When they misgendered you at your memorial.

There were drains hanging from my chest when I made the first phone call. Not even two days before, I was under the knife, having a surgeon — an artist — remake my chest. These are scars that you will never see.

“Hey,” I say softly into the phone. “I think you should come over. I’ll explain when you get here.”

When I hang up, I straighten my spine and I slap myself across the cheek. Our friends are coming over, and I remind myself that I can’t crumble, not now. I’ve never had to disclose that someone is dying, to shatter the world as they knew it with a single sentence. I guess because I was the one that was usually on the brink of death.

This was not the thunder I wanted stolen from me.

There’s a knock on my door, and the words are falling out of my mouth before I can think of how to say them. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper. “Cris isn’t going to make it.” We hold onto each other for dear life, the drains pressed between us, filling with my blood.

The color is already gone from my face; I’m waiting now to see your ghost.

/

You are difficult to contain. A neuroscientist, a poet, a drag queen, a teacher — queerness, for you, was simply your way of being in the world, the shimmer held in every cell in your body.

“They” as a pronoun was the most natural thing in the world, because I can’t imagine how “she” or “he” could hold everything that you are, that you were. They, as in, “I hold the contradictions and make them beautiful.” They, as in, “I wear my trauma as drag and spin it into gold.”

I never understood how anyone could look at you and not see “they,” or hear the mirth in your laughter and not believe it to be sheer magic or mischief, or look at your delicate hands and assign you any essence other than “everything.”

Everything, the totality.

You were the scientist who loved astrology. You were the poet who could seamlessly reference Grey’s Anatomy without missing a beat. You toiled in a lab with mice by day and wore eight-inch heels and glitter on a stage at night.

You moved between worlds, always chasing something — the secrets you found studying zebrafish, the catharsis in lip-synching pop songs in gay bars — and I fear that neither one was enough.

You could find the wisdom in a Kelly Clarkson song and in the DNA of a jellyfish. I remember thinking, I’ll follow this queen to the ends of the earth.

If only you had let me.

/

Your memorial is organized by email. This is, I think, the first time I really understood what it meant to die as a millennial. You’re just a few months shy of your 30th birthday, but if I think about that for too long, I want to set the whole world on fire.

It was foreshadowing, I realize, when you told me how your novel was going to end, just a few weeks before you died. How the characters, realizing the world is irredeemable, decide to burn it to the ground so something new can grow in its place.

You lit the metaphorical match in your bedroom on a Sunday afternoon, and I still don’t know if it was a smoke signal or a death wish. I’m not sure if you knew, either.

My whole world burns down with it. Your remains nourish the ground underneath me. Grief is a brutal and unforgiving teacher, offering lessons I never asked for. Your tombstone is a mirror reflecting back all the ways my story could’ve ended just like yours.

Your mother makes me promise that I won’t end my life like you did.

I have to grow in your place now, become something new.

You used to tell me that no one understood trauma quite like we did, like it was a language that we spoke fluently, sometimes morbidly and always earnestly. In that way, I’ll never stop hearing your voice.

/

Your graduate advisor responds to the email about your memorial. Gently, I remind him of your pronouns.

I think back to all the conversations we had about what it was like to be a transgender scientist — struggling to be seen, carefully measuring how much of yourself you could be and how much you had to hide.

Sometimes, over coffee, you’d admit to me, “I’m so tired.” The resignation in your eyes was like the dimming of a thousand stars at once.

Your advisor snaps back so harshly that the wind is knocked out of me. “That’s the side you knew, but Cris, the young man I knew, had many sides,” your advisor lectures.

How can you call it “sides” when you never asked to be deconstructed? When it’s the world splitting you apart, never allowing you to be whole in the first place?

How could he speak of you as though everything you were in life — all the magic that moved through you — was simply too inconvenient to acknowledge? How can you take a prism and demand one color?

I’m trying to find the words to explain to him how painful misgendering is, but my rage is boiling over — not just at him, but at a world that was never good enough for you, determined to take the beauty of your queerness and grind it to dust underneath a heavy heel.

I tell the professor that he should be ashamed. He calls me a “hectoring, self-absorbed, pompous twit.”

The aftertaste of the same poison that killed you is sitting on my tongue. The taste is familiar, metallic, and cold. I remember the anguish of being invisible, how it eroded your spirit, how it clipped your wings into pieces that neither of us could stitch back together.

Without wings, there was nothing to break your fall.

/

When a transgender person commits suicide, it’s almost always murder in slow motion.

When you cut a flower at the stem, no one is surprised when it wilts. When your petals fell, I tried to hold onto them as long as I could. The world might know you now as a statistic, but I knew you as you breathed and bloomed.

The morning memorial begins with a passionate plea about pronouns from a trans femme you knew, and I’m silently grateful for her courage. But I’m left trembling when I realize that you never lived to see the day when your life didn’t require a disclaimer — instead, your death now required one, too.

The professor gives the closing remarks. He stumbles over his words.

When he misgenders you, he tries to correct himself, stuttering. The pain in the room is palpable, a living reenactment of the pain you held in your last breath.

When he refers to you as a son, your mother — in a moment more powerful than my words can hold — adamantly corrects him.

“My child,” she says.

Her child who, after being flown to New York for a final time, would be turned over to ash. “I blew glitter over their body just before they were cremated,” your mother tells me.

And this is how you left us, anointed by the shimmering breath of your mother.

It was one final gesture to remind you that, while the world may not have seen you, we still did.

signature

selfcare

If you’re suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386, or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Hey, friend! Before you go…

cropped-heartThis blog is not sponsored by any fancy pants investors that are trying to sell you stuff.

It’s funded by readers like you via Patreon!

Every donation counts. Help keep resources like these accessible to everyone that needs them! And help buy me a cup of coffee, because I write a lot of these blogs after work, late at night, so I could definitely use the caffeine.

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash.

Advertisements

97 thoughts on “When they misgendered you at your memorial.

  1. The Realist says:

    It is not grievance that fills my heart after reading this, it is love….the true meaning of friendship. People like you gives everyone hope, the feeling of togetherness. I’m a person who has no friends…..I’m all alone in my life, but I felt your sincere friendship. Touched me. Sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Conservative Overlord says:

    I know what it is like to lose a friend to suicide. I’ve had two friends take their life, and it was hard for everyone. But I find the idea of being transgender both sinful and disgusting. I’m sorry, Sam, but I believe that gender is an eternal, biological, God-given characteristic that cannot be changed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sweiti says:

      I find you to be disgusting . You’re welcome to your own opinion but no one brought you here and asked for your opinion on anyone’s identity. If you find someone sinful, whatever. I’m sure that as a person who shops on Sunday I’m sinful and disgusting to you as well. Take your hateful, horrible, disgusting self elsewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sam Dylan Finch says:

        You told someone whose best friend died by suicide mere months ago that they, and their friend, are sinful and disgusting.

        I wouldn’t call that being offended “easily.” I’d call that a righteous response to callous and unnecessary cruelty.

        That’s not a partisan issue, either. This isn’t about conservatives or liberals. This is about being gracious in the face of human suffering. And, you know, not being sociopathic.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Sam Dylan Finch says:

        I also don’t know if you have a leg to stand on, so far as the “easily offended” argument goes, when you’re the one who’s offended by something that does not affect you and is none of your business — so much so that you felt the need to be callous to someone who is grieving.

        You know what they say about casting the first stone, yes? I’ll pray for you and your soul — you seem to need it.

        Liked by 2 people

    • neiseyinmo says:

      @Conservative Overlord…GO AWAY TROLL! NO ONE asked you what you feel, think, or believe!
      Why troll here and post something rude & hurtful …in response to another human’s grief???
      “I find the idea of being” …ignorant and judgemental …”both sinful and disgusting”
      I’m not sorry, but “I believe that” grace and compassion “is an eternal, God-given characteristic that” you have completely and utterly failed to learn from Christ’s example!

      Liked by 1 person

      • AngryGayCisMan says:

        I’m not as tactful as Sam. I will pray for you, “Conservative Overlord”, that you develop a painful incurable disease, die slowly, and then realize that God is literally the opposite of your hateful projections.

        You are the one making it about politics. Would you go up to Cris on their last day alive, or Cris’ mom and tell her that her child, who died in part because of people like YOU feeling emboldened to spit your evil, hateful shit everywhere without repercussions, was “disgusting” and “sinful”? If not, why do you feel like saying this shit to Sam–whom you also obviously find “disgusting” and “sinful”–on his blog?

        I hope our paths meet somehow and I get to beat the living shit out of you in tandem with my husband (who is both trans and intersex, with big muscles and taught familial expertise in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). Also on behalf of my beloved twin sister, who is a trans woman, and in honor of our wonderful parents (who were supportive of us when I came out as gay as a 12 year old boy, and her when she came out as a trans girl at 13). But also in honor of my now-gone trans/queer friends, and for all of the trans and/or queer people I do not know who, like Cris, were hurt by pieces of shit just like you, often to the point of despair and then suicide.

        I’m sorry, Sam, but I couldn’t reply to this with even a modicum of tact. These people are junior high bullies who never grew up and delight in causing pain to those they deem “weaker” and therefore inferior. “Education”, “compassion”, and even “reason” do not work with these types. They are the same kind of people who gleefully walked around wearing T-shirts saying “AIDS–kills fags dead” in the early 1990s (my uncle, who is gay, got beat up by a guy wearing one of these shirts on the way home from the hospital where a good friend of his had died of AIDS–my uncle knew he couldn’t take the guy, but also couldn’t ignore the risible T-shirt and what it said about its wearer). Since Trump, these people have become more brazen in their gleeful cruelty. Their only joy is sadistically causing harm to others for the “lulz”. They are walking exceptions to the bell hooks quote about the masters’ house. Only when they get a taste of their own medicine, along with some force-fed cyanide as a chaser, will they stop.

        In these types of situations, “being the better person” just paves the way to more dead queers.

        P.S. “Conservative Overlord”, if your buddies are anything like you, I am so glad that they are dead! I only wish my loved ones and I could have picket their funerals, with signs like “Hateful Bigots will be tortured in hell for all eternity”. Just like your type used to do to queer people who died of AIDS. If this upsets you, guess you’re just an oversensitive right wing Special Snowflake!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. marlapaige says:

    Why is it so hard for people to accept each other. Nothing in life (except coding) is truly binary, black or white. At a memorial one should not impose their limitations, but embrace the departed as they saw themselves. I admit I am not perfect, I have issues with pronouns for some people, especially if that individual prefers “it”. You can easily write about “them” or rewrite your speech to reflect them only by name.

    But then again, if as you said, they hid their queerness from their professor, that professor had to come to terms with their chosen identity in the time between the notification and the funeral. That’s not easy either.

    But none of that really matters. What matters is that they were loved, both for who they showed the world and who they really were. Their friends, loved ones, and family embraced them as they truly were: a sparkling and wonderful light. That is how they should be remembered, that is how they should be forever cherished. As the person who brought joy to you and numerous others. Remember them the way they lived with you: effervescent and full of life.

    And know this: I am truly sorry for the loss of such a person, and for the pain you are now going through. But with time, this pain will become tolerable, and the light that shone through them will through. Love is the answer, don’t lose that or they will have been lost completely. I wish you and their family strength, and know I support you in this. ❤️

    Liked by 3 people

  4. theborrowedwriter says:

    In the society I live, transgender people are still a novelty, so I personally don’t know anyone.
    But I can imagine , the myriad of confusion that the world’s judgement may do.
    The grief could be destabilising… But I would entreat you to understand the misconceptions of the unwise and ignorant too.. they don’t deserve it .
    But somehow I feel , you belong to a wiser group of people.. and you can help shape the understanding of the rest of us.
    If I personally know someone, I can just promise to extend my full support always.
    Thank you for this beautiful read.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sweiti says:

    This hurt my heart and made me feel your love for them all at once. I’ve never lost anyone to suicide but I’ve failed at my own multiple times. I’m so sorry for your loss and I’ll keep you in my prayers.
    And not all Christian conservatives think the same way the jerk from above does 🖤🖤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. mirrorgirl says:

    Such a beautiful, wonderful, heartbreaking post. It makes me realize, as a therapist, how much society and the way we look at people affect us. When we forget that everyone is unique and should be appreciated for it. I’m so glad your friend had you, and that you share this story with the rest of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. solemnfernweh says:

    i want to say that i’m sorry for your loss but even that feels reductive, so instead i will say this- it is no one’s responsibility to squeeze themselves into boxes for the convenience of others. everyone is entitled to spaces that embrace them, and it is unbelievably cruel to deny someone this. helping someone i know won’t right this, but i think it would’ve made them feel a little bit better. so i will do it because i believe it is the right thing to do, but also for them and for those like them.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Stacey Tatum says:

    A soft hug and a stream of tears and then the silent understanding smile from one soul to another before she gently lets go, turns and walks back into the light

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s