My family doesn’t own very traditional pets. I have a brother who is allergic to cats and dogs and he has asthma on top of it, compounding the issues he could face from those allergies. Instead we have chickens; a small flock of spunky twats who will wait for you in the morning from the windows and follow you into the garage because they know the treats are stored in there.
On June 21st one of our little egg layers, Mable, passed away. She was an old bird and her death received more fanfare probably than that of most chickens, but these chickens are really the only pets my family has really ever known. A few days later, we picked up six baby chicks. Needless to say, my hands have been full caring for these new additions to our family and overcoming the feelings of loss of Mable.
All of these events have had me thinking about life and death lately. I’m not a religious person, nor do I find myself particularly distressed regarding the concept of death and the finality of all things. What I have been thinking about, however, is how for many people in my life, especially my family, my transition is viewed as the death of the person they knew; a slow death as I come to work with them, make dinner for them and write awful short-stories about people living in the woods. And it’s a death that they don’t get to say goodbye to. There isn’t a funeral for the person I was, for that person in the photographs. There are no flowers. No sympathy cards. It’s a death that hardly anybody can relate to, because most people don’t even know they’ve ever met someone who is transgender. There’s a saying about death that discusses the death of your body and the death of your memory, how you die once when you stop breathing and a second time when somebody says your name for the last time. For people like my family, they have to deal with that death in reverse; grappling with the death of my memory while my body lives on, pleading for them to stop saying my deadname and let me go.
I wish I knew what to say to these people, or had the superpower to just make things easier. But I don’t think it’s fair for trans people like me to absorb this grief; I think that positions the trans person as being “at fault” for who they are. I think a better step for those grieving in this way would be to reframe their feelings over a trans person’s transition. The person that they’re mourning is a projection of someone who didn’t really exist in the first place, and that person who is writing those awful short-stories about people living in the woods is finally taking the steps they need to be happy. For us, transitioning is a rebirth into the person we are on the inside. Let’s celebrate the birth of that person instead of mourning who came before them.
I don’t have much more to say that won’t resort into ramblings, so I’m going to end this post with a quote by Alan Watts so it can go out on that meaningful note.
“Nothing is more creative than death, since it is the whole secret of life. It means the past must be abandoned, that the unknown cannot be avoided, that ‘I’ cannot continue, and that nothing can be ultimately fixed. When a man knows this, he lives for the first time in his life. By holding his breath, he loses it. By letting go he finds it.”