Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RIP Leelah Alcorn

Dear mummy,

You died over fifty years ago now, and for such a long time it was as if I did not dare remember you.

It was as if there was a thick grey curtain blocking you off from me and drawing a blankness over my mind. 

As if I would be destroyed by the grief of remembering you.

But tonight I see you very clearly in my mind: your black hair whose gentle curls framed your beautiful face. Your cheekbones. Your gentle mouth. Your loving loving eyes.

You look at me so tenderly as I tell you about Leelah.

Leelah was like me. Born in a male body, given a male name, but knowing from the moment she became conscious of herself that that maleness did not fit her.

Knowing she was not male and never would be.

We couldn't talk about this, mummy, because in those days nobody could. And there were no names either.

We all tried to pretend that it wasn’t there, that it wasn’t happening, and all tried to be normal as best we could.

I see you the day you sent me to boarding school. With tears in your eyes. Tears you were ashamed of and tried so hard to hide.

It was for my own good, you had to say, sending me to that place. That place where we had to plunge into cold water every morning and sleep in grey blankets on iron beds in dormitories named after famous generals.

That place where there was no comfort anywhere, comfort being girlish, and no place for tenderness. We addressed each other by our surnames and tried very hard never to cry.

Because those who did were mocked and tormented for doing so.

And all this to turn us into men. And how hard we all tried to be brave.

I was eight years old.

I missed you terribly. I knew I wasn’t supposed to, just as I knew I wasn’t meant to be crying the way i did, always in secret: because it was supposed to be bad for boys to be too close to their mothers.

I knew you were frightened on my behalf because you and daddy had both so greatly wanted a girl. You told me to be careful of strange men because they might abuse me; and looking back I know you were also afraid that I, too, might turn out to be a pansy.

I use that word because I think that’s probably the one you would use. And you did everything in your power, the pair of you,  to make me become a “proper man”.

I know you did it for the best, as you understood it, and so I don’t want to tell you how much suffering that caused me.

It almost destroyed me, mummy: and I think of it tonight because of Leelah Alcorn who was like me in so many ways and whose mum and dad,  Carla and Doug, were so like you because they were frightened and angy and ashamed and did everything they could to stop their child being true to herself and living as a girl.

Which is one reason Leelah walked in front of a truck.

I don’t know how I survived. Maybe because the urge to create was always stronger than the desire to die.

Surely, also, later on to do with being loved by my partner and my children.

I so wish I could have told you, Leelah, that we can be happy. That we don’t have to conform to society’s ideas of what it is to be feminine. That it’s possible to be out there, openly trans*, and happy and proud.

I wish you could have seen my grandson. Whose mum and dad are so proud of him when he plays with his big red car and dashes round the room making engine noises. And proud of him when he plays with the doll’s house in my hallway too.

He will grow up knowing I’m his grandma and his mum’s dad, too, and he will havo no problem with that because the world is changing, Leelah, and we matter so much to it.

Because the world so badly needs a new understanding of what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman and we are part of what is making that change happen.

I wish you hadn't died but your death has not been in vain.

And I wish I could tell your mum and your dad, Carla and Doug: God didn’t make a mistake when she made us trans*.

I wrote a play about Jesus being trans* that I perform wherever I can. I wish I could perform it for you so you could hear it. Because these words are for you, just as they are for your Leelah:

Inside us we all have a light, and it’s maybe the very thing that we have been taught to be most ashamed of. 
And when you have a light, do you hide it in a closet?
No! you bring it out into the open where everyone can see itAnd be glad it exists to shine in the world. They might try to put out your light.They might hate you for allowing to shine.They might spit on you or shout after you:“Faggot! Pervert! Maricón!”Or maybe they’ll shout: “Look! It’s a geezer!”Or call you a pervert or an open sewer.They will confuse you and make you feel ashamedAnd might even drive you to kill yourself In your anguish and despair.They might do even worse: they might beat youOr torture you and kill youAnd throw your body into a skip.Because these things happen.But I say to you: 

Bless you if people abuse you or persecute you because it means you are bringing about change.And bless those who persecute you too because hatred is the only talent that they haveAnd it really doesn’t amount to much.They will lose what little they haveAnd whatever they say or whatever they do Change will come in the end 
and one day the world will be free.

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