TRIGGER WARNING: Suicidal ideation.
The aim of this post is not to disturb the reader, but to paint a portrait of everyday bravery and resilience. With the rates of both suicide attempts and self harm for transgender and other non-binary folk an order of magnitude above that of the general population, I believe it is a subject that needs to be talked about, and talked about with as much love and support as can be summoned. Having said that, I ask that if you find this topic at all disturbing, or if you become upset at any time reading this post, please stop reading it immediately and talk to someone about your feelings. Only continue reading if you are sure you feel strong enough.
Although this post does include a reference to suicidal thoughts, which I understand is not the most uplifting subject matter, it would mean a lot to me if you could do your best to read it through a positive lens. Life is weird, farcical and often ridiculously funny, but make no mistake, this is by far the biggest challenge of my life thus far. I’m sure it’s no different for most other transgender folk. With your help though, we can all kick its arse.
Spoiler alert: I’m still here, and I’m not planning for that to change.
January 26th marks an anniversary of the utmost importance for me, almost certainly the second most important day of my life, close behind the day I was born. Not because Captain Arthur Phillip “took possession” of some already occupied land on this day in 1788, and certainly not because on this day in 1808, Australia experienced it’s (to date) only military coup in what would become known as The Rum Rebellion. No … it is of such importance to me because on January 26th, 2017 I made the following concomitant decisions: that I wanted to continue to live, and that in order to do so, I needed to transition from living as a male to living as a female, and that I needed to start that transition now.
I had been seeing a psychologist regularly for several months by this stage, a specialist in the field of gender and transitioning. Although he had helped me make sense of much of what was unfolding in my brain, I was still scared. Very scared. Scared of rejection. Scared of the unknown. Scared of all of the countless unknown unknowns.
On that otherwise run-of-the-mill public holiday in 2017, three of my unsuspecting friends had invited me to spend the afternoon, and possibly the night, with them at a popular local camping spot. I had been in an introspective funk for a while by this point. Whether this had been going on for days or weeks, I don’t exactly recall. I was apparently aware that the crunchtime for some important decisions was fast approaching, but at the same time I was also still trying to get my head around what those decisions would be, and what the consequences, once the decisions were made, would be.
Once I had rendezvoused with my friends, we set out along the path to the waterfall. It was such a stunning walk along the creek through the forest. Internally, I was well aware of my surroundings being intensely beautiful, but days later, after seeing photos of me with my friends from that day, me staring off into infinity, I understood why they had been trying hard to cheer me up. Their efforts were in vain though. I was entirely devoid of mirth. I was morose. I was apparently completely uncheerupable. Ironically, I was completely unaware that in less than 30 minutes I would make a decision that would confirm for me that I knew for sure that there was beauty, love and happiness in my future.
I don’t remember particularly why, but while my friends were frolicking in the rock pools in the creek, I wandered closer to the top of the waterfall. Tears started dribbling from my eyes. I wasn’t sure why. Looking back, I’m still not entirely sure what drew me towards the edge. Maybe it was to get further away from my friends, who seemed to me at the time to be excessively, even irrationally, happy. I gazed wistfully at the horizon. I remember taking in the incredible beauty of the view, rainforest all the way to the sea. I was suddenly aware of why I had been drawn to the edge: all it would take is a handful of seconds and all of my past, present and future suffering would cease to exist. All of the suffering, all of the confusion, all of the uncertainty, all of the potential future bullying, potential assaults, misgendering, massive medical bills, incredibly invasive surgeries, potential rejection by friends and family, never … need … actually … occur. A handful of seconds to avoid more pain and suffering than I might be able to handle. I moved closer to the edge and peered down at the rough jumble of boulders about 100m below me and stared at the boulder that I was pretty sure I would land on, if my high school physics was correct. I spent the next few minutes rationally running through the pros and cons of continuing my life. I came to the conclusion that my decision should be entirely based on the premise that I had been, on the whole, confused and/or miserable for much of my life, and that I deserved more, so much more. If I opted out now, I myself would be directly responsible for denying myself the possibility of a joyful, meaningful life. If ever there was a better time to both Choose Life and Carpe Diem I can’t imagine when that would be. I firmly decided: not here, not now, not like this.
If you can picture Ewan McGregor striding towards the camera across Waterloo Bridge at the end of Trainspotting, that was now me, except I was clumsily rockhopping up the creek, avoiding pockets of shrubbery, slipping on wet, mossy rocks and several times almost ending up fully clothed in rock pools. I carefully avoided eye contact with my friends as I quickly strode past them so that I could have a few quiet contemplative moments in nature nowhere at all near the waterfall’s edge. I went home to my own bed that night. By morning, my funk had lifted. Proverbial and actual suns had risen giving life to another day.
Memories of that day came flooding back to me when I read Mila Madison’s piece on Transgender Universe a fortnight ago. I had forgotten the exact date, so I wasn’t aware at the time of the upcoming anniversary, though I’m pretty sure I will never forget how the afternoon unfolded and it’s bearing on the rest of my life.
If you felt sad or upset when reading this post, please please please talk to someone about it without delay. You should talk to someone that understands you, whether that be a friend or a relative. If you can’t think of anybody to talk to right now, please call Beyond Blue or Lifeline and talk to them about it.