There are moments in life that change us. Define us. I’m not talking about the obvious ones - near death experiences, births, those kinds of things. I’m talking about small moments. Moments that, to others, are inconsequential.
2009 was a particularly hard year for me. In 2009, Dan died. Dan was the first transperson I’d ever met. It was Dan who showed me I wasn’t bound by what “nature” had given me. It was Dan who showed me I could be more. I lost touch with him for a few years, but I never stopped thinking about him. When I finally got around to looking him up, I was too late. He had passed away of a massive heart attack the month before. One month. Exactly 30 days. I had taken 30 days too long. He never got to see me as an out-and-proud transman. He never knew I’d taken my transname as Daniel in honor of him. From that day on, I vowed to live my life in a way that he might’ve been proud of. To do the best I could, every day. To stay strong under the always mighty strain of being transgender, of being out. I vowed to stand up and stand out. I don’t know if he’d be proud of me or not. Some days, I think probably not.
2009 was also the year I lost Ginger. To some people, Ginger was just a dog. But to me, Ginger was my heart and soul. I was never maternal before Ginger. For a while, when I lived as woman, I saw my lack of maternal instinct as a horrible failure. Every female I knew could handle children. Every female I knew knew how to cuddle and coo, and how to kiss boo-boos. Me? Children revolted me. But then, in 2005, the SPCA brought in this emaciated, beaten up dog. Our doctor wanted to kill it. Seemed like the most humane thing to do. But then the dog looked up at me. She hadn’t raised her head or responded to anyone else. But she looked at me. Something in me shifted. I begged the surgeon to try to save her life. Several months later, she came home with me. Though I was still struggling with my gender, I’d finally found my maternal instinct. I doted on her left and right, allowing her to get away with things our other dogs didn't. She became my constant companion, and I referred to her as "my little girl" in conversation. No doubt a few people thought she was human. In 2009, she passed away in her sleep from heart failure. Something in me died that night, too. I’ve never felt the same about anyone - human or beast - since. It’s just not in me. I still say "my daughter died in 2009."
Sometimes, I dream of her. I dreamt of her last night, actually. That’s what prompted this post. When I dream of her, all that maternal stuff comes rushing back to me, but I can’t hold onto it. It’s gone when I wake. It breaks my heart to write about her. As I sit here, I’m typing through blurry, tear-filled eyes. But I’m thankful for the time I had - for what she showed me of myself, even if I can’t see it anymore.
In 2009, I accepted my first publishing contract. It wasn’t just a moment of pride. It was a moment of vindication. All my life, I’d been told I’d never amount to anything, especially in writing. Writing was a waste of time and I should put it away. So as I stared at that contract, with my signature on it - you can’t imagine the feeling. Four months later, the publisher went out of business. In the space of a moment, my dreams - everything I’d worked for, everything I’d battled for - was gone. It changed me, though. Made me even more tenacious - something I’d not thought possible. It hardened me, too, to a degree.
For a while, those moments stopped. Nothing particularly life-changing. Oh, things have happened, certainly. But they’d been things I took in stride as just another part of life. Just a thing to be dealt with, overcome.
Last year, I went to my first writing conference - GayRomLit. I didn’t interact with the other authors and readers much. The trip, for me, was more about proving my own self-reliance. I went places by myself. I braved things I’d been terrified of. Like birds. I know, it sounds silly for someone to say they’d been terrified of birds. But I have good reason. Growing up, my grandmother had a bird aviary. I’m talking an actual aviary. The thing was the size of half a house. She had tons of birds in it - cockatiels, parakeets, canaries, quail. Tons. More than she should’ve had. And none of the birds were socialized. Every Sunday, when I went over, my “job” was to feed the birds. Feed consisted of bird seed and meal worms. Life meal worms.
I was forced, every Sunday, to walk through the aviary throwing food. The birds would rush up to the sides of the cages, squawking and screaming, fighting with each other. The aviary was dirty - roaches would skitter away when you opened the door. The smell of bird waste was enough to make your throat burn. I had asthma, so of course, every time I left, I was sick. So yeah. There’s no love lost between me and birds. But last year, I faced birds. I went to the New Orleans Aquarium, and they have a place called Parakeet Pointe. You buy a stick covered in food, and walk out into a giant room full of birds, who then descend upon you to get the food. I survived without pissing my pants or making a giant ass of myself, and even managed to get some photos. Defining moment indeed.
Then this week, I had another defining moment. I’m still not sure what this moment has meant for me. I'm not sure what it has done to me.
I guess for most people, Facebook is just a place to go to keep up with what other people are doing. I guess for most people, it's just fun and games. For me, it's the only real interaction I have with people who are like me - other writers, other transpeople, other people taking care of sick spouses. I don't have a "real life" social life. I have Facebook. So, I take my relationships on FB very seriously. I hurt when my friends hurt. I laugh when they laugh. I share stories about them with my husband. I've met some of them in person, but most I haven't. But I love them regardless. I see the beauty in them, behind that screen. Sure, I know some people are fake on the Internet. I'm not stupid. But I also know some people aren't.
There's been a lot of online nastiness in the writing industry recently, specifically in the m/m industry. Lots of name-calling. Lots of smear campaigns. Lost of lies and mud being flung. For the most part, I'd stayed out of the firefight. I'll speak my mind, but nobody really goes after me. I'm not significant enough to anyone, and frankly people forget about me. No, it's true. Deny it all you want, but I've been through thirty-something years of life with people repeatedly forgetting I existed. So I know it happens. I've seen it online. "DC Juris? Oh, yeah! I always forget about him!" Yeah.
Last month. I started receiving messages from people, telling me this person had said that about me, that person had told this lie, etc. I answered them with honesty and I was glad the people had come to me to ask me to clear things up. I was baffled about why I'd been targeted, and not a little upset about it all.
Then, this week, it was suggested that someone I cared for deeply had been behind it all. I was devastated. Utterly wrecked. I couldn't believe that person had been so malicious. So cruel. I had trusted them. As it turns out, I managed to find the truth, and I know now who I can trust and who I can't.
And it got me to thinking about Facebook, and the whole online experience, and my... well, I'll just admit it - my dependency on it. Up until last month, I had seen FB as a safe place. A haven. A place where I could be me, and damn the consequences, because there were none. These people were just like me - they accepted me. They liked me!
Come to find out, I was little more than the stupid kid being made fun of by the popular kids. Not everyone was who they seemed to be. People I had liked turned out to be against me.
I've logged on a couple times since the revelations. Facebook isn't the same for me. I'm uncertain who to trust. Should I let everyone see my status, or only certain people? Will what I say be thrown back in my face later? Will it be twisted so that it's not even what I said?
I feel guilty for not trusting certain people. What kind of a friend am I, to question them? What kind of person trades their loyalty so quickly? Why didn't I just say "Pfft - yeah right!" and brush it off? I feel guilty for upsetting them, for adding to anything they might have been already dealing with. I feel embarrassed for being tricked into revealing certain feelings about certain people - feelings I've no business feeling, and feelings that can only lead to awkwardness. I feel stupid for being drawn into any of it in the first place. I'm a grown-ass adult. I feel stupid for my inability to just let it go.
It's all changed now. It's all different. I'm different. And I don't know exactly how far the ramifications go. Right now, all I want to do is curl up in a virtual ball, and stay away from everyone. That's not fair to the people who haven't hurt me. It's like I'm saying "You'll get around to hurting me, eventually." That's not how I feel. I'm certain of them. I just am so tired of the fighting and the name-calling and the mud slinging. I spent my entire childhood being called names left and right. Being told I was worthless. I just wanted one place where that would never, ever happen. And why should I have to give up my dear friends in order to avoid all that?
I want to jump up and down and scream "THIS ISN'T FAIR!!!!"