Still working on the last Clubhouse piece etc etc. For now, this is a stab at reframing what might have been the ultimate ending into a new beginning.
When Bad Things Click
I was candid on Twitter a while ago about suicide, specifically how earlier this year I had finally crossed that last threshold. During the summer, the realities of life in 2021 one day became more weight than my broad yet slender shoulders were able to bear and something had clicked in my head that it was now only a matter of how, and when.
That never came to fruition, thankfully, and I have since un-clicked that decision. I’ve been ruminating on how I felt during that period a lot though, and the idea of suicide being a release has transmuted to this period of my life being an intermission. Movies don’t really have them anymore, but it’s a pause before the next act.
In the Babylon 5 episode “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars), the hebrew word Selah is referenced as a sort of intermission, a time to ‘pause and consider’. The pandemic has largely been one giant pause, and collectively we’ve been doing a lot of considering. If there’s one broad category to my considerations, it’s family.
I’ve thought a lot about sharing what’s in this post publicly. If it’s just vanity, if it’s contributing to the worst parts of the ‘creator economy’, if things like this should only be for therapy, and so on. In the end, if there’s one mark I want to make on the world, it’s to normalize being messy, because we all are. The false presence the kinds of influencers who might more accurately be labelled as an influenza really makes me wretch, and my method of inoculation is writing posts like this.
Family is often a sensitive issue for trans people, and so too it is for me. In my case, it more relates to the challenges of being neurodiverse. A lot of people fit easily into the ‘cool kind of weird’ category, others into the ‘offputtingly weird except to people who understand’ category. I probably vary between the two, and feel a really firm sense of guilt when I can’t easily fit into neurotypical spaces. I can’t change being on the spectrum, but I can try to help people to understand (and score some catharsis in the process).
Filtering this through family is also a good way to conclusively end Part 1 of my existence. For most seasons of B5, the last episode ends with a voice-over generally marking the end of the current year and summarizing what had come before, and what was to come, such as:
It was the end of the Earth year 2259, and the war was upon us. As anticipated, a few days after the Earth-Centauri treaty was announced the Centauri widened their war to include many of the Non-Aligned Worlds. And there was another war brewing closer to home. A personal one, whose cost would be higher than any of us could imagine. We came to this place because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. By the end of 2259, we knew that it had failed.
But in so doing, it became something greater. As the war expanded, it became our last, best hope – for victory.
Because sometimes, peace is another word for surrender. And because secrets – have a way of getting out.
I’ll save my statement for the end of this piece, and get started with the beginning of the chapter of me that’s about to close.
The cliche of ‘everyone had a bad childhood’ probably has a lot of truth to it, so I think when someone says they had a really bad childhood it doesn’t make much of an impact. If you didn’t grow up in an abusive household, you really have a different internal roadmap for family and even your understanding of the concept itself is radically different from those that did.
I can’t say exactly when it started, and (as far as I can recall) never crossed the line into sexual abuse. It went far beyond just ‘having shitty parents’ though, and while I am kind to myself and all the other woo tenets, I can track so much of my self-sabotaging behaviour and difficulties in social situations around the worst parts of growing up.
Most of the abuse came from my mother and my sister, probably owing to my Dad having a stroke when I was quite young (maybe when I was 5 or 6). The resulting environment that eventually solidified was as close to hell as I hope to ever encounter. It was as though I had done something bad enough in a previous life to warrant the (until I engaged in some self-emancipation) permanent attachment of a pair of demons.
Save for the safe spaces I was able to create away from home, there was a never ending barrage of negativity and denigration directed my way. If there was one thing that the twin demons hated, it was opportunities that presented themselves to be away from home. The paranoid delusions that were presented as an absolute truth of the outside world were something to behold, and would have been interesting in the ‘wow, human psychology as it relates to cults sure is interesting!’ way were it happening to someone else.
As a result, I was never able to fully develop socially in the same way that other people were. It was clear I was gifted early on, which thankfully resulted in many opportunities to be away from home. Even then, though, any opportunities that the demons had to tighten their grip were taken, such as declining to advance me a grade when the school administrators recommended it.
There were respites within my extended family, most summers I stayed in Calgary with some aunts and uncles for a few weeks and I had a brief respite of what a normal family might look like. I credit those summers with allowing me to arrive where I am now, and at the very least keeping me alive.
The consequences of my early life have haunted me for a long time, I wasn’t able to easily form peer social groups in post-secondary which led to poor academic performance. In spite of this, I seemed to stumble onto opportunities owing to whatever combination of personality and intelligence. The one I wish I had taken advantage of was fleeing to Los Angeles in the early 00’s, and I hope it’s something I can make up for.
The only other thing to say is probably that if you decided to tl;dr the above, the long story of my childhood short is that it was like being in a cult run by people with untreated mental illnesses. I had next to no private spaces, every aspect of my life was subject to mockery and ridicule, and attempts to thrive were thwarted. I somehow found my way out of it eventually, but some of those scars are never going away.
It wasn’t really until I moved to Vancouver to try my hand at the cannabis industry that I started to undo a lot of the damage. This was due to a lot of unique circumstances: I had achieved some quasi-celebrity status, worked in a very cool job for a cool company, and had really supportive people around me in real life for the first time. Even though I wasn’t out as transgender yet, that time in my life really felt like a dream come true.
The House of Clubs
While you might be tempted to think that my date of coming out was the end of this chapter, it really wasn’t. I stumbled onto a social audio platform called Clubhouse, and was able to undo even more damage. I evangelize ‘old Clubhouse’ a lot, and it’s probably more due to what it did for me personally than an objective viewing of the platform. Through the events of the platform’s birth, I was able to put a lot of lingering issues to bed and truly put a definitive close on my early chapters.
Having some accomplished and influential people convey that I had a lot to contribute was a big shock to me. I don’t think I sought out surrogate family on Clubhouse specifically, but some people definitely became it. Having two opportunities, back to back, to be a social media celebrity was not without its negatives; but Fall of 2020 is a period of time I’m always going to hold very close to my heart.
In ‘the note’, I referenced a lot of people personally, and put many in the category of chosen family. I’ve been thinking about how to incorporate those sentiments here, and I have some natural aversion to doing so. Were those sentiments not deeply private? Will I undo any understanding gained through publishing this piece by severely weirding people out in posting my inner thoughts publicly? Is this something else that should just be for therapy?
I’ve decided that this is probably a great, and possibly the only opportunity to coalesce all these things. There are people who were deeply important to me who are no longer in my orbit and it’s probably less about being a message to them, as an inscription to myself of what I should take from these early chapters forward, and what I should leave behind. So, through the lens of family, here’s what I’d like to inscribe for some who were, and some who are special to me.
Before the people though, there is the place. Our conceptions of family often involve a family home, and my actual home was not something I will ever regard in a positive light. So in terms of a place that felt like home for a good part of the past year, I have to acknowledge Clubhouse.
So: I bear great gratitude for the team that built that house, in particular Paul Davison. I have conflicted opinions about the platform now, but for a time it was really a safe space for me to explore relationships with others and myself. I was able to really be myself without fear, and it helped me to embrace the changes in my soul that would soon make themselves known. Not many founders make space for those with critiques about what they’re building, much less make them feel welcome or bestow importance on their thoughts. My early experiences on the platform, especially in contributing to early Town Halls undid much of what was drilled into me at home as far as not having value or worth being appreciated.
Another Trans Post About Chosen Family
Never really having had a mom, it’s questionable whether I actually know what ‘mom energy’ feels like. There were a few very special people who I think fit into that category. Catherine Connors, Hilary Luros, and Terri-Hanson Mead gave me support and some mom energy when I needed it most. In different but equally special ways, they helped me make it through the worst of puberty II. Catherine graced me with her sage energy, Hilary made me feel exceptionally cared for and loved, and Terri provided me with overwhelming validity.
Before making the natural progression from mother to sister, however, I have to mention someone who transcends both of them. Nicole Patrice DeMember is someone I’ve known for less than a year, and yet has filled holes in my soul that are decades old. If the tradeoff would be that none of the magic of the past few years had ever happened, Nicole’s place in my life would be worth it.
Sister is another word and concept that I don’t share a common conception with many on. Sister also has a layered meaning: Both those I am very close with, and women who have welcomed me into their collective sisterhood, despite the current conflicts around where society deems transgender women belong.
Many were present in my life before the pandemic: Sonya Ellen-Mann is one of the few who completely understands the general absurdity of the past decade. Dr. Jenna Valleriani, Jessica Brown, and Rachel Colic have been both colleagues in the cannabis industry, and respites from its often brutish realities. Emma Spears, Amanda Siebert, and Nicolle Hodges are amazingly talented word-mistresses and some of the kindest people on planet Earth.
There’s a good chance I might not still be here were it not for Espree Devora. If you’re very lucky, you’ll meet but a handful of people in your lifetime with the intensity of her inner light. Jenn Sander was one of the first Clubhouse people I actually met, and I think few will rival her kindness and intensity of spirit. Rhian Beutler has also been there during some of my darkest moments.
Finally, there are a few people who don’t really fit into this metaphor of family, but who left an imprint on me. Some I don’t know all that well, but were part of some magical moments. In general, so many women of tech twitter have been incredibly kind to me, in particular Lulu Cheng Meservey and Briana Hokanson.
Mike Solana, despite his Twitter presence, is actually a pretty inclusive and kind dude. Swan Sit and Kat Cole are the kind of people who share fairy dust with others just by exuding the kind of energy they carry around inside. Orchid Bertelsen and Justine Bateman are among some of the most warm and funny people I’ve met. In addition to being an impressive oracle, Andrea Hernandez was one of the first people I connected with on Clubhouse and has also been there during some dark moments.
Lastly, in the spirit of the B5 quote posted earlier, I’m going to attempt to do the same for Season 1 of my story. I’m going to take ownership of both the extreme highs and lows of what was, and commit myself to what is to come. The original form of this post was such that it was going to be something I would post shortly before ending my life. A closing narration on my entire story, and how it ended. Now, it’s a statement on how Season 1 of my story concludes.
It was the final few months of the Earth year 2021, and the world was still changing. The human race had, to a degree, convinced itself things were back to normal.
I found myself both falling, and flying. Away from what ‘normal’ had been, towards an uncertain future that I hoped would also be extraordinary. I had become exceptionally proficient in getting in my own way, but in doing so had exposed those parts of myself I wanted to change and those I wanted to keep.
Fate had granted me the opportunity to be reborn in true alignment with my inner soul, and to shine brightly. I would often collide with the boundaries of the human condition: First being thrown back by their rigidity, and eventually shattering them with resilience.
Above all, I would never again apply a filter that optimized for what the default world prizes. I would happily disappoint the arbiters of artifice, and stand or fall based solely on the contents of the ethereal container labelled ‘Ivy’.