Every mental health professional I’ve ever worked with has asked me if I’ve attempted suicide, if I’ve ever felt suicidal, or if I have any suicidal feelings. The simple answer is no. The complex answer is I’ve been homicidal, not suicidal. I was an angry kid and an angrier teenager.
In my mind I’ve killed off my mother, my grandmother, and Julie and Wendy, the two girls who relentlessly picked on me in elementary school. The only one I was serious about killing was my mother. I didn’t have a good plan. I thought about pushing her in front of a train. I wanted to make it look like an accident. I considered trying to make her overdose on barbiturates, but I never purchased pills or figured out how to mix them with alcohol. There was no internet to turn to.
My mother and I never got along. From the moment I learned to talk, to when I left home for good, we were at each other. By nursery school it was clear I was a shy and gender non-conforming kid. Stubborn and willful. Smart but difficult. Odd looking and unpopular. She berated me and criticized me and attempted to coerce me into acting like a girl and dressing like a girl. We fought every day until I left for college.
When I was in the 9th grade, my Dad died. The next year my older brother left for college. For the last three years of high school it was just me and my mom, and sometimes my Grandmother, alone together in the apartment yelling at each other.
On some level, her concerns were legitimate. Who will want to marry you? Who will want to hire you? You will never make any friends. You can’t go through life looking like a boy. What is wrong with you? How can you go out like that? By the time you realize your mother is right it will be too late. You will die penniless and alone.
My mother criticized the big picture and she criticized the minutiae. I shouldn’t wear boy’s jeans, I shouldn’t wear boy’s sneakers, I should wear make-up, I should lose weight, I should grow my hair, I should cut my hair differently, I spend too much time with my best friend it isn’t natural, I should find some boys to date, I should take easier classes so I could get higher grades, I should take Spanish instead of Latin, I should….
I tried not to listen but I heard everything she said. The sound of her voice made me angry. I just wanted her to shut up. I felt perpetually on the verge of losing control and exploding. My senior year I hit her twice. Once she slapped me and I slapped her back, but with a force that terrified me. The second time she was talking and I couldn’t listen anymore and I hit her to make her stop. She was going to call the police but didn’t because she was too embarrassed to explain what happened. I was seventeen. I was an active volcano.
I was too angry to commit suicide. Every time my mother claimed there was something wrong me I became more determined to prove her wrong. I didn’t want to be a mother, a housewife, or a career woman. I didn’t want to be the girl next door. I was full of contempt towards adults. I knew I could get into college and I knew I could escape and get away from her. Surviving was like a big fuck you to her face.
I was seventeen when I left for college. I knew I was gay. I knew I wanted to be a boy. I knew I was shy and quiet when unprovoked. I thought all my problems were caused by my mother and that when I was physically out from under her and on my own I would be fine. It didn’t work out the way I imagined it would. It was much harder than I expected. At seventeen I learned the truth.
Notes: This post is in honor of all the eccentric, queer, trans, gender non-conforming, and angry kids. It is for the Leelah Alcorns of the world.