Marissa Explains it All #40 – The Moment After – A Short Story/Recollection

This isn’t a blog, and yet it is. It’s an in-the-moment recollection of the worst night of my life.

TW: Graphic detail, sexual assault

The scent of damp bodily function wafted through the pitch dark room. Slow, heavy breaths scored the otherwise oppressive silence. The clenching fingers at war with the downy threads raging against each other, a single bead of sweat dropped down a glistening, furrowed brow. Breathing, unlike other instantly previous actions, was minimally consensual.

Nervous metatarsils gripped the cold, wooden panels forming the pathway of momentary escape. The racing thoughts conversed with the methodical, deliberate pace with which reprieve was gained. Solace found only in the hidden comfort of solitude, presence regained its autonomy after the ultimate yet temporary betrayal.

Being alone was figurative, as the violator remained immediately above the present state of the stripped. The past force exerted to gain physical superiority continued to press firmly into the crushed veins and nerves of exacerbated vulnerability. Muse’s cruel inspiration dripped through the ethereal blackness, much like the foreign wetness invading the chambers of once-held peace. In silence, there cannot be a calm that washes away those drops of unforgivable malice.

Eyes eventually close, parting bittersweetly with the shock-induced numbness before trauma truly sets in the system. A subconscious reprieve was the only savior from the uncaring hand of reality reinstating its monarchy over the peasant of cope. But, like all monarchs, long shall they live, cruel shall they reign.

But not tonight.

 

 

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Marissa Explains it All #39 – Managing the Fire

I’ve never been good at resting.

At one point last year, I was suffering from pneumonia, and I still had the urge and instinct to get stuff done. My husband practically sat on my chest and ordered me to lay back down. That’s what it took to get me off my feet and not trying to do eight things at a time.

Maybe it’s because I had it drilled into my had that working hard, through pain, exhaustion, and frustration was the only way to be accepted, successful, and strong. A lot of it was unintentional I’m sure, but I felt growing up that anytime I needed a break or a day off that I was chastised for daring to think such things were acceptable.

Therefore, I find myself in the difficult position of desperately needing a break from the world being on fire, but every time I think I’m ready to cut things off for a while, this overwhelming sense of guilt takes over; shaming me for daring to even think of disengaging when silence can be interpreted as consent or compliance.

Speaking out does not come without its consequences, and as much fun as it can be, and as great as the reciprocation can be, it doesn’t come without its toll. For instance, being on the trans rights activism front, it’s only natural that I know other trans rights activists, and a lot of their posts often include the original source of someone saying something horrible about us. Yes, it is often followed by a refutation, but taking in yet another person who doesn’t think we’re people or valid or in charge of our identity is taken in nonetheless, and it gets fucking exhausting to have to justify your humanity to yourself, even when being shown an example of someone else already doing that part. I internalize everything, and it’s impossible for me to see the horrible thing consequence-free.

Combine that on the personal front with being hurt badly in successive days by people in my own life for anything from being dehumanized to shamed for needing some space, and it feels like the world is closing in on me. Like it’s a new age version of Mean World Syndrome,where instead of the media convincing me that everyone is going to get murdered, the people out there who find that action against us justified get their signals boosted constantly; and it seems unavoidable.

I needed to get away from it; that, and putting myself out there to only be called a thing or deadnamed or misgendered constantly, it wears on my already tired and weakened battery. Yet, those who march against all marginalized groups and kill people with their cars to prove it don’t sleep, and silence from white people can be seen as complicity. That line becomes grey and hard to spot, and the right thing to do can be lost between trying to be there and visible and running on fumes, but feeling exhausted, defeated, ineffective, and in desperate need of recharge. I can only see how a majority of people think of me and my community so many times before I need to not see it for a while.

But again, that guilt runs deep. That sense of feeling like resting or needing a break is giving up; it keeps the candles burning late and the car running past the E. It’s an internal vicious circle of horrible, self-defeating inner Monologues.

In the midst of feeling myself hitting another low, I took another self-imposed social media ban, barely a week after spending the weekend in Seattle with my partner the same way. Taking it a step further though, I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone entirely, following in the footsteps of someone I dearly love, Eli Bosnick. Though not for the same reason, he’s someone else who puts himself out there boldly, and deals with the blowback as best he can. Yet, like the rest of us, remains human and can only deal with so much negativity and horrible hatred in human behavior.

Sometimes it’s just about learning that the fire doesn’t always need to be put out immediately, but left to be managed by allies who step up in your place. You know, like real allies who aren’t in it for the cookie.

Recording my own podcast tonight, I found myself breaking down at the end while discussing a somewhat traumatic recent event, and I had to ask my cohost if they could edit the show. I couldn’t even bring myself to deal with it on that level anymore. I needed escape from the world; into the arms of my husband, my partners, the innocent eyes of my kids who have no idea the kind of negativity from which I truly try to shield them… and yet, I can’t stop feeling like a failure for it. Nor can I stop feeling one when the next transphobic asshole thinks they’re being original with whatever apologetic they heard from someone else and thought it was brilliant.

I need to fight all I can, especially for those who aren’t in a position to do so, but I’m not in a good headspace at all. Things are getting to me, and even in writing this post with no intention of reading the comments, I’m stuck between keeping it to myself and fearing pointlessness. Or posting it and feeling pointlessness.

Maybe for a while, I need to let the other firefighters take a shift. I’ve been on the call for far too long. But if something is lost in the fire when I’m not there, I’ll never stop blaming myself.

So be it. I’m no good to anyone with a dead battery.

Marissa Explains It All #38 – Questioning

There was a bit of an altercation on a thread for one of my shows today, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around everything as best I can. Unfortunately, I’m left with more questions than answers, so I suppose this post will have me explaining my questions rather than divulging my usual way. Forgive the endless series of wonders that I’ll go through here, but I’m trying to reach for something tangible in all this.

On one of my podcasts, we spoke to a trans person who talked about having to go “undercover” as their assigned gender at birth while teaching in Zambia so as not to be put in jail for 14 years. A bad joke and a reference later, and I named the show after it, replacing part of a line from Toto’s “Africa” with our show catch phrase because… silly song, sarcastic reference, nothing bad intended.

On the thread for it this morning, it was called out for being racist, and I wanted to ask why. I wanted to understand how it was doing so. I’ve tried to do nothing but ask questions since, but I come up with more questions than answers, as I stated in the beginning.

Just as it’s not a cis person’s place to tell me when something is transphobic, it’s not my place to tell a POC whether something is or is not racist, which is why I asked if anything I did disparaged anyone. I was then explained the history of colonization and imperialism, about which I’m not familiar but again it’s not my place to question, and then the guest was reprimanded for “changing the topic” to LGBT oppression… on an LGBT show whose thread was an interview with someone who had to pretend they were someone they weren’t in order to help build schools in Zambia without going to jail.

I don’t understand how a reference to an admittedly problematic song reinforces racism, but I changed the name of the show because I don’t feel like I should tell someone it isn’t. But within the thread, it was stated more than once that all white people are racist, as they benefit from the systematic oppression of POC; the second part of which is of course demonstrably true.

I tried replacing some of the words to see if I could find something tangible to grab on to. As an Autistic person, sometimes I need to do that in order to process it, but I’m finding myself more lost the more I think about it. If we start with the idea that an entire group of people is automatically racist, where do we go from that? If we’re all grouped in with those who actively oppress, how do we work to improve that situation? I know we don’t rely on “I’m not racist, I do this,” but I always want to improve, be more educated, and try to be better than I was yesterday, and I don’t see a way to do that here.

I try to ask so that I can listen, because I don’t feel qualified to speak on these issues. You can be privileged in one area and not another, and that gives you a unique perspective on knowing when to speak and when not to. Where I don’t have cis or male privilege, I do have white privilege, and that’s important to recognize. When I’m asked about the murder rate of trans POC, I don’t feel qualified to speak on that topic because I don’t feel my voice is the one that needs to be platformed on that specific issue. I try to find others who speak from experience or better knowledge than I do.

I know the answer is to sometimes not speak at all, and I get that. When it comes to race issues, I don’t know that experience. I can definitely speak on trans issues though, and that’s what our show is specifically about. If the title was racist or evoked negativity in that way, I felt obligated to change it, whether or not I understood it. Again, not my place to decide.

But what do I do from here? I don’t want to be racist. I try my best not to do or say problematic things or support people who do, but where do I go from there. If we’re all automatically the same as the active oppressors, I don’t know where to go from that point, and I feel the need to distinguish between “I’m not racist, but…” and “I don’t want to be racist,” meaning if I am, I want to work toward not being so. I definitely want to be corrected, I definitely want to be educated, I definitely want to learn, but what do I do if there’s nothing to be done, or nothing I can do to escape it?

These are questions I don’t feel qualified to answer, and I hope I’m not being problematic in doing so. On one hand, I feel like if I said that all cis people benefit from cis privilege and are therefore transphobes, that would be very problematic, and I wouldn’t say that beyond the intentionally-joking manner of “hecking the cis.” I also acknowledge that those are not the same situations, but I’m trying to grasp them somehow so I can understand, learn, acknowledge, and grow.

And even in writing this, I’ve further confused myself. I actively admit this is beyond my understanding, and if I get told to stay in my lane, then I should. But I don’t know what to do while I’m there either, and that’s where I find the most confusion of all.

Marissa Explains it All #37 – What to Expect When You’re Questioning

Being a visible and openly trans activist as I am, I get emails or messages a lot from people who might be starting to question their gender, or loved ones of the questioning. While I am certainly willing to take as much time as necessary to have those messages, Skype calls, etc., I feel like I should put out a list of some of the things I say in these conversations, especially because I know for everyone who reaches out, there are many more who are afraid to initiate the conversation, afraid that I won’t have time to listen, or any other reason. Therefore, I’m publishing this post for those who may not feel able to talk to me, publicly or privately, and may be in a position of having gender questions.

NOTE: These pieces of advice are based on my own experience, my experiences with other trans people, the numerous interviews conducted therein, and the books I’ve read of other trans people. This is by no means a tell-all, answer-all guide, and before you make any major decisions, you should talk to a trusted, LGBT-friendly doctor so that you’re well aware of the risks, side effects, and other baggage that may go with this decision. I’m not a professional (at that, anyway), and do not claim to be an expert. Only someone with a lot of experience.

1. No matter how open-minded or gender-blind you think you are, there are societal influences, toxic thoughts, and other pressures you need to sort out in your head.

Our willful participation in this culture is not as manageable as your Facebook feed; meaning, you can’t always filter out what you don’t like or want. Culture, on a basic level, is learned behavior, and we don’t always choose what we learn on a subconscious level. You may have harmful perceptions of gender, relations, and how one should or does act that may detract from your experience. When you’re first starting to question your gender, a lot of those things are going to come up, possibly as reasons why you shouldn’t transition:

-I don’t want to be called by male/female/neutral pronouns because no one will ever respect that anyway.

-I don’t want to admit to myself that I’m trans because I see how the community is treated in certain parts of society.

-I don’t think I could ever go through with surgeries or HRT.

-I feel like there may not be a point in coming out or transitioning.

All of these are valid, and yet they’re sometimes defense mechanisms we’ve created to talk ourselves out of taking that leap. Make no mistake about it; these questions are difficult, deeply embedded in your consciousness, and may bring about thoughts and memories you wish they didn’t. However, once you get past all the reasons you think it’ll never work; Once you can sort all those in another folder, that is when you can truly start asking yourself the most important questions.

-Why am I questioning my gender?

-What does gender mean to me?

-How do I really feel?

-Who do I really think I am?

-Does it truly matter what anyone else thinks of it?

Once you can get to those without talking yourself out of even thinking about it, then you can truly start to learn who you are.

2. Your answers may change.

Coming out/being trans isn’t always as easy as “I always knew.” As much as some stories would like to have you think that, exploring and discovering your gender identity is a deep, long, and difficult experience, and the answer may change. I for one talked myself out of coming out numerous times, got scared and went back into the closet, then talked myself out of HRT, then talked myself out of surgery, and the list goes on. If you don’t feel like you can or want to go on hormones, you don’t have to to be valid. If you don’t feel like you could ever go through with surgery, fine! You don’t have to go through any procedure to be valid in who you are. Don’t let the outside world move the goalposts on you, because they will every chance they get. Maybe you’ll start in non-binary identities and move through them to the other side. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll go with it for a while and then “de-transition.” Maybe a non-binary identity is where your heart truly lies. And maybe that answer will change over time too! It doesn’t matter. This is your journey, and nobody can take that away from you. Nobody has more of a right to your identity than you do, despite what the anti-trans commentators would have you believe.

3. Don’t let concerns over being able to “pass” talk you out of embracing your identity.

Remember what I said about moving the goalposts. Some people will tell you the only way you can be valid in your trans-identity is by “passing” according to cisgender standards. Those who can stealth or not be visibly trans, that’s what some would like us to believe is the only valid way. You don’t owe anyone in this society, including yourself, blending in by cis standards. Your journey isn’t about them or living up to how they feel you should be adequately trans. Despite what some insecure people may think, our lives are not devoted to blending in to trick people into accidentally being attracted to trans people.

4. Give yourself time, distance, and recovery.

Being online and trans sucks sometimes.

By that, I mean if you’re like me, not a day goes by where someone in your Facebook feed, or one of their friends, doesn’t have something shitty to say about trans people. Even the proudest among us, it gets to us after a while. Allow yourself time away. Allow yourself space to recover. Take time away from those toxic arguments. You’re not obligated to speak up if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to chime in on every douchebag who says an inappropriate thing. Trust me, that urge is there, and gets magnified if you get into activism. Be proud, be as loud as you feel safe being, but don’t feel like you have to rebut every terrible argument. None of us have the time for that. Right now, I’m on a self-imposed Facebook ban until I get back home from a weekend getaway. I imposed this ban on myself because getting into too many arguments and/or constantly trying to validate or justify my humanity and right to my identity finally caught up with me. And if you’ve listened to any of my shows, you know I yell a lot. Give yourself that time away; we all need time to recover, recharge, and distance ourselves from the toxic opinions of those who may never understand us.

5. You don’t owe cis people anything.

This is the main reason I’ve been on hiatus: Defending this ideal. Whether it’s people who think we owe them our trans status immediately, or those who feel entitled to answered questions at any time, no matter how invasive they are, you don’t owe anybody anything. Nobody is entitled to your time. Nobody is entitled to your body. Nobody has the right to demand something from you that you’re not ready to give them.

6. You’re not obligated to fit someone else’s standards of masculinity/femininity/etc.

When my husband got deeper into his transition, he started wearing makeup and short shorts again. At a point, he was afraid to, because he felt he had to live up to some standard of masculinity that he’d felt influenced by. Dispel yourself of that toxic bullshit as quickly as possible. You can be a trans woman and wear jeans and a t-shirt. You can be a trans man and wear makeup and like cute things. You can be non-binary and still associate with things you liked before you came out. Let yourself like things because you like them, not because you think you should.

7. You will hear every stupid argument, no matter how long you’re out and no matter how much you try to avoid them.

Here, I’ll knock a few out right now… Not disclosing trans status is dishonest. Trans is a fad. Trans was made up by Tumblr in 2009. There are only two genders. You can’t change gender. Chromosomes. DNA. Science. You’re still x no matter what. You’re a distraction. You’re sick. You need help. Trans is a mental illness. Trans people have magic, gender-bending mindpowers because they’re sorcerers whose mission in life is to spread the trans and play volleyball in the face of mocking god.

Okay, maybe that last one is true. The rest are absolute bullshit mostly perpetuated by people who aren’t trans, don’t know anyone who is trans, don’t know the first thing about being trans or HRT or anything else, or do have some of those things and still perpetuate harm to others. Fuck them.

I say this often: I’m openly trans because I want to be, not because I feel obligated to be so in order to make others more comfortable. I was transitioning five months before I came out publicly. It’s none of their business. This journey is about you. Figure out who you are, figure out what you want, and find your own identity. You don’t have to accept what others tell you that you are. You don’t have to accept the naysaying in the back of your mind that tells you you’ll never be valid/accepted/passing/trans-enough/etc. Make this journey because you want to. Make this discovery because you want to. Be who you are because you want to… Not because others feel entitled to that information or your answers to their questions.

I regret nothing about who I am. I only wish I’d had access to the information I did much earlier in life. I would’ve transitioned over a decade ago if I’d known that was an option. Be sure to talk to people you trust. Don’t risk your life, house, job, or safety over it if you can help it. Read or listen to things that other trans people have said. Those who put it out there, myself included, partially do so in order to try to help make it easier on trans people coming out after we do. Trans stories are as varied as trans people themselves, and I hope your story gives you the happy answers and experiences that my journey has for me. You deserve happiness, respect, and the freedom to be who you are, and don’t ever let anyone, including yourself, convince you otherwise.

And, of course, reach out if you feel like you need to. I’m on Facebook (except this weekend) at Marissa Alexa McCool, Twitter @RisMcCool, Instagram @littlegirlrissy, Snapchat @rissymonster, or you can email me at rismcwriting@gmail.com. I always try to answer as many and as quickly as possible, and there are plenty of other openly trans people who are willing to answer your questions when they can. Don’t be afraid to find out who you are because of what you’re worried may happen. Find out. It’s worth it. Even with all the pain, negative things, and societal attachments that come with being openly trans, I don’t regret a thing. I just need time to take care of myself sometimes.

Don’t we all?

 

Marissa Explains It All #36 – Defaulting to Apathy

Written One Year Ago: July 25th, 2016.

Put your political allegiance and ideology aside for a few minutes here, before you read what I’m about to say. It’s easy to blame the media and government for what happens, but I want you to consider an alternate explanation for something that’s going on right now. 

There are just a lot of people in this country who love to bitch. They love to bitch about what’s not happening, what’s not getting done, and what’s not going right. But they’re also the ones who bitch about anything that anyone does in order to help things go right, to fix an issue, to try to get something done. No matter what it is or who says it, they call everyone who thinks about it an idiot and criticize any idea proposed and anyone who tries to propose them. 

The default position in this country is not right or left, it’s stagnation. It’s not liberal or conservative, it’s willful ignorance. It’s celebrating the lack of not having any attachment or taking a stand on anything, and thus equating the act of not participating to the right to bitch and complain about everything, somehow believing that is the hard position to take. 

It’s not. Not taking a stand or commitment to any stance, any ideology, any event, any controversy, is the easy way out. It’s the way to not have to think about things. It’s the way to complain about things without having an alternate solution, or being called on for one, for that matter. We celebrate ignorance in this society, from an education perspective as well as an awareness one. You’re too political if you care about something going on, you’re shaming, ranting, sharing propaganda, influenced by the media, sheeple, a libtard, Republitard, or any other ableist name that makes people think they’re being clever and original, all the while using deflecting tactics to avoid having a thought. 

I’d rather have a conversation with someone closed-minded who commits to an opinion than an open-minded person who takes a stance on nothing. For all the complaining we get about the oligarchy, political stagnation, the two-party system, crumbling infrastructure, or anything else that we use to blame government as if it’s a big fuck-all building with people in monocles twisting their mustache and guffawing. And the people who complain about their inefficiency are also convinced that they’re responsible for making every tragic event in this country a conspiracy cover-up, or saying that it’s distracting us from what’s really going on. They can’t do anything right, except orchestrate mass cover-ups and diversionary tactics that everyone but them believes. That makes sense

On top of that, anyone who comes along who wants to do something about the system is derided, called a wasted vote, not taken seriously, and not given any chance to have a snowball’s chance in hell in the general, and anyone who opts for those who are trying to change the system are derided for equating the support of an independent, a Libertarian, a Green, a Whig, a Free Soil, a Know-Nothing, a Communist, a Socialist, a Pikachu, an Abnegation, a Hufflepuff, a Mystic, a Gamma, an Ajah, a Prole, a Blue Meanie, a Goonie, a Thuggee, a Greaser, a Na’Vi, a Fire Bender, a Morelock, a Rohirrim, a Hooman, a Brotherhood without Banners, a Democratic Republican, a Republican Democrat, a Crystal Gem, a Vox Populi, a Scav, or even Vermin Supreme who might just be insane enough to challenge President Whitmore on the next ticket because hello boys I’m back and all, are tossed aside before the election even begins, given no platform or opportunity, because a majority of people who claim to be dissatisfied with the system and hate everyone also are against anything that changes the status quo. After all, that’s easier, requires less effort, and has less uncertainty. Who knows what you might get from a Morelock, they’re crazy man, and without Team Red or Team Blue to choose, how would you identify yourself and save face at that thing where people congregate and discuss stuff

So don’t tell those who are trying something different to shut up and go away, or to just vote for your person because you fear the other, as if only two people are running for President or should even be considered. Give them a voice, give them a chance, and put them in the debates and on the tickets so they’re not just a strange name no one’s ever heard when you reach the booth. And don’t write them and their supporters off the minute you hear about them because you fear the big fuck-all candidate, whoever that may be at the time. Voting out of fear seldom leads to anything good.

Remember, the person considered the best president in our country’s history was running from a party that had only been formed four years prior, against three candidates resulting from other split parties over a tremendous issue, and he won with 39 percent of the vote. I’d say Mr. Lincoln turned out all right for this country.

If all we do is complain, but keep electing the same people that have a 9-percent approval rating and do nothing of consequence to change the system everyone hates, then we need to stop pretending that not doing anything gives us full, criticism-free platforms from which to bitch and moan all the time. Just like a coach or an unpopular foreign group, government and media are consolidated into a big thing that we just like to yell about, and if that’s all we’re going to do, at least be honest about it. “I don’t like the way things are, but if I try to change it, I might have to find something new to bitch about, so I’ll pick the lesser of two evils, whomever that may be, because that’s better than actually thinking and taking action. And more fun.” 

There’s so much bullshit and hyperbole in politics that selling it on a four-year cycle of elections gets ratings and media profits through the roof. They’re not the ones who created it, they’re the farmer filling the trough because it’s empty every day and it somehow remains a bottomless pit. If scaring the shit out of people and pitting them against each other was ever unprofitable, it wouldn’t dominate every second of media because that’s not how businesses work. If people truly didn’t get a smug satisfaction and sense of Shadenfreude out of it, it wouldn’t exist. It’s only a reflection of what the consumers want, and election rhetoric from the major political parties is a mirror of the times as well. 

If you don’t like it, let’s start doing things to change the system and challenge people to step up. Or, at the very least, stop casting aside those who do. it doesn’t make you superior to not care or pretend that you’re above it all, so stop acting like it does, and stop giving credence to people who do nothing but complain no matter what happens. The Undecideds aren’t the noble among us, carefully weighing every single platform until the last second, because anyone who doesn’t commit to anything or can’t make up their mind doesn’t get the privilege of calling everyone else a sheeple. Sorry.

Marissa Explains it All #35 – Let People Feel

Whether it’s Chester Bennington, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, or any other person in the mainstream awareness that passes away from these circumstances, the same responses are always so irritatingly prevalent.

“You didn’t know them, stop pretending like you did.”
“Suicide is the coward’s way out.”
“He abandoned his family.”
“Permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
“Fuck them, I didn’t like their work anyway.”

I’m curious why it is so many people seem determined to remove the agency of how people feel from the conversation. What is it about feelings, especially surrounding one of the most difficult situations a person can deal with, that causes others to speak up about how others shouldn’t feel a certain way?

As I described in the last blog, I recently went through the loss of a friend of 14 years, the 18th person I’ve known in my life to have left via suicide. This was shortly before Chester Bennington of Linkin Park resurrected the same conversation I hear as mentioned above, so my feelings are still sort of raw on the topic, and I’ve had to avoid a lot of threads based on that.

What I can’t understand is how some people seem determined to not let anyone feel or grieve, whether it’s because they didn’t care about the person’s work, or because they’re unwilling to acknowledge the impact artists can have on our lives.

I had this conversation a lot when Robin Williams passed, and the graphics and memes were passed around where people were mourning. Whether it was because of the Genie, Good Will Hunting, his standup, or any of his other endeavors, he touched a lot of lives. And there was, as mentioned, the usual offputting responses of “He took the easy way out,” “You didn’t know him, why do you care?” etc.

I think you have to wrap yourself in a layer of ignorance to not think that artists can impact our daily lives. You’ve seen pictures of my library. You’ve heard my interviews with podcasters and activists. Some I consider friends at this point, but they all started out as people who influenced me, or whose voices were prevalent in my life. Losing one of them would be devastating, because their voice or words were a part of me, even if it wasn’t an interpersonal connection.

For many of us who grew up in the late 90s, Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” managed to capture an essence of rebellious youth, of suffering, of being angry and not necessarily knowing why. It was my entire freshman year, especially being in and out of the hospital. Granted, I moved on from it rather quickly, especially when an album of remixes came out. It didn’t catch me anymore, but for that brief moment in time, that screaming and raw emotion captured my inner conflict of the time.

That level of angst was so real for many of us, especially post-9/11 when those of us who were social outcasts were singled out and pushed away. I didn’t last an entire school year after that happened, partially because I wasn’t interested in conforming to my elitist school’s image of what a student should be. Many of us were pushed out the same way. That’s part of what “Voice in the Dark” (available now at rismccool.com and free to patrons at patreon.com/RisMC or patreon.com/incitingincidentpodcast) was really trying to recapture; a time in my life where it seemed like the management was more interested in pushing us away for not wanting to fit a certain model of a student or citizen.

But sometimes, someone who speaks up about those things the most ends up losing their battle with mental illness. Then people call them a coward or someone who abandoned their family or a quitter or a piece of shit for leaving people behind, and you stand there and wonder… “Gee, I can’t imagine why people don’t speak up about these feelings when they have them.” When you stigmatize mental illness, or refer to anyone on anti-depressants as weak, crazy, or say that they just need to go outside, the world can feel empty and alone. People don’t want to reach out for help because they don’t want to be belittled, insulted, or condescended to. Or even worse, proselytized.

I sat through the funeral for a friend recently, and I saw little to no reflection of who my friend was. Instead I heard about Jesus and heaven and the same stories we’ve always heard, but I went there to remember my friend. I cannot emphasize that enough. I kept my mouth shut, even though I know when I’m being stared at (it was a Catholic service), but this was like Aiden’s grandmother’s service. Thirty seconds on his grandmother, 29 minutes and 30 seconds on Jesus and the rapture and going to heaven and salvation.

Maybe it’s because I was raised in a family where you talked about and celebrated the person when they passed, but this seems so foreign to me. I didn’t get that experience of remembering the person until a bunch of us who were friends back in the day sat around a table at the diner and reminisced, laughed, and even teased. To me, that’s always been how to remember someone, and I wish more of that was incorporated into remembrances such as that. I’d rather remember my friend who was an amazing musician than what Jesus said about X. I’d rather acknowledge that he thought he was way better at martial arts than he was, which led to him getting dumped on his ass a few times, than hear about how God called him home because X. It seems so fake, and more to convince people that they shouldn’t be sad because they lost someone because better tomorrow or something.

I mean no disrespect to anyone for whom that is a comfort, but distracting from what’s going on, in my experience, has never been a healthy method of coping. Remembering who the person was and what they meant to you? That’s how you learn to accept what has happened, and remember them fondly.

But yet, we don’t allow people to feel this way when it comes to the death of an artist or celebrity, because you didn’t meet them or know them, so that means you’re not allowed to feel. Feelings are constantly invalidated by those others who are uncomfortable with them, because god forbid things are being discussed that don’t involve you, or are about someone you didn’t personally admire.
Whether it’s about the death of a celebrity, our experience as LGBT people, or anything else that anyone has to deal with, there’s always someone out to tell us what is more important that we’re not focusing on, what is more important than whatever it is being discussed. “Why do you care about X when Y is happening and nobody’s talking about it?”

And usually, whichever Y is, they don’t do anything about it. They only want to stop the conversation, pat themselves on the back for pretending to care about an issue, and then move on like nothing happened because conversation about feelings outside of their box made them uncomfortable, and we can’t be having that shit going on.

Feel what you feel. If an artist meant something to you, celebrate their presence in your life. If a writer captures your imagination, you’re under no obligation to pretend that meant nothing to you when they pass. And for the love of everything, don’t invalidate how someone feels upon their passing just because it isn’t how you feel. We have to deal with that enough without adding grief to something that can’t be expressed without being explained to why it’s wrong and being constantly invalidated.

Marissa Explains it All #34 – Coping With Loss

For those of you who have followed me long enough to have heard Inciting Incident #30, pre-transition and all, you’ll know that I’ve had a long history with suicide in my life. I wrote a movie about it in 2015, and that was the first of many times I’d use the song “I Believe.”

18. 18 people. That’s how many I’ve known since the first time I lost an acquaintance that way in ninth grade. An ex-neighbor, a co-worker, a friend, a tag team partner, an ex-girlfriend, and so many others make up the rest of that list. However, this one was probably the toughest one I’ve ever had to deal with; not just because it was someone I’d known for 14 years, not just because of the family he left behind, but because thinking about it made me realize how much of an influence this guy had in my life.

Brian and I went back to 2003, when I first started hanging out with new people again. At that point in my life, I’d made the mistake of returning from Florida so soon because I was homesick. Or rather, friendsick. What else could you expect from someone who was supposed to be in their junior year of high school but had graduated instead?

Brian was one of many I met at another Brian’s birthday party. The other Brian had been my friend since sixth grade and went through junior high with me. However, he’d gone to the Catholic high school in our area as opposed to mine, and therefore had found a completely new circle of friends. With me having returned, he brought me into that circle, which included this Brian.

He and I became close a few months later, when I went to the junior prom with them, and attended the YMCA lock-in afterward. I remember well how he and I sat against a wall talking while his date slept on him. He was the first of many friends with whom I had a lot in common personality-wise, but were extremely different in philosophy and life experience. It made for interesting conversations, disagreements, and even fallings out at several points in our lives.

As I’ve been slowly remembering different ways he was involved in my life, I’ve been struggling with tensions in many places. He introduced me to my favorite band, among many others, could do a dead-on Denis Leary impression, shared many sleepovers and events, was in my first wedding, and also capitulated my first serious relationship ending.

That’s been my biggest point of struggle: remembering that things were far from copacetic over the years we knew each other. We mended fences a few years ago, and I’m grateful for that especially now, but I’ve been feeling guilty for the fact that at two distinct points in my life, he did a terrible thing to me. I don’t need to go into what they were, because that’s not the point of this column, but I’ve been fighting the guilt demon for also thinking about those points in our time together.

At funerals and times of remembrance, you’re supposed to talk about the good things and reflect on the person fondly, right? Especially under these circumstances, with leaving a little girl behind and a grieving family, isn’t it a disservice to remember that he also betrayed your trust?

It’s also true though that those friendships that go through some struggle and issues are the ones that become stronger in the end. Did that happen with ours? Possibly. I can’t say for sure, but I do know we came to a new point of understanding before our friendship met its untimely end last week.

My relationship with this friend was tumultuous longer than it was stable. We were co-workers, roommates, and close friends; but at points, we were also in arguments, disagreements, betrayals, blow-ups, and periods of silence.

That’s life though. More relationships you have will have unpleasant parts than not. But it doesn’t resolve the feeling of guilt when remembering those times when they pass away, especially in such a manner and under such circumstances. Intellectually, you know there’s nothing you could’ve done. Logically, you know there’s nothing you could’ve done.

But then you remember that the last time you saw each other, you promised to catch up. You remember that you could’ve reached out at a couple points, and somehow missed each other. You find out that there was a lot going on that you missed because of your travel schedule and other engagements, and feel like the worst friend on the planet for having no idea of what was transpiring.

Such is the untimely loss of a friend.

Tonight, I’ll be attending his viewing. There’s a lot of religiosity and conservatism in this family, and the funeral tomorrow will be a full Catholic service. Those things would make me uncomfortable before I transitioned, but right now, with the way things are and the atmosphere in which we live, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not somewhat uneasy knowing how I might be received since almost no one attending this service will have seen me since I started transitioning.

It’s not about me, and I’m not going for them. The same as I know I couldn’t have changed the outcome, even if he had reached out. But that doesn’t change the guilt I feel, the heartbreak I’m experiencing, and the fear of facing those that either didn’t know or don’t agree with it. I don’t feel that’s unreasonable. It’s acknowledging that while good things may take place, and there will certainly be those, potentially bad things may also occur. It’s not pessimistic, it’s realistic to consider both sides of the equation.

Just the same as you have to do with a friendship when it comes to an end in such fashion. It’s not unfair to the person who passed if you remember the bad times along with the good, because that’s how they’re a person. To gloss over that is to disregard part of your story together. Just because it’s come to an end doesn’t mean you tear that chapter out of the book.

That being said, it’s going to be hard to read through that chapter when you pick up that book again, no matter how much you know that it doesn’t make you a bad person for doing so. The only thing you can really do is make the best of the situation, and try to be there for those who are hurting worse than you are.

But this one hurts. Badly. Damn, man. I wish I knew you were feeling such pain.

Help Brian’s Family – https://www.gofundme.com/brian-johns-memorial-fund
Brian’s Obit – http://cumberlink.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/brian-michael-johns/article_d9234ffa-2c1d-57ac-9c73-2c37ae1fc063.html
Permanent Solution (2015) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DosOKXMvpk