Victim in Pain

Why am I the one going insane? Why am I the one to blame?

That line from Victim in Pain by Agnostic Front has always stuck with me. It was a very apt description of my situation towards the end of high school: I was the one to blame for the bullying by classmates and teachers, because my behavior was out of line. Even my parents took this stance. There was no discussion of disciplining the students harassing me, but there were plenty of “interventions” to try to get me to man up. These interventions had actually been going on since I was a little boy, so it was magical thinking to believe it would suddenly be different, but that’s how people think.

Ironically, during this same period of time I was involved in the only all-male community which I ever intentionally sought out, which was the hardcore music scene. This was during the transition from “hardcore punk” (think Circle Jerks) which was actually pretty much indistinguishable from punk, to “hardcore” as its own genre – for any 90’s readers I have, all those bands you love on Bridge 9 are just trying to sounds like Blood for Blood, who themselves were just trying to sound like early Wrecking Crew, Sick of it All, and Youth of Today, but were late to the party.

There was a particularly exciting period of about a year when all the hardcore dance moves that later became codified were still being developed – windmills, picking up pennies, spin kicks etc. There was a group of men from Connecticut in particular, who would go to shows in both Boston and New York, who did a lot to spread the new dance style around one summer. Exciting times!

As I mentioned in a recent post, the skinheads got fed up with me at a certain point and made it clear I was no longer welcome. As far as beatdowns go, this one barely even qualified, but it was terrifying nonetheless. I had just started to hear about FSU, a supposedly anti-Nazi hardcore gang, which went on to such levels of thugishness they achieved national infamy. FSU was definitely the main driver for why I dropped out of the hardcore scene.

Anyway this is a blog about trans issues and politics, not music. But I was thinking about this last night at yoga class. I like my teacher’s playlist, though none of the music is anything I would listen to myself. It’s kind of world music-influenced electronica, always with female vocals, that is simultaneously catchy, soothing, fun, and ignorable. On the other hand, except for when I go on Diane Cluck or Cocteau Twins binges, I pretty much only listen to angry music by men! If there’s no screaming, it’s immediately off my cd player!

Over the summer I left yoga one night and headed to the Whole Foods down town. I’d been listening to the same Christian metalcore cd all summer, and that day was no exception. I had my windows down and the music up super loud. It always makes me self conscious, because I look like a grown woman, but I listen to the same music as 15 year old boys. I need it loud enough that I feel the music on my skin. I live in a really privileged area, where everyone is happy and easygoing or pretends to be, so I always worry about sticking out. I thought “What the hell is wrong with me?”

And then I remembered: I’m in pain. My body is physically in pain. The yoga and the floating and the letting go and the forgiving have been helping, but I still have so much trauma stored in my body, I’m still in pain. That’s why I only ever want to listen to the pained screaming of men who feel unjustly wronged.

That particular cd has some spoken word interludes where the singer is reciting a poem that another man wrote. It’s about the pain he internalized when his uncle molested him as a boy, and his mother knew about it but was busy smoking crack so she blamed him. It’s a really brave thing to include, within that genre of music. (Though, interestingly the pits at this band’s live shows are on the extreme side of violent – perhaps God absolves them for their punching?)

The part of Christianity that offers forgiveness and salvation to an imperfect person living in an imperfect world is really appealing to me, for obvious reasons. I’m very fallible, I made more terrible decisions than I can count, and frankly it’s a miracle that I was never seriously beaten up or raped, or overdosed on anything. I certainly put myself in the position for all those things to happen many times – like I wrote before, I had thrown myself away.

So what precipitates this outpouring today is the really tragic story about Nancy/Nathan Verhelst that GallusMag posted a few days ago. Basically, Verhelst suffered some extreme mental abuse from her mother as a girl, decided to transition, including both top surgery and phallo, and then felt even worse about their situation post-transition and requested to be euthenized.

As Redressalert said, it’s “iatrogenic suicide”. That is, the suicide was caused by the treatment. People keep arguing about whether or not Verhelst was “actually trans”. That is the wrong argument. Verhelst was obviously trans, by the only definition of trans which is consistent and makes sense: they were taking cross-sex hormones, had srs, and were presenting themself as the opposite sex.

The right discussion to have here, is how did Verhelst’s situation get to that point? How did the trans healthcare providers fail so miserably in predicting the potential benefits and drawbacks of that course of treatment? How could the therapist with clear conscience sign off on Verhelst’s death sentence? What other options did they explore?

But realistically, what resources are available for people who become trans, and then realize they’ve made a mistake? Not a lot!

It breaks my heart to think about Verhelst. I would have accepted this person, no matter what they wanted to do! Why wasn’t I aware of their existence, so that I could reach out? Our lives as trans people aren’t easy. I’m so fucking sick of the sugar-coating, and all the cheerleading by males with sexual fetishes who are getting bigger boners than ever now that they’re taking hormones.

Dear Nancy, I know you can’t read this, and I know our situations are completely different, but I’m also a victim in pain. I hope and pray you’re in a better place now, but I wish you could have found it here on earth, with the small group of us who seem to understand just how difficult and fraught this trans thing really is. Sending you my love.