Guest Author: Jessica Michelle Polacek

(My friend Jessica has been doing some awesome queer history of Wisconsin on Facebook, but this summary was too good to not pass on. – hbk)

Wisconsin LGBTQ

Continuing our celebration of LGBTQ history on the last day of Milwaukee Pride, here are some other facts about my home state:

1. Milwaukee had its own version of Stonewall, eight years earlier at the Black Nite Bar

2. LGBTQ recorded history in Wisconsin dates to an 1894 arrest in Black River Falls

3. In 1976, just months before Harvey Milk, James Yeadon defeated 13 other candidates and was elected to public office as an openly gay man – twice!

4. Wisconsin was the first state to pass LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws which came through the help of religious leaders

5. Emmanuel UCC in Oconomowoc was the first open and affirming church in the state

6. Opened in 1968 by June Brehm, This Is It, one of Milwaukee’s beloved gay bars, is one of the oldest in the country

7. Wisconsin was the first state to have three openly LGBTQ elected officials in the US Congress – Tammy Baldwin, Steve C. Gundersen and Mark Pocan

8. Congressman Steve C. Gunderson was unwillingly outed on the floor of the US House of Representatives — then reelected in spite of this

9. Milwaukee was home to some infamous ‘drag wars’ in the 1980s between clubs Two-Nineteen and LaCage

10. Milwaukee has been dubbed an ‘underappreciated gay Mecca’ with more than 100 years of LGBTQ history

11. Nationally acclaimed Gay Peoples Union started right here in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a rich, colorful and often positive LGBTQ heritage. Just one more reason to celebrate Pride. 

Birth Control and Trans

I recently received a question, via email, from a young person about birth control.

“I am a 17 year old closeted trans guy who is looking for ways to mitigate dysphoria. I have access to binders, but I am physically unable to use one for health reasons. I have moderate to severe acne and have been recommended that I start estrogen-based patch birth control to mitigate it. However, my friend told me that the hormones included in patch birth control could have “feminizing” effects, such as breast growth. I looked on the internet to see if this was true, and there seems to be a lot of conflicting information. Some sites even said that taking birth control could lessen the effects of female-to-male hormone replacement therapy (FtM HRT) later down the road. I plan to start testosterone later in life. It’s not safe for me to come out to my doctor, so I can’t ask for help from a medical professional. Is there anywhere I can find reliable information about potential “feminizing” effects of birth control originally designed for cis women?”

So I asked a trans friend who is an RN, and who gave me this amazing resource and information:

Lots of great clinically sound information in this document: Birth control is appropriate and people taking or planning to take testosterone can use most any method. The methods that typically help stop bleeding would be the progestin pill, implant, IUD or the depo shot. Sometimes these methods are specifically used to stop bleeding, even if the patient does not desire it for birth control properties. Progestin does not interact with testosterone. Sometimes patients choose to avoid the methods that contain estrogen such as the pill, patch, or ring, due to the lack of clarity if estrogen interacts with testosterone, which sounds like it would be something important for this individual. I would say we have a fairly large handful of patients on T that get the Depo-Provera shot every 3 months. For some, it is to help control any potential bleeding that testosterone has not stopped, for others it is for birth control and for some it is for both reasons. The copper IUD might also be an option as it does not contain any hormones but could potentially have some light bleeding associated with it prior to starting testosterone. A final note, testosterone is a very potent hormone and has very little, mostly no issue, overpowering estrogen.

Articles About the Current Anti Trans Moment

I’ve been gathering and sending these to people lately but thought it might be time to gather a bunch of them, so here goes:

Chase Strangio on the Arkansas law

Brian Lehrer on WNYC with guest Kate Sosin

My favorite podcast, Is This Democracy, on why the attack on trans rights is an assault on democracy.

Mother Jones on the organization that wrote these anti trans laws and pushed them on to state legislatures (that is, it’s no coincidence that they all seem similar)

Heather Cox Richardson, everyone’s favorite historian, on why standing up for trans rights is a basic issue of equality, saying, “Once you give up the principle of equality, you have given up the whole game. You have admitted the principle that people are unequal, and that some people are better than others. Once you have replaced the principle of equality with the idea that humans are unequal, you have stamped your approval on the idea of rulers and subjects. At that point, all you can do is to hope that no one in power decides that you belong in the lesser group.”

A much more emphatic piece by Jay Kuo on what genocide is, how this language signals that is the intention, and shows us how history always has the lessons.

A new interview with the one and only Masha Gessen, who I just learned identifies as trans and non binary, from The New Yorker‘s David Remnick, and a radio interview too.

An explainer from Vox.

And to close, this piece of good news out of Minnesota, which has effectively become a sanctuary state for trans people and their families, adding to a short list of states and countries that have done so.

Guest Author: Ariela Rosa

A partner recently sent me this piece she’d written for a contest and I was struck not just by the writing style but by the deep urge, as ever, to get a partner’s truth you in the world. Enjoy.

Transition in 2000 Words – by Ariela Rosa

May 24, 2022

I wanted to say I appreciate R’s commitment to building community and giving everyone a voice. Their style in leading with heart, reaffirming that the conversation is a safe space, and being open to everyone’s inputs is so appreciated. 

I stop to ask R, my spouse, if he has changed his pronouns.

“Oh yeah,” they say. “I was encouraging people at work to put their pronouns in their email signatures, so I started by putting mine. And when I went to put “he/him,” it felt wrong. So I just put they/them.”

This casual decision completely devastates me.

They came out as trans two years ago, 16 years into our relationship. I could not promise that our marriage would last through all the changes, but I of course wanted to treat them with dignity and respect, starting with the most basic of the basics: calling them what they wanted to be called. So I’d been checking in constantly about pronouns. They promised they’d let me know when they were ready, but suddenly I find out that I’ve been misgendering my spouse without knowing it.

I am angry at us both. Once again they’ve made a decision without letting me in, but also I want to get this right, and because I had no warning there is no way for me to not fuck this up over and over.

Saying “they” makes my heart ache for me.

Accidentally uttering “he” makes my heart ache for them.

December 23, 2021

“Hey, I got this for you for Christmas. I know it’s not much, but…”

I’d bought a few pairs of earrings that reminded me of my husband spouse. One set was two halves of an avocado with smiling faces painted onto the pits. I paid for his lobe piercings two weeks ago, crying later that day about this step in his evolving womanhood. Buying the earrings is my way of manning up.

I get on a plane to Utah the next day. I was tired of asking a dysphoric person to hold me through my tears as if I were the one suffering and needed to be someone else’s problem for a while. I also needed to know if I felt better with or without him.

The trip did not help me figure this out.

He called on Christmas Day to thank me. I sobbed.

January 2022

My friend sends me back from Utah with a gift certificate to Sephora. “I want R. to go to somewhere where they will take care of him and treat him with respect.”

What a thoughtful gift; I am happy and know he’ll love it. But also, I’m so angry; I feel a responsibility to go with him so I can shake my cis privilege at everyone and ensure that he will be treated right. But that also means seeing him glow in his foundation and eyeliner, watching “him” fade further away.

He shares that he’s afraid of looking like a man in a dress.

But what’s wrong with being a man in a dress? I could totally handle that! I tell myself to shut the fuck up; what awful thoughts. If there is a hell, then I’m sure I belong there.

We have fun for once; I’m proud that I was able to ignore the lump in my throat the whole time.

Back in the car, he cried. “They made me feel so valid,” he said. I tried extra hard to smile in spite of myself.

September 2020

My spouse’s summertime online affair came to an abrupt end when I found the transcripts of him and his partner sexting the other week. I had suspected the affair from the beginning, but I felt an extra sting when I realized that the other person had treated my husband like a woman when I felt I couldn’t. He even gave this person his chosen name while telling me he wasn’t ready to make that change yet. The potent mix of rage, guilt, and despair boiling all over my body makes me want to tear off my own skin.

Perhaps it is because I feel so much loss, pain, and eroding trust that I decide to finally confide in one of my best friends about R. being trans, hoping to lean on someone else for a while.

I do not tell her about the affair.


I stop her and explain sternly that my spouse being trans isn’t doing anything to me, and that she can’t be mad at someone just for being trans.

I do not lean on her for support.

October 2020

“Well, do you WANT to buy girl’s clothes?” I ask.

“I guess I should,” he replies.

“Cool beans. I will take you to Torrid, and we will get you a dressing room. And if someone dares to say something I’ll fuck ’em up.”

We find some vibrant skirts and blouses. I choose many of the options, insisting that he try everything because he has no idea what he’ll like. He is too shy to ask the sales associate for help, so I do.

“Hey you,” I say with as much non-nonchalant confidence as I can muster, “My husband wants to try on these clothes.”

She opens a room without hesitation and with a warm smile. Turns out I didn’t need to beat up anyone today. Lucky her.

I ask what he thinks. Turns out a shirt I had chosen was less than flattering. If he wants my opinion, I will gladly give it to him. But I also will encourage him to buy the damn thing if he disagrees.

“Yeah, hell no, ick.” I breathe a sigh of relief. We throw it aside and laugh.

July 2020

After making passionate love, we cuddle in bed as a stream of afternoon sunlight shines through the window and onto our nakedness. I cry while I caress his chest hair, which glistens from the light and the sweat of our sex. He is going to shave his chest for the first time today, and with laser starting next month I know that this is the last time I will ever feel this part of him.

His hair is so coarse, long, full, curly. We used to make jokes about the possibility of his chest hair poking through his t-shirts, making him and the shirt one and giving him super powers.

He won’t feel like my person without this hair.

He holds me tight, giving me this last chance even though it kills him. I apologize.

When he finally goes to the bathroom, I sob and scream into my pillow until I fall asleep.

June 2022

R. is having a bad dysphoria day.

I just want to gouge out my own eyes. I feel like a fraud. In my head I imagine people referring to me as ‘he’ but then I feel like I’m referring to myself that way and it makes me feel like I’m lying if I keep misgendering myself. I feel lost and can’t function.

I should be there to help them through this, but my deadlines don’t care. So I work while I listen, trying hard to understand something that I know I never will.

I know. It’s ok. I think I just need to say it. Sometimes just sharing things with you helps.

I feel guilty for missing the man they need to get rid of to feel right.

Spring 2022

“Oh wow! And you’re okay with that?” This seems to be the chief question during the public phase of my spouse’s coming out.

“I mean, we’re a work in progress,” I giggle because I don’t know how else to respond. “Anyway, he hasn’t changed pronouns yet, but I’ll let you know when.”

What I really want to say is fuck you. I don’t think I get to choose or “okay” the core of my spouse’s self, assholes.

Or is everyone asking whether I want to stay married? This seems like a terribly invasive question that I can’t even answer for myself yet.

“It’s so great that you are supporting him—oh, I mean her? Is that right?” They look for me to assure them that they are indeed not transphobic. But I don’t have energy to help anyone else.

Instead of expecting me to take care of them or make them comfortable, why doesn’t anyone ever just ask me what I need?

Today that online group for partners of trans folks posted a meme: “As a trans person you don’t transition to become a different person. You transition to stop pretending to be someone you’re not!”

This stings. I know it’s correct. I also know that I fell in love with the person my spouse was pretending to be. I miss that person every day. I write this in response to the original poster.

“My wife is trans,” OP replies. “I tend to focus on how much happier she is.”

Dismissed again.

June 2020

“I’m gonna order some books on gender and sexuality,” he mutters while I’m in the middle of a Zoom meeting. There is maybe six inches of space between the back of my chair and the side of his. Our second room barely accommodates our desks, but I’m insistent that we separate our work space from the rest of the house so they don’t meld together. This work from home thing is temporary anyway.

I wave him away so that I can pay attention.

The books arrive a few days later. One book in the pile… is a gender workbook?

“Babe, are you questioning your gender?”

He doesn’t look at me when he says yes.

The floor has fallen out beneath me.

“I can’t do this! Of course you can transition and I will always support you, but I cannot be your wife! We need to divorce NOW. Seriously, what the fuck! 16 years! After everything we’ve gone though, you didn’t tell me?! 16 fucking years!”

“I didn’t know either.”

When R. was five, a bunch of her cousins visited her apartment, and her first instinct was to pick up some cans to join the girls in playing restaurant. The room fell silent: every adult whipped their head around, instilling deep shame into her as they said “boys don’t play like that.”

That’s when he was born.

So I know he’s right: how could he have known?

But how do I reconcile falling in love with a mask?  I’m grieving him while she is alive; I grieve him even though he wasn’t right. I don’t understand my reality or my feelings.

It doesn’t take long for her to peak through and for him to start fading away, though in the quiet phase of the transition he comes back sometimes to keep up appearances for those who do not yet know.

I envy my friends for getting to keep him for just a little longer.

June 2004

We met through a mutual friend when we were 17 and 19. I was about to graduate high school and was pretty sure I didn’t have a future, so I had stopped dreaming by the time he came along.

But being with him made dreaming seem possible.

After talking each other’s ears off for a week over the phone, we met for pizza, walking across the Harlem Bridge to the Bronx. On the way back, we stopped in the middle of the bridge to enjoy the light breeze and cloudless sky. We held hands while watching the late afternoon sun bounce along the water.

Something felt so familiar in this moment, like I’d known him before and would know him again. I already could not picture my life without him.

“Hey, I just want you to know… I can’t predict what will happen with us, but no matter what, I will always be your friend.”

Response to That NYT Op Ed

The NYT published a shitty ‘both sides’ op ed today that is supposed to be about Roe but is basically a transphobic POS.

My coment:

It’s inexcusable that anyone would fall for this bait: divide and conquer, over and over again, and white women – I’ll use the term since it’s the one you prefer – fall for it the hardest.

I am one so don’t at me.

As a feminist who has been committed to gender liberation for my lifetime, and who has been working with an for trans and non binary people for a couple of decades, it pains me to see women cling to a biological reality that is now criminalizing all of us.

The destruction of Roe is connected to all of the transphobic laws out there. You know how you tell? The same people who are for Roe being overturned are also the ones who are passing transphobia.

Not understanding or accepting the newer lingo of gender liberation is not a good reason to join the oppressors, which is exactly what Pamela Paul just did here, and what half of you in these comments is applauding.

It’s a sad state of affairs when cis women do not recognize how deeply feminist trans movement is, how radically inclusive it aims to be, and how bodily autonomy is a shared concern.

Get it together, folks. We have no time for this.

Trans TX Orgs

Trans Education Network of Texas:

Equality Texas:

ACLU Texas:

TX Trans Health:

TX Trans Kids:

Organización Latina Trans Texas

Trans Pride Initiative:

OutYouth (Austin):


20 Years.

I wrote a new (free) piece for Patreon today and then started wondering about all the things I’ve written over the years about the Towers and that Tuesday.

So, in order of their appearance, this one from 2005, and a peaceful image that did my heart good when I first saw it, and that I still call Wish.

Then, in 2008, this kind of throwaway piece that still packs a wallop because it was true; from the first time I flew in a plane after that day.

Two pieces from the 10th anniversary, one of which I wrote in 2007 for a grant application, and the other – about the dogs.

A few years later, when fostering kittens – one of whom would become our Greta Bean – I would write about how having our two gray boys leave footprints in the dust of our Brooklyn apartment that day.

I first started hating the term “never forget” I don’t know when but I first said something about it in 2014. That’s also when I posted this beautiful view from the top of the Towers.

By 2017 I had a fellow New Yorker here in Appleton with me, and I wrote this for her, and for me, and for all of us who were there but who left NYC, but moreso for all the people who weren’t there who think they’ve got something to say.

In 2018 a smattering of memories about the beautiful place it was and the hints of what was lost immediately after, soon after, and much after. (This is still something I need to write a hell of a lot more about, personally. I lost my life in no small part that day and have only insinuated about it but never really dug in.)

In 2019 this piece about being a post traumatic, when I was convinced that would be the center of my next book, an idea I abandoned once I started trying to write it because it was too fucking painful and I did not have the mental health resources – or the time off – to really do it. Sometimes you lose too much blood trying to get a thing down, and that was the case with this. Sometimes projects are abandoned because they have to be.

Last year, this piece a week ahead of time about a song, and a band, and a concert that happened afterwards, and the pathos and drunkenness and community.

But 2020 was filled with so much other grief, as is 2021. My rage is always the first thing that I can express, and I’m glad I get to, because I’m so continually disgusted at the misuse of this day for patriotism instead of memory, perspective, grief. What strikes me most this year is how much I still haven’t said or written about, my nightmares, how much of my life and my self I lost as a result. I’ve never written about Mychal Judge but I read about him a lot and hope he does become a saint.

So the rage is often what you get, the pushback to how we do this as a country. I’m sad not to be in NYC and relieved not to be in NYC, too: just one show on “what ‘never forget’ means to you” had me weeping in my BK apt, so maybe it is for the best that I’m not soaking in a whole town’s grief and anger today.

Or not. For now, I compile and cry and play with cats and order groceries and go back to reading N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became.


For our 20th anniversary, I had this plate and artwork commissioned because queer artists are the best. Kaffers Illustration on Insta and FB.

(And yes, of course I have more to say about what it means/what it takes to make it to a 20th wedding anniversary as a trans couple, but not today…. )

Guest Author: KS on Queer Pain

Queer Pain and Queer (Self)Destruction

An Honest Perspective on Mental Illness and Addiction

Recently, I made several realizations about myself. Vulnerable, scary realizations that I want to have known but am also scared for people to know. I am afraid it will change how people will see me, yet it feels necessary to share. Perhaps through my experiences, my pain, I can help someone through theirs. I could wait for National Coming Out Day, but I’m too queer for that. (Yes, yes I KNOW queerness is not a competition. Please don’t bite my head off, it’s tongue-in-cheek). So here it goes. One: I am mentally ill. Two: I am an addict. These are two facts I have always known about myself, but I’ve always perceived them at an arm’s length – adjectives, descriptors of behavior. I always thought, yes, I deal with mental illness that flares up from time to time. Yes, I have addictive behaviors. But no, I am not someone who is mentally ill or an addict. Those identities are too close, too vulnerable, and ultimately, too shameful. However, if I don’t acknowledge them as aspects of who I am, I can’t see how deeply they affect me, or how tied with my queer experience, it has led to a particular kind of queer pain and self-destruction.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and a generalized anxiety disorder at the age of seventeen. After not being able to sleep well for months, a constant feeling of pain in the pit of my stomach, and a horrific panic attack, I finally convinced my mother to take me to the doctor. I walked out of the visit with a prescription to Wellbutrin and something to help me sleep. In the car, my mother and I agreed not to tell my father about the anti-depressant. He was always leery of any substance that could alter how you feel, and thus alter your soul. Only god should be able to do that. When we told him the doctor had given me something to help me sleep, he, the man who probably genetically passed down these illnesses to me, stated warily I don’t trust those things. It took me months to tell him about the antidepressants. My pain could not be fixed by their prayer, and eventually I started cognitive behavioral therapy – as I side note, I recommend CBT to everybody. It is incredible and truly saved (and continues to save) my life. My journey with initially uncovering my mental illness and eventually coming out is deep and painful, and a story I will share another day. My initial diagnosis was that it was something temporary, a hiccup that 6 weeks of meds would help me get over. 4 years of CBT, a stint in the mental ward, and a suicide attempt later, I came to realize mental illness would be something I would be carrying with me for the rest of my life.

Hiding my mental illness was never something I wanted to, or felt the need to do. When comfortable enough around someone and the topic comes up, I openly discuss my journey, my struggles, and how I’ve gotten to where I am today (which is to say: still alive). Despite this openness, I always saw mental illness as something I dealt with, but not a deep aspect of who I am. Perhaps I had the hopes that someday I could get over it and just function like a normal (neurotypical) person for once, even though I simultaneously knew depression and anxiety would be things I dealt with for the rest of my life. I am unsure why this distinction felt important – perhaps I felt as though I was more in control of myself if I am just dealing with a problem versus a chronic illness. If I am mentally ill, then it is a part of me. It is ingrained into the grooves of my brain and there is fear and uncertainty there, and that unpredictability and lack of control is terrifying to me. If I am mentally ill, it may win some day. This thought rests heavy in my heart. Heavy and hard and true. It dips into the pit of my stomach and presses down on my chest until I pause, breathe deep, and choose to keep going. Instead of looking at the endless miles of life ahead of me, I look down, and take one step at a time. I can’t control the road in front of me, but I can control my next step, so I keep on going, step by step. 

Life is overwhelming sometimes, but I will keep fighting like hell to stay alive despite having a heart that feels too much. I have galaxies in my chest and the universe in my belly and my body cannot contain the vast penetrating emotions I feel. Some days, my seams are popping and I risk falling apart. The only way to describe existing like this is exhausting. I am constantly tired and the world demands too much of me. I have my toolbelt of coping mechanisms to help me keep going, to recharge my battery so I can face another day. Face another week. Keep marching one step at a time until before I know it, I am in an upswing and the world is beautiful and light once again. Since I feel so deeply and intensely, carrying an unnameable hurt behind my ribcage, I have dedicated my life to kindness and gentleness. The world, with its sharp edges and hard surfaces, damages those who are easily bruised. Damages those who are tender and refuse to harden to the pain of life. I refuse to be another abrasive surface. The balm to my aching soul is love, so all I want to do is pour out love love love. I want kindness and gentleness to radiate around me, to extend a softness into the world that is not seen frequently enough, because when I am soft to others, I also create a space of softness for myself. 

Yet sometimes I am unable to extend this energy to the world. When I swing low, I do not have the energy to put anything out; I retreat inward and attempt to take the small steps I need to take until I get better again. It is in these spaces that I crave the gentleness and kindness I normally give out to the world, but I often don’t receive it. More accurately, I should say, I am unable to receive it. In those spaces, I am unable to reach out. I know I have resources and people who love me, and try as I may, as of right now I am simply unable to reach out. How do I articulate the weight and depth of emotion pressing on my soul? How can anyone help lift that? Perhaps it is my ardent refusal to be a burden to anybody, to be nothing but supportive because I know what it feels like to not be supported. In the early stages of my mental illness when I reached out to my parents and my church leaders crying for help, it was dismissed. I needed to lay my cares on god, that’s all. It wasn’t working, but I must have been not trying hard enough. Not holy enough. It is also difficult for me to reach out due to the pride I carry in being the strong one; I cannot be weak for anyone. I am also afraid that I am all too much for people. How can I even lay that burden on someone? It’s not fair to them. They didn’t ask for it. They may not have the energy for it, and in my weakest points, I cannot stand that rejection.

I am usually able to make my way out of these lows. I do deep breathing, I ground myself, I read over my list of things that make life beautiful and my list of things I believe as fundamental truths about the world. I write poetry, listen to music, and drug myself to sleep. Usually, when I wake up, things are more bearable. I continue to do tender self-care – I take a shower, make a meal from scratch, read, go for a walk. I write more poetry. If I am feeling particularly brave, I call a friend just to chat for a bit. The path out of my lows is not always as simple and beautiful as that; self-care requires energy that sometimes I can’t even muster. Sometimes, the addict in me turns to escape. Run away from all of the feelings, even if for just a moment. I like doing drugs – various drugs enhance experiences in a variety of beautiful ways. However, there’s a difference between doing drugs with friends to loosen up, chat, and enjoy the evening versus getting high in a desperate attempt to light up my pleasure centers and numb the pain. And sometimes I just want to keep going and going, blast myself out of this galaxy, blast myself out of existence, but sadly with drugs, you always return. 

After those last few sentences, I am sure it comes to no one’s surprise that I have realized I am an addict. However, if you know who I am, you might be surprised. I keep it well contained, as I have a crippling sense of responsibility and thrive in stability. A high functioning addict. A nighttime and weekend addict. My sense of responsibility and commitment to stability keeps me in check, and for that, I am grateful. I am not the type of addict who doesn’t know how to stop. Sometimes I have a hard time stopping, but I know my limits and know I need to return to normalcy so I can function in the daytime and maintain my life. However, with addiction, it’s not just drugs. I get addicted to hobbies, people, concepts, and habits. I obsess and can’t stop thinking about something, or all I want to do is that one thing and nothing else. It consumes me. Again, I am not consumed to the point where the stability in my life is threatened, but the behavior is still there. Thus, I am an addict.

My addiction and mental illness are inextricably connected, as it is with most people who experience both things. Life is so incredibly difficult for me, I strive to hold on to all things light, beautiful, and fill me with a sense of peace. I also strive to find anything that can pull me from my deep oozing dread, which leads to addictive behavior. If I can find one thing that puts a spark in me, I become obsessed. Sometimes I latch onto a healthy behavior, and other times, not so healthy (Who even decides what is a healthy behavior and what isn’t? Wonders the person who toes the line of a K-hole every other Friday night because they took it a little too far). Sometimes even actively destructive. Boy am I a sucker for a good self-destructive habit – there’s something cathartic about destroying my body in various ways like my mental illness destroys my soul. 

The thing is, I am hesitant to even be so honest. I don’t want people to worry about me. I don’t want sympathetic stares and “Are you okay?” even though some days I also so desperately crave that. I find my catharsis in self-destructive behaviors, but I don’t want people to become aware of my damage and hurt because they witness my self-destructive behaviors. I want them to see me in my normal behavior, see through my walls and ask me if I’m okay then. I so desperately want to be seen and held, yet I simultaneously refuse to be seen or held. If I don’t feel completely safe around someone, I will never be honest. I will never let them in. I will lie and keep on going, desperate to be helped but refusing almost all help because there are so few people I actually feel safe around. And even fewer people I would feel comfortable burdening with my pain. I firmly believe this complex stems from queer trauma. Those who I thought loved me the most rejected me when I revealed my true self. So I protect my truest, most vulnerable self at all costs. If my family and my god whom I thought loved me entirely, completely, and deeply turned their backs when I opened up my most vulnerable self, how can I trust anyone? This thought pattern I know is a lie – I am surrounded by friends and chosen family who love me completely, but there’s a part of me so scared of completely opening up because I have been betrayed so deeply. Here rests the kernel of truth, the most painful spot. Here is where mental illness grows into queer pain and an inability to reach out for help, which leads to queer self destruction. I know this is something I can overcome, but I will probably spend the rest of my life figuring out how. 

The scariest realization I had throughout all of this thinking is, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that I may not win my battle with mental illness. I am mentally ill, and perhaps one day it will overtake me. Perhaps one day, I will not have the strength to overcome the intensity of the bad or the simple exhaustion of living. I so desperately hope I die of old age. I so desperately hope I keep on living, but it is also so exhausting. I am motivated to keep fighting by my commitment to doing no harm. Other motivators are holding onto the wonderful beauty of life, the crazy happenstance of existence. However, I may not win. I feel freed in accepting this fact, not weighed down by the length of the road ahead of me. Please, do not fret; I still have plenty of energy to fight yet. Decades hopefully, especially with continued treatment. And maybe I will overcome and die of old age, but if I am going to be completely honest, it may also be the case that someday life will be all too much. However, I’ll keep fighting my hardest to hold onto life, to experience every glorious second and extend as much love and joy and kindness to this world as I can until then. 

Many writings on mental illness end with some neat resolution, like “it gets better” or “never give up!” and I struggle to stop writing until I come up with a neat resolution myself. But I can’t, because at least right now, I’m not certain of that happy ending. It feels too neat for the reality of life. Instead, I’ll make my motto “fight like hell, there’s no turning back”. 

To all my queers, mentally ill folks, and addicts: fight like hell, there’s no turning back.

(The original can be found here.)