The last post I made on this blog was written out of obligation. As I wrote there, “I honestly don’t have much to write about here. I know that I should, and that is why I am, but I really don’t.” I have a few other, completely unrelated posts front-loaded that just need to be finished, and not one of them was this post. I didn’t think I would write this post, not because I expected the worst, but because I had no idea that the best even existed.
What I received on August 2nd, 2019 was the greatest outpouring of love from friends, family, acquaintances, students, and near-and-total strangers that I have ever received. Not that I have ever felt wholly unloved, or unappreciated–though I’ve come close to such feelings before, I have been blessed with both love and appreciation throughout my life–but rather, I’ve never felt such genuine love from so many at once.
This is going to be somewhat of a different post from others I’ve written, as up to now, I’ve never written a post directly addressed to the people reading it. This blog has always been for me, I’ve just slowly let others in on the inner dialogue. That, and in addition to the small cohort of internet folk who’ve already accessed this blog (actually, over 5000 now! 😲), my readership now includes everyone I’ve known personally and everyone from my hometown and beyond (yes, I see you stalking me–why not just add me ☺️). It’s a strange, interesting mix of populations, but I think both can benefit from a post like this, so here it is.
When I started this blog, I never imagined where I would be now. I was embittered from years of bullying, culturally-normalized homo- and transphobia, and absolute hopelessness. I felt I had never had any control over my own life, and that I was doomed to always be an “other” who, at best, was always to be on the outside looking in. I was made fun of relentlessly growing up, to the point that I had internalized those same behaviors and perpetuated them towards others. In a word, I as a total nihilist.
I remember seeing the comic used as the featured image for this post a few years back, and resenting it for its lack of authenticity. “Surely,” thought my dark little self, “this is parody. And if not, surely,” I allowed myself to continue, “this person is from somewhere like California, and therefore has no idea how privileged they are.”
Turns out, Julia Kaye (the magnificent trans artist whom I shamelessly stole the afforementioned image from) is from California, but the rest was just my own self-pity. I simply couldn’t envisage a world where such a response was real. Even up to the minute I clicked “post” for myself, I had no faith in the possibility of such a thing.
Sadly, that lack of faith came from a (completely and utterly unjustified) loss of faith in the culture that surrounded me, and admittedly, the people of that culture. I’m not especially proud to admit that in a post which is both meant to be completely positive and aimed at those very people, but hear me out. I promise we’ll circle back around.
I grew up in a time and place where “gay,” “queer,” and “fag” were totally normal, and even casual, insults. If something was dumb, stupid, or generally unwanted? Gay. In football, we played a game called “smear the queer” where one person had to run with the ball as everyone else tried to tackle him. In fact, for those two words in particular, I learned those meanings looong before I had any inkling as to their actual meanings related to sexuality. Admittedly, “fag” was a bit more nuanced, but I eventually caught on.
So commonplace were these words that they were even used among friends as friendly insults. Not that people were generally friendly when they applied them to me.
While homophobia was rampant among the kids my age in the 90s/2000s, the adults were no better. Homosexuality was a disease, one which could easily be contracted by prolonged exposure to liberals (yes, “liberal” was another word that I learned first as a word for “bad,” and only later as a political definition); the only known way to prevent it was through mocking and hatred, both in the pulpit and at the dinner table.
I’ve been relatively coy about personal details in this blog, but I am from the state of Kim Davis, whom many lauded as a hero of religious freedom, and of Mitch McConnell, whom in all likelihood is (inexplicably) going to be re-elected for his seventh term in the US Senate.
Depending on where you met me and your own history with the state, you may be angered at the tone I have used when discussing the culture of my home state of Kentucky. Perhaps you think my representation of it is unfair, or simply incorrect. Or, perhaps you have been similarly affected by it (or one of the surrounding states), and simply nod in tacit agreement. Those from Reddit and beyond who come from other parts of the Union or other countries entirely might find it a curiosity, though I doubt your lot is entirely shocked. Unless, of course, you know me personally and come from elsewhere. I imagine you are thoroughly confused by now.
Anyone who has ever met me outside of my home state knows that I won’t shut up about the place, but unlike on this blog, my actual spoken word is one of love. I love Kentucky, and I love being Kentuckian. In my second post on this blog, I wrote that “while this region of the US gets a bad name in other parts of the Union, I actually love where I am from, and am proud to be from there. It’s a great, honest place, and better than it is portrayed to be.” So why the disconnect?
Because my feelings toward home are complicated. For every good thing I think of Kentucky, I can cite an equally terrible one.
Unfortunately (and here is where I am finally bringing it back around), my own difficult history with the place darkened my view of its people. Sure, I had seen a lot of good, but I had also personally experienced a lot of bad. When I decided to finally come out on Facebook, it was more out of necessity to move on with my life than any actual hope of being accepted by many more than the relatively few I was already out to.
I was so wrong.
I received so many comments on my post, so many friend adds (both on Facebook and beyond), so many direct messages…I don’t even know how to talk about it, honestly. But I’ll do my best.
Thank you. Thank you all so, so much. I was suicidal for years because I thought I would never be accepted for who I am; my unfair loss of faith in those around me had led to a horrible loss of faith in myself. Or perhaps it was the other way around, but really, who cares now. “Transgender,” unlike “fag,” wasn’t even a word on people’s tongues when I was younger. I thought I was a freak, even as recently as a year ago. On the grand cosmic scale, being kind to me on August 2nd was really a very small gesture; on the scale of my own cosmology, however, it was a part of one of the single most massive shifts I have ever experienced.
And for the record, I’m not deluding myself into thinking that I have received acceptance from all those around me who now know. Some of my own family members, in fact, regularly share extremely homo-/transphobic memes and imagery on Facebook (I do so hope they are reading this and enjoy the shout out). But I will say many, many concerned friends and family messaged me after I made my post in order to check in on me and ask if anyone had been “shitty” yet. And you know what? Not a single person has been. Even the most overtly prejudiced among my “friends” list have “tended to their own rat killin’,” to use the vernacular of my homeland.
For those of you who are reading this who are not yet out and who find themselves in a situation which feels unfavorable or even hopeless, please don’t lose faith. Yes, there are terrible people and toxic cultures out there, but like Kentucky itself, there’s a lot of good, too. A lifetime of living under shadow might lead you to look at this post with disdain, as I once looked at Julia Kaye’s work, but that simply makes the light all the more incredible, when at last you spot it.