Growing up as a little girl born in the late 90’s in a Chicago suburb, I didn’t know what it meant to not be like the other girls. I didn’t know what it meant to be queer. I didn’t know what it meant to be transgender.
I didn’t know that some of my crushes weren’t because I liked the boy, but because I wanted to be like him.
I didn’t know I was different.
People tell me I’m confident when it comes to my identity, but that couldn’t be more wrong. That confidence I show is fake armor I use to convince myself I can’t get cut by my peers – just false bravado that dies too quickly.
See, everyone will tell you different things that they view as an essential part of their childhood, something that will forever flow in their veins, bleeding out from where it was once etched into their heart like a tattoo. This cartoon, that movie, these songs. But everyone is going to be different and what’s important to one could be hated by another.
All that really matters is what you experienced because of those things.
For example, to one person a yearbook may be a happy momento of their sixth grade friendships.
Mine was a momento from a friend telling me to kill myself.
People say sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you – but they only say that because they don’t want to acknowledge how they’ve hurt others, how others have hurt them.
We all have things we hate about ourselves and sometimes we get satisfaction out of making others feel that self-loathing too.
I often tell people I didn’t have friends before high school, middle school at the earliest.
I can’t tell if that’s a lie, though plenty of evidence tells me it is. I’ve blocked out so many memories. They weren’t necessarily bad, they’re just not what I want to remember. Memories of being forgotten. Memories of being the odd one out. Memories of mild bullying.
Memories I don’t like.
I know about my differences now and I think that’s why I like to think about word associations sometimes.
Words bring you new meanings when you go through something – disorders mean more, identities mean more.
Slurs mean more.
When it comes to sexualities, people tell me they hate labels, that they make things more complicated than they need to be. But I can’t have that mentality.
My labels are soaked into my skin, tattooed on my heart, pulsing through my veins, connected to my very soul. As deep a part of me as can go.
Self-diagnosed, they read. Hypochondriac. Autistic. Depressed. Queer. Lonely.
Adjectives. Descriptors. Labels. Insults.
Insults I can’t let go. Insults I can’t bear to admit receiving.
Words are a buried part of me, so deep inside me that it’s what makes my heart beat. Yet I also wear them on my sleeve, written on my arms for the world to see.
I think in words, but I also think in abstracts. In phrases that spark connections in my head that I can’t convey properly.
I think of the wordless, abstract feelings I associate with times in my life. I think in the abstract memories of my past.
I think of the words I’ll never get to say. The words I want to say. The words I write here:
It’s been hard, I’d say. And it’s still hard. It’s hard and it’s sad and it sucks. I never got to have that childhood best friend, I’d say. My childhood moved away and I was stuck here with a neighborhood that didn’t care. We were top of the world, I’d say. We were the sea.
It’s only a kingdom made of gravel in just another cul-de-sac, he’d say. A kingdom in a cul-de-sac left alone with nobody to care – built from nobody who cared. We all grow up, he’d say. Pirates are just another game. You can find your identity in a different way, he’d say. Be successful in the real world and stop playing pretend. They say all the world’s a stage, he’d say. Make it your own.
All the world’s a stage, I’d say. But the house is empty.