.
So why go on living? For me it comes down to this: I belong. I don’t mean that I’ve regularly had people close to me who tell me I belong—quite often I haven’t. And I certainly don’t mean that I find belonging in the cissexist, heterosexist society I’ve been forced to live in. What I mean is that I find belonging through the shared experience of being trans or queer. No matter how painful it becomes, there are people who know exactly what I’m feeling.
Have you ever felt so dysphoric in the body of the wrong sex that you thought it would be better to be dead? I’ve been there.
Have you ever felt so guilty about your same-gender attraction that you thought it would be better to be dismembered? I’ve been there.
Have you ever come out to a family member you thought would be understanding, only to find yourself estranged from that family member? I’ve been there.
Have you ever been in an abusive relationship and remained silent because there seemed to be no resources available to someone of your trans status or sexual orientation? I’ve been there.
Have you ever felt marginalized, even among oppressed people, because you’re queer or trans? I’ve been there.
Have you ever felt marginalized, even among other TBLGQ people, because you face oppressions apart from being queer or trans? I’ve been there.
Have you ever had a painful experience that seemed so typical of the trans or queer experience that you said nothing out of fear that people would say it was cliché? I’ve been there.
Have you ever had a painful experience that seemed so atypical of the trans or queer experience that you said nothing out of fear that no one else would understand? I’ve been there.
In saying this I don’t mean to suggest that any of the people who recently committed suicide are to blame for not understanding that they were not alone. It isn’t often that we’re told that we’re not alone. And perhaps they did know, but it wasn’t enough. Who are we to judge? There won’t be progress until we stop pointing fingers at the victims and start asking ourselves, “What could we be doing differently?”
I also don’t mean to suggest that the message I offer here is new or the solution to all the problems we face. I have no idea how helpful it will be in the grand scheme of things. However, it is something that has helped me, and it is something that I can say to you with all sincerity. You are not alone. You belong.