This week we have another fallen sister to count among our ranks. Leelah, another trans* teen that the world beat and beat and beat until she couldn’t take anymore. I’m 27, and I can no longer count the number of fallen sisters and brothers I have, the number of people I’ve watched the world blot out, the ones I’ve only read about, the ones I’ve seen buried, and I’m exhausted, every day, with this knowledge that today might be the day I lose another. Having a trans* friend preface a text or e-mail to me with “I’m sorry” shouldn’t fill me with the cold dread that I have another one to count, but it does. Because the world is very wrong.
I’ve always lived my life very publicly and been very transparent about who I am as a person. I had the choice, when I was building up a web presence, to be quiet about certain things, to keep others hidden, because frankly it would have been easier, would have exposed me to less hate and bigotry and all the other shitty things people will inflict on other people out of hatred and misunderstanding. I chose not to, not because I consider myself particularly brave or some kind of activist, but because of the simple knowledge of how many Leelahs in the world might need to hear my story, to see me living my life—publicly, openly—and know that they don’t always have to be afraid. That you can be trans* and an alcoholic and bipolar and asexual and still be okay.
And, yes, I’ve had all those things thrown back in my face, sometimes by people very close to me. I can still hear the sick, awful silence that came after being told I’d never find anyone to love me because “who could love an alcoholic, bipolar transgender.” As if asking someone to put up with all of those things together was asking for a Herculean feat instead of just basic decency. It’s one of the reasons I’m so staunch about the need for trans* romance in the queer romance genre, and diversity within that romance: one loud shout to the world that we can be loved, that we are not abhorrent, that yes someone one day will look at all the pieces that make me less than perfect and think “but I love you, anyways.” Not even just “anyways” but because they make up the person I am, and that’s the person they love.
Because I am not an unloveable aberration, despite what I’ve been told. We are all deserving of love, whatever our hangups or imperfections.
I write what I wish for people like me: love stories, stories about deep, true, enduring love that spans lifetimes. And not just for the white cis gay men that overpopulate the queer romance genre. For all of us: trans*, bisexual, lesbian, intersex, POC, mentally ill, persons with disabilities, persons with autism and Aspergers and on and on and on. I want to write love stories for those people, too, the ones who don’t always get told they’ll one day get their “happily ever after.” Because we all deserve a happily ever after. I deserve one. You deserve one. Leelah deserved one.
That’s why I write, in the end. To give those people the world calls unloveable their great love story. And that’s why I’m open about every aspect of who I am: so that people can see me living my life and know that “happy and whole” is not impossible for them, that they’ll get their happily ever after, too, that they deserve one, whatever else the world might tell them. That “different” does not mean “unloved forever.”
Rest in power, Leelah. May you, wherever you are, be getting the happy ending the world denied you.