To Katie and Arin
Hey there, ya’ll.
You don’t know me, and even if I’m lucky enough to have a few moments of your time, we still won’t be all that close by the end of this letter. That’s fair, since I don’t know ya’ll beyond the news either.
Well, maybe a little bit more than the headlines, but anyways, that’s where I found your story. And like many reading it or watching the clips, I was moved in the way anyone seeing lovers with a whole life and world ahead of them would be moved. But what made seeing this story more than that for me, more than something I’d smile and share a link on Facebook about, is the fact that in my own way, I’ve been down a road you’re walking.
I know at least some of that journey, as a trans woman, near 34 years old, which puts me (dammit!) not that far off from twice your age, Katie, and (double dammit!) exactly twice yours, Arin.
Already I worry, like any self conscious elder, that I’m doing that “thing”. You know the “thing”, talking down to someone, masking an inherent sense of loneliness and growing disconnect from contemporary life by imparting “life lessons” to the polite, captive youngsters who just want to scoot and live the thing the old person is talking about.
Alright, that was probably a little needlessly dark. Suffice it to say, I’m not writing to you to do that thing. I’m writing to you because the places I’ve been and the paths I walked give me a perspective on your headline that’s more than “how cute are they?” Of course you two are freaking adorable, but when I see you, I see so much more.
No, we don’t know each others’ lives. But I’m sure we’re both familiar with the statistics, how many of us become nothing but that in the end, a bunch of tragic numbers. I won’t dwell on that either, but we all know that throws into even brighter, sharper relief the image of two joyous teens in love.
If you’ve got this far, maybe you’ll indulge me a bit more and listen.
When I first heard about you, saw you, I couldn’t breathe. I had to find a way to stand, get some water, talk to my own partner to calm down, and search out our cat for some vigorous cuddles. Even now, having seen us love each other, form new families of choice, and make peace with the families of our birth, it’s still somehow so shocking, so powerful to see something as simple as a loving couple, when it’s people like us, who share this experience.
Might as well admit it now, of course some of that breathless feeling comes from raw envy. There’s probably even some twisted place that writhes in anger when it sees this perfect, beautiful thing and thinks about all the people I’ve known who couldn’t make it, who would never be accepted by their family, never find love that sustains them through trouble, couldn’t even find shelter. And maybe there’s a bit of annoyance at the suggestion that absolutely allllll of us want every medical procedure out there for transition, since that just ain’t true, hon.
But paired with that is wonder. A total sense of awe, which strips away the years of wear and tear on me, makes me a kid again, that this is possible, really possible. Even if I’ve seen it before, it never fails to amaze, to restore. And besides, no one’s ever seen anything exactly like your love, just like I can only know bits of where you’ve been, it’s unique. All the same, I just couldn’t have imagined it when, terrified I’d be struck dead on the spot, I sought a therapist’s help with transition some seven years ago.
Sometimes, that child I can be taken back to by seeing something this beautiful tries to hold me accountable. It tries to ask me, the nearly middle aged woman, why I left it behind at nine years old, wouldn’t listen to it, and stifled its sense of being a little girl just to fit in, try to find joy in a lie I’d live almost 20 years. Gradually, that voice is more inclined to forgiveness.
My hope is that the world will head that way too, and that it will come to understand we don’t need to be forgiven for who we are, but embraced. That’s a little grandiose, when it’d be satisfying enough to make this a place where we’re not a punch line, where making ends meet doesn’t have to mean getting in bed with cruelty. I’ve done much of that in sex work, and I’m sure there’s more ahead.
And then I go through this slideshow again, smiling, lucky enough to comfortably read online in a nice apartment, waiting for my own loving partner to return. They lead a social group for trans youth too, kinda awesome, eh? Except I’m too damn old to be a member, of course.
You know what? I’ve talked a long time, and realized that I did end up doing that thing. I mostly just wanted to be heard, to be reassured that I still have a voice.
I only really have one thing to say to you both. I hope so very much that the future looks a lot more like you.
Thank you, and please, remember us.
featured image is of Arin Andrews (left) and Katie Hill (right)
Cheyenne, that was beautiful. Thank you for writing this.