To Be Transgender, Mentally Ill, And Still Alive

Content Note: Mentions of suicide, trans/homophobia, saneism

Nearly every day for the past five months, give or take, I’ve had a moment when I glance out the window onto my street and think to myself, “I was never supposed to be here.”

This feeling isn’t new to me – I’ve dealt with “survivor’s guilt” in some form for years now – but the feeling intensified when I moved to my new apartment.

You know, the apartment that I feel like I don’t deserve for some reason or another.

Here’s the honest truth: People like me? Mentally ill queer kids, the ones that get their homophobia or transphobia with a side of psychosis? The ones whose trauma isn’t just a meal but comes with an appetizer and a fucking dessert?

This world isn’t made for us.

How would I know that? I’ve lived it.

And I don’t think I would have been so persistent about ending my life all those years ago if this were a world that saw me, validated me, affirmed me. If this were a world that had a place for me. If this were a world that held space for me.

I know this because it took me years to sit beside the window instead of dangling out of it, held in place only by someone’s hand clinging desperately to my shirt collar, because to be queer was one thing but to be queer and crazy was another thing entirely.

There has never been a moment when I’ve forgotten that I am both. I’m not allowed to forget.

I remember it when the psychiatrist advises that I not pursue hormones because I could just be manic and not trans; I remember it when another trans person says to me, “I’m glad that gender identity disorder is no longer in the DSM. It’s not like trans people are crazy.”

But I am.

I remember it when I recall the mere inch that came between myself and my own death.

The names of those I knew and could’ve known that ended their lives still swirl around my brain, and all I can think about is how I’m here and they aren’t, and how senseless all of this feels.

Yes, I’m here. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Sometimes the guilt is so painful that I’m convinced that some part of me is fractured – that if you peered inside, it’s almost certain that something in me is irreparably broken. That being a survivor that has watched people like me die, over and over, has left me in a permanent state of grief.

I am in a permanent state of grief.

When I have flashbacks to the moment I woke up, realizing I was still here, I find myself trembling and shaken, wondering why the world steals the light of so many queers but somehow left mine intact.

Why, after making self-annihilation my hobby for a time, should I be rendered whole in a world that despises our wholeness?

Why did I survive?

And it’s not that I believe that my life wasn’t worth sparing. It’s just that, when you watch your comrades, your community, your friends dying all around you, you can’t help but wonder why it was them and not you.

Well-meaning friends tell me, “Remember to be grateful, too.”

But what they don’t understand is that there will always be another mentally ill trans kid like me, ready to follow through on what I failed to finish.

And I can’t just feel grateful when I know, in the back of my mind, that that kid is still out there.

Maybe I feel guilty for being alive because I’m conditioned to believe that people like me aren’t meant to exist in the first place.

Every day since my attempt there’s a scene that plays out in my head, where I’m banging on the closet door, trying to stop that kid from repeating my mistakes, begging them to let me in, begging them to stay, knowing that I can’t promise them that it will get better but I can do everything in my power to create a space for us.

Just one space.

Well-meaning friends say, “Yes, it’s horrifying, but you can’t dwell on that.”

Why can’t I dwell on that?

Do you know the overwhelming trauma of existing in a world that teaches you, from day one, to resist everything that you are?

And why should they act horrified when we destroy ourselves – why should they act surprised – as if that’s not what the world was asking of us all along?

They ask me not to dwell on this as if trauma is a garment you wear, as if we can forget who we are. Please listen when I say this: I can’t forget.

Well-meaning friends ask me, “Why do you write?”

But the better question is why I stayed.

And I stayed for the same reason that I write: Because so long as this world isn’t made for us, I have to keep fighting for a better world.

18 thoughts on “To Be Transgender, Mentally Ill, And Still Alive

  1. vjearle says:

    Sam, please know that you are an important voice, if not for the world, at least for me. You see, my father was born a girl in a boy’s body, in 1924, and apart from my mother and his kids, no one ever knew – he didn’t have a community – all he had was shame and a sense that somehow God was punishing him. We never talked about it, and it was only after he died that I discovered the LGBQT community and learned things that might have set him free, or at least brought him some relief. Reading your story, the fact that you can write openly about your pain is encouraging. You do have to fight for a better a world. And I am right there behind you.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. tmadrigal88 says:

    Inspirational words that resonate with a fellow crazy queer person with internalized self shame and hate. While we may not be going through the same struggle, I still like to believe that what we’re doing by writing about our experiences does make even a little difference. Keep up writing and let me know if I can ever lend a hand in anyway

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laura Ryding-Becker says:

    I hear ya, Sam. I’m learning about mindfulness, which says to sit with and experience whatever you’re feeling, and then – let it go. It’s difficult, but it is helping.

    You are an inspiration. As long as you are true to yourself, you’ll be just fine. Hugs ((((Sam)))))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lesboi says:

    I think you just found your life’s purpose! That’s huge! I’m very thankful for strong voices like yours (even though you might not feel so strong) that reach out to help and lift up those of us who are struggling. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Laura Ryding-Becker says:

    BTW, Sam: “Maybe I feel guilty for being alive because I’m conditioned to believe that people like me aren’t meant to exist in the first place.” I’m not a religious person at all, but if we were born LGBTQ+, doesn’t that mean we were meant to be? I hope you get to a point where you can accept yourself (and forgive yourself) for being who you are. You are not an “it” or a “what” – you are a beautiful soul with a grand purpose in this world. I’ll be sending you positive thoughts 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sam Dylan Finch says:

      What I mean by “not meant to exist” is that this is a transphobic and saneist society that treats us like we are “others” that shouldn’t exist. But I wholeheartedly believe we should be here. 🙂 We just have to fight harder to claim space because it’s so seldom made for us. And thanks for the positive thoughts, it means a lot. ❤

      Like

  6. Iphios says:

    The presence of this space alone, I believe means a lot for a lot of people. I may not be trans, but I do suffer from clinical depression and your site has made me feel understood. I am glad that you continue to fight and that you do not forget.
    This resonated as I too am trying to make space for people who share a similar history being abused, abandoned and mentally ill. It is painful as I wish i could spare one person from my own experience in this world. We all deserve to be here.
    Thank you for continuing to write about your experience and providing a voice and space for people who are told they are ‘others.’ 🙂

    Like

  7. SeeQuinn says:

    Reading these is always an experience for me and I can only mean that in the best of ways, I think that your blog (although sometimes very deep) is needed in this world. Sending support and love x

    Liked by 2 people

  8. BipolarOnFire says:

    You are such a beautiful and eloquent writer. It’s devastating to read because I really, really get it. I hope you write a book, or many books, because you have a beautiful and important message to share. You are really truly gifted and this post really touched me.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Ivy Willow says:

    Sam, sunshine, understanding is always a double edged sword, but you are definitely not alone in struggling to stay alive. I’m trans and deal with heavy mental illness issues. You write wonderfully, and you absolutely are sunshine. You bring light into other’s lives, whether you know it or not. I know that won’t wash away all your darkness… Our darkness never seems to go away entirely. It’s a hell of a journey, trying to stick around. I get really sad about my siblings that don’t make it either. It hurts to see, no matter how many times. Because of how many times.
    This was beautifully written, and terribly sad. Thank you for opening up your soul the way you do.
    From what I see from you’re writings, you are a beautiful person sunshine. I know it’s hard, but thank you for sticking around and offering the lovely writings, thoughts and feelings that you have for the rest of us.
    Try to take gentle care of yourself and have a beautiful day

    Liked by 1 person

  10. queeranddear says:

    Hi Sam this probably won’t make sense to many people. I’m non-binary (and struggling with it) diagnosed clinically depressed and anxious with a side of OCD (yaaaay). I read this article and had a strong emotional reaction. I think this article saved my life by making me get in touch with my deepest fears. I’ve been coping “perfectly fine” full time at school, super involved in all kinds of clubs and social justice work, maintaining friendships and good relations with my family, regularly going to counseling, meditating and yoga, healthy eating, etc. But this article forced me to realize that I’ve secretly been feeling overwhelmed, desperate, and suicidal all this time (I didn’t even realize it that’s how in denial I’ve been). Pre-diagnosis (age 13) and pre-figuring-out-I’m-gay-(age 16)-and-trans (age 18), I lived a very privileged life as a seemingly neurotypical, seemingly straight, seemingly cis, feminine, and stereotypically gorgeous girl with the perfect body and the perfect hair… Basically the past 3 years have been extremely difficult to adjust and this month has been one of the most stressful (internally and secretly bc I’m highly “functional”). Thank you thank you for being you in this world and makin one less person (me) feel alone.

    Liked by 1 person

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