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Western Nihilism 5: Fuck LGBT Pride

I changed the title of this post several times before landing on “Fuck LGBT Pride,” which I ultimately went with because of its shock value. The leading contender was, “Beyond the Celebration of Mediocrity.”

So if you haven’t read any of my Western Nihilism series, go ahead and click that tag on the right, and then return to this one, because it’s all connected. With that said…

Fuck LGBT Pride.

It is tremendously amusing that, at the same time LGBT people insist they are “born that way,” they’re also claiming the justification to take pride in it. To get a full understanding of the absurdity of this, imagine taking pride in being born white, being born blonde, or being born 5’11”. It’s asinine to be proud over something that one, by one’s own admission, has no control over.

Of course, I’m not convinced that anyone is born that way. There’s not a very good logical case to be made that homosexuality is hereditary, since a “gay gene” would be unable to reproduce and thus would have died out, but it’s not really worth getting into. I don’t dispute that no one has control over their sexuality, but whether it’s truly Nature, Nurture that happens unconsciously, or both, isn’t the clear-cut thing it’s often made out to be.

First, it has to be pointed out that being LGBT (or being an Ally) is hardly a controversial position. In fact, it’s pretty much mainstream. The whole fiasco reminds me of the countless YouTube personalities who suddenly found a keen interest in politics and hopped on the Sanders bandwagon thinking they were being edgy, when the reality is that modern liberalism is the new culture and the alt-right (despite its many flaws) is the new counter culture.

You’re not winning any Edgy Competitions by going on Twitter and saying you support lgbt equality. That’s a safe, comfortable position almost anywhere on the internet, and almost anywhere in the West.

So not only is it mainstream and safe, but it’s also a celebration of mediocrity. Taking pride in characteristics that are a fluke of birth is like a Participation Trophy for life. Pride isn’t something one can have simply by existing; pride is earned by doing. And the vast majority of people celebrating pride aren’t doing anything, because their efforts are undermined by the safety of the position.

There are obviously still places in the West where it’s inordinately difficult to exist as a transgender person. But as LGB? Not really. Even in the deep south, lesbians, gay people, and bisexual people aren’t really at much risk of being treated like shit. It does happen, but it’s far from common, and virtually non-existent outside of the Deep South like Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

People who truly face adversity deserve to stand up and take pride in overcoming those challenges, but don’t dare put your having to pee in a bottle because you couldn’t use the women’s restroom on the same tier as the trans men and women who are serving jail and prison sentences in their birth sex’s cell block. The only real issue before mainstream trans people is the bathroom thing, and it’s trivial to call it discrimination because you are a trans woman and had to use a men’s room. Be more passable. Put more effort into feminization.

Trans people have been using the restroom of their preference for decades without problem. Suddenly, it’s an issue, and trans people are being thrown under the bus by the LGB community over something that actually has fucking nothing to do with transgenderism. In reality, it has everything to do with homosexuality.

This is stated outright. It’s just that no one is willing to listen.

What worries conservatives is that men who are attracted to women could use the women’s restroom. They’re deathly afraid that a straight man would pretend to be transgender to gain access to the women’s restroom–they have openly stated this. They don’t want people who would be attracted to their wives and daughters being allowed into the secluded restroom with their wives and daughters. See? Their fear deals with heterosexual men and lesbians. It has nothing to do with transgender people.

It’s also more than a little chauvinistic. I can’t help but notice feminists also seem willing to let transgender people fight a battle that has nothing to do with them. No one seems worried that a F2M trans person could rape little boys in the men’s room. But instead of calling for an end to the white knighting, feminists are largely either quiet on the matter or entirely hostile to M2F trans people.

At any rate, the only issue the LGBT community at large seems worried about is where trans people will pee, as though it’s just the height of bigotry to use a specific restroom. Marriage equality has been achieved by fiat, and adoption agencies are being handled in a decently classical liberal way, where one state may not allow a gay couple to adopt, but a neighboring state will. Inconvenient, sure, but no one has the right to convenience.

Why even ask? That’s something I’m not understanding. I just went from Mississippi to New Hampshire, and stopped in every state but New Jersey and New York to use the restroom at least once. I never asked anyone what restroom I could use. I simply went in. What are they going to do, call the cops? With a response time of 34 minutes, my bladder will be empty and I’ll be on my way well before the Blue Mafia shows up.

If you give someone the opportunity to deny you, don’t be surprised if they deny you to avoid what would be, for them, added trouble. For example, if I enter a gas station and go straight to the women’s restroom, it is added trouble for them to stop me and tell me to use the men’s room. They risk causing a scene, ending up on Facebook and YouTube, being fired… It could get really ugly for them very quickly. Without exception, every single worker at every single gas station completely ignored me.

If I stop to ask them, however, I force the decision onto them, and they’re going to seek whatever appears to be the easiest, safest, and least controversial way out of the situation. They don’t want a fucking headache, man. At least if you decline to ask, you give them plausible deniability if some random bitch causes a fuss about it. Be considerate of the fact that they’re just trying to do their job and not end up on YouTube, and they’ll be considerate of the fact that you’re just trying to pee. I did this in Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, so I’d hazard the guess that it would work anywhere. It doesn’t get more Bible Belty than Mississippi, except in some parts of Kentucky.

And, let’s be real, if you’re trans in those parts of Kentucky, you’ve got bigger concerns than where you’re going to pee.

We are animals, and we are constantly being trained and conditioned, almost always without our awareness of it. It’s no secret that billions of dollars each year are spent on researching human manipulation tactics, and it’s the height of naivety to think the state isn’t taking advantage of that information.

I don’t watch much television or listen to any radio, but as we drove back from New Hampshire yesterday, two radio commercials caught my attention. The first said something to the effect of, “It’s a beautiful day. We get that you feel guilty that she misses you. While you’re out playing golf, she’s at home… Blah, blah… Buy her jewelry.”

It was one of the most manipulative suggestions I’ve ever heard. Do golfers feel guilty for going out and playing golf? Not that I’ve ever heard. However, that idea now has been planted. Any golfer may, next time they’re out playing, inexplicably think of their wife at home, feel guilty, and buy her jewelry to appease it. The more frequently that suggestion is planted, the more powerful it becomes.

I’ve seen countless times exasperated parents buy candy or toys for their screaming and crying children, desperate to get the child to stop crying and making a scene. Rewards and punishments–these are the known trainers of behavior, with rewards modifying behavior much more than punishments. When the child is given a toy, their crying is being rewarded. They learn from the experience that crying and screaming gets them things.

Fast forward to 2017, a year when political protest has become synonymous with mass demonstrations of screaming and crying people with no plan and no stated goals. They do this because they’ve been rewarded for it in the past; to get them to stop crying, someone gave them what they wanted.

We saw it most clearly following the 2016 election, when “protests” filled the streets and the internet was flooded with videos and posts from people who were publicly doing nothing but crying about the results and demanding that their unhappiness be accommodated. Black Lives Matter has done the same for years–what, exactly, does BLM want? What, exactly, does the LGBT Community want?

We know what these groups feel. And, often, we know the long-term result they wish to see, however vaguely it’s stated. What remains unknown, though, is what steps they’d use to go from “here” to wherever they’d like to be. Feelings aren’t policy. “We demand that cops stop killing young black men” isn’t a policy. It’s a feeling, and a misguided one since cops are killing people indiscriminately. It’s all the stranger in places like Memphis, where the elected city leaders and police force are predominately black.

To my knowledge, the only thing actively being expressed as desired policy by LGBT people is that trans people should be able to use the restroom of their choice. Obviously, that isn’t really the case–it’s the restroom owner’s right to dictate the usage of their restroom. It’s the height of entitlement behavior to demand that someone give you more, effectively punishing them for their generosity in providing free restrooms to the public. It becomes a matter of psychological conditioning: because a mall owner chose to build and maintain (at their own expense–Americans recoil at the idea of paying to use a restroom) restrooms, they’re punished.

So, too, does the reward of positive feelings play a powerful role in the shaping of human behavior. Praise is extremely effective at training dogs. It’s no less effective at training humans. Glamour Magazine named the Stanford rape victim their Woman of the Year. For all intents and purposes, she was rewarded for being a victim (without discounting the rape or the subsequent trial).

Who’s a good human? You are! Yes, you are!

It should come as no surprise that, after a few decades of this, we have plenty of people willing to claim to be victims of crimes that never happened, up to and including filing fraudulent police reports. How could we expect any other result? People aren’t simply being rewarded for doing nothing but existing; we go even further and actively reward people for being victims. They get to be the center of attention, which feels good, and further reinforces in their minds that being a victim is how they feel good.

Participation trophies aren’t a good idea, because they reward people for simply showing up. The problem is exacerbated when the kid who hit 14 homeruns gets the same prize as the kid who sat in the grass and ate bugs. Obviously, there are further variables, because hitting a homerun garners instant cheers, but at the end of the season it will sting for the Homerun King to receive no acknowledgement for the additional effort they put in, especially if those 14 homeruns were the reason the team placed third.

LGBT Pride is the most grievous example of the participation trophy. Not only is there no parade for people who have worked hard to be successful, but such people are widely condemned and punished by society, their rewards written off as stolen and oppressive. We celebrate that some people are born being LGBT, while we condemn Donald and Baron Trump for being born rich.

It goes even deeper than that, of course. We don’t simply despise those who are born rich; we despise those who have earned their wealth. We hate the strong and adore the weak, and therefore we love the victim, who is, by definition, a weak person abused by a strong person. Then we reward the victim. It’s not enough that we give participation trophies. We go further and actively reward people for weakness.

The Blood I Cried

Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.

Introduction

Whether being four years old and watching one of my parents’ friends shoot up peanut butter on our couch and dying before my eyes; whether being effectively kidnapped at the age of eight by my meth-addicted mother and forced to endure a summer of being too poor to buy food, with our water turned off due to non-payment, and with mom being beaten mercilessly by a violent alcoholic; whether coming to terms with her disappearance like something out of a murder mystery show; or whether being transgender in the midst of all of this and trying desperately to come to terms with it while surrounded by a fundamentalist Christian family that forced me to not merely repress who I was but also to forget who I was, I have seen a great deal of tragedy.

It’s strangely easy to forget how devastating all of this must truly have been, even as I was the one who experienced it, because it’s easy to forget how it truly felt to lie awake, crying and listening to the sounds of shattering glass as my mother was thrown brutally through windows. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself and attempting to turn me into something that I am not.

Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississippi. This is as frustrating, difficult, and dangerous as one would expect, but I survive, and I roll with the punches. I have no choice, just as I had no choice those early mornings as I bore witness to horrific domestic violence.

So this is my story–a story of how low human depravity can sink, but also how the human spirit can stand resilient and refuse to surrender. However, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter often lose themselves to the blade of a razor. Yet I know, because I have lived it, that we can survive the struggles–and not merely survive, but become stronger through them.

Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons?

My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, but I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. They are almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.

Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, which is a point I’ve tried to stress in the past: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”

My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their wills, and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.

Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”

With all due respect, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house. If they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps.

This isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions that brought people around me severe difficulty and hardship, particularly regarding past relationships.

My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.

South Pontotoc

I was born premature, thankfully, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was choking to death. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.

I certainly don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as one would expect from such early memories, but the needles burned and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things penetrated my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.

Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate. I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother, or rocked in the cradle while a loving grandparent read a story. I was alone and hurting in a room bathed in fluorescent light.

That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.

And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.

The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing and embracing that I was transgender.

Of course, I was born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom that I didn’t have any, and so that I could wear panties instead. Somewhere around three years old, I took all of my underwear and threw them into the back of a closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.

So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Diane was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.

My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Danny (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.

I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.

A Look at My Father

I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.

But he is.

That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the dominant emotion I have for my father is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.

His own childhood was no walk in the park, damaged by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.

At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path in Mississippi, won the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college until she retired at the age of 67.

True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Edna didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quiet resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?

These are questions to which I would love answers, but I’ll never have them, because they are not things that my grandmother is willing to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it.

On one particular drunken rampage, my father held a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to intervene.

For years, my father insisted that he was drafted to Vietnam, and he even talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. Eventually my sister and I realized that there’s no way this is true. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had constructed, he had to be older than our mother was (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.

He changed his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him. Whether he actually fought in Vietnam, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.

He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other family members are, his secularism is applied selectively, and he’s generally as fundamental as everyone else is. He continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.

I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.

There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because his childhood evidently destroyed him; he is one those who did not escape unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, and oblivious to the reality that the world will never give it.

The rifts between us began because I was not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I required as I slept.

My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad went outside and told me to bring my pillow.

As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy from painkillers. The high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of rocks—at least for a while. Then they died, shriveled, neglected, and forgotten.

Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid as he held his flaming lighter above it. “We need to burn it!” he said, but I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?

“We need to burn it!” he said again, as I ran inside and cried to mom that dad wanted to burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father certainly knew very well that I loved that pillow.

That’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.

We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. He wasn’t content to force me to throw away this pillow, the symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he apparently wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.

It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.

It was my heart.

My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was an issue that I wanted to keep it. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me.

It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to objects, as neither parent spent much time with me, and there was not much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brandi was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.

Aunt May and Kay-Kay

For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brandi and Eric were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. My father fleeced her out of most of her money, just as he did to my great-grandmother, and just as he is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.

It was horrendously boring at Aunt May’s. There were few places worse for my pre-school self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo, which left me there alone with an eighty-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was also not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not happy to babysit a four-year-old.

I should have been outside having fun, rather than sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s, a child would have been thrilled to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.

However, imagine the horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse, though I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.

I don’t intend any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”

Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Aunt May, so the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head yet, so it seemed perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustache. Cars had tires, and houses had walls.

One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The backdoor entered into the kitchen, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.

She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (she didn’t have a phone), or did anything about it, but my memory of that ordeal is vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.

Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, which I recognized to mean that she was okay—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew that it was a great thing to have a house.

Kay-Kay was an ordinary woman, and there was much going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.

Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay put my fears to rest by handling it expertly. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, the banging stopped, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, coming from somewhere in the back.

“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head, I had the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.

“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”

Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then left. I never learned what it was about, and Kay-Kay asked me not to mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.

The Rise of Tumult

There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic person. Being my parents’ friend, he was heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin with a buddy who was in a motorcycle gang, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch in a stupor and droning out “Yeah…” to no one.

I watched my mother, laid out on the loveseat, look to my father on the other side of the living room. She held up, toward my father, a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “John, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both out of their minds, just high as hell.

Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father, it’s amazing that he had any money, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.

Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” he said, and my father understood what that meant. The gang somehow learned that Doc was shooting up, so Doc had to get out of town before they found him and forced him to run “The Gauntlet.” Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail, and he was later found dead.

We frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, in all likelihood, killed my mother, though there is no body or evidence), as well as our cousins. One of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.

As Brandi and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded by steep ditches that spelled death for anyone who lost control and went over, a truck driver decided to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous side view mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I sustained any injuries.

The fault was probably my father’s (driving under the influence of one drug or another), but the reason officially given was that the highway wasn’t wide enough to pass. This excuse came much later in the day, after the trip got significantly worse.

We passed through Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection. Reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.

The woman driving that car died on the spot with a broken neck.

Someone obviously called the police, and they arrested my father. The police placed Brandi and me in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.

My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and police, doctors, and therapists repeatedly questioned us about the accidents. We were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that made the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.

For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after being in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, all because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, their solution was to shove pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits. Eventually the anxiety faded, but knocking me out with drugs was the only way to get me into a car for a while.

Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was clean for any notable period, and they continued inviting friends over. These parties, while they were more or less tame and consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, would not constitute “normal” for most kids.

On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened sometime around my fifth birthday.

I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing videogames, snacking whenever I desired, and just doing anything I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?

We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.

Being approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, that he was only disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.

It was a school day when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.

Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had a device that allowed four controllers to be used.

I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.

To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint simply to inform my dad of what was happening.

Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”

There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.

Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.

Dancing in Hellfire

Last year, I wrote a book called Dancing in Hellfire. It is essentially my autobiography, except that I didn’t stop at simply relating events that had happened. Instead, I looked back on them and thought about what I learned from them, because the functional mind is always learning–any mind that refuses to learn is effectively dead. To be sure, I’ve had some really screwed up things happen in my past: both parents are/were drug addicts, my father killed a woman when I was 4, my mother was murdered when I was 12 (her body never found, so she’s still listed as a missing person), and other, generally awful things that you would rightly expect to happen in circumstances like that. Before we even factor in transgenderism, there is easily enough material to fill an 80,000 word autobiography (a bit on the heavy side for a memoir anyway), and I found myself chopping out entire recollections to make room for the transgender stuff.

Really, you’d think in today’s political environment that it would be an easy sell. That’s opportunistic of me, and I don’t deny that, but I also don’t see it as a problem. Identifying a niche in the market and targeting that niche isn’t a bad thing–in fact, it’s a smart thing to do. Only in the past six months, as my search for a literary agent has hit a dead end, has it dawned on me that I still made a mistake with the targeting. As I said, the book isn’t about “Oh, poor me, this happened and society didn’t do anything to prevent it!” Instead, it’s a book about “This happened, and this is what I learned from it.”

The critical difference is that the former marks me as a victim; the latter marks me as a beneficiary.

Without a doubt, I’d rather have my mother alive today, but there’s also no disputing that it has marked me in many ways that are very positive. Foremost among these is surely my awareness of justice as a function of forgiveness rather than vengeance. Those wounds are real, and they are painful–however, those very wounds have also made me ask the excruciating question, “How might I have closure on this?” The answer to that is not “…by seeing the murderer in prison!” The murderer has already been to prison for an unrelated murder, and it did nothing to make me feel any better. While it sucks beyond the capacity of weak words to convey how much it actually sucks to have my mother gone, absent without a trace, like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, I can detach myself from that enough to recognize that having a mind that is more focused on forgiveness than vengeance is a positive result.

It wouldn’t be worth asking whether I’d rather have my mother alive, and to still consider vengeance and justice to be the same thing, or if I’d prefer the current state of affairs. Just because these things happened in a way that are causal doesn’t mean they’re mutually exclusive. Maybe my mother could still be alive and something else could have happened to lead me to that realization. There’s no way to know, and so the hypothetical is useless–built, as it is, on the assumption that I can’t have both simply because I don’t have both.

I’ve neglected to talk about it publicly before now, but we do live in a society that glorifies victimization, and this is no more evident than in the bizarre way that Glamour magazine named the Stanford rape victim their Woman of the Year. This perplexes me in countless ways. I’m not demeaning her fight within the system to see Brock punished for what he did, but “having been raped” doesn’t strike me as a particularly good reason to be named “Woman of the Year” any more than being trans was reason to name Caitlyn Jenner woman of the year. Why don’t we celebrate accomplishments rather than victimization? It is an absolute slap in the face to the female biochemists who lead breakthrough research, the females at CERN, and the leading female experts in countless industries, to be passed up as Woman of the Year because someone was a victim of rape and the case was very public. Again, this isn’t to say that the rape should be ignored, but it certainly shouldn’t be celebrated.

Bad Stuff Happens

… all the time.

Earlier this month, I attempted to drive ~150 miles to see A Perfect Circle live, for probably the last live tour they’re going to do, and it was an ordeal just to get tickets, much less to find someone who would go. To give you an idea of how much this meant to me, a few weeks beforehand, in an article about scalpers, I wrote:

I bought tickets to the A Perfect Circle concert next month for well over what they cost initially, and the reason was precisely because my demand exceeds other people’s. I can’t even convey with words what A Perfect Circle’s music means to me. Being able to see them again–probably for the last tour they’re ever going to do, since no one expected this one and it’s been 14 years since their last one–is one of those experiences that literally makes life worth living (no exaggeration). Because of scalpers, I was able to acquire a ticket, and I would say it’s far more important that I was able to get a ticket than Random Joe who kinda likes their music and has nothing else to do that evening. The seats aren’t even that good, and I don’t even care. It’s A Perfect Circle. It means more to me than it will anyone else in that audience.

And you know what happened? Shortly after I got onto i240, headed for i40 and the long eastward trip to Nashville, I saw that my temperature gauge was way higher than it should have been–like “about to overheat” high. I whipped over and got off the interstate, stopping on Airways. Not being an idiot, I’d left with more than an hour to spare, in the event that something weird happened. However, it took my car nearly 45 minutes to cool off enough to hold water, and we discovered that the upper radiator hose had come completely off, which is the rarest and most unlikely thing that could possibly happen with a working clamp (not to mention, of course, that the months of driving before that had no issue, so it happened at the worst possible moment). In doing so, it had brushed against the alternator belt, and had been cut open, so even after it was cool enough to travel again, it had a steady leak that meant the hose had to be replaced. This meant we had to go to an Auto Zone, buy a replacement hose, put it on, and then refill the thing with water (if you’ve ever driven a Chrysler, you know this isn’t as straightforward as with most vehicles). When we were finally heading back toward the interstate, the GPS called out, “Estimated time of arrival is 9:23 pm…” which was two hours after the concert started. That’s right. We lost nearly three hours due to that overheating.

This actually took me completely down for about ten days, as some people may have noticed, because I didn’t post anything. I didn’t have the strength. I was depressed; it’s really hard to convey how much it hurt to miss the concert over something so extraordinarily unlikely that no one would have taken the bet that it was likely to happen. Yet life goes on, I recovered, and got back to it–though I was down longer than I would have anticipated. Because I’m moving to Vegas and the state of Mississippi said “lol, fuck you” earlier this year, setting me back on that plan far more than I’d have liked, I don’t make plans to go and do things very often–spare money is better put toward moving to Vegas than going to see a concert, but this was no ordinary band–this is the band that has influenced my music more than any other. I didn’t really learn anything from that experience, because there was nothing to really learn. It was a freak accident at the worst possible time, and I’d checked my car that very morning. It’s true that I didn’t inspect the hoses, but, c’mon, no one does. That’s absurd. One might as well pull out and check each and every fuse. While I did inspect everything (on a different vehicle) before driving to Vegas in 2015, that was 1800 miles, not 180 miles.

I tend to think that I’m so anti-authoritarian because of the horrifically bad parenting of my mother and father, a point that I call attention to in Dancing in Hellfire. Through most people’s childhoods, and well into their adolescences, they have this idea that their parents are indestructible and supreme. I remember well being in the third grade and having Danny, a friend of mine, stand beside me in line at the cafeteria and put his fist to one of the cinderblocks in the wall and ask, “Do you think your dad could punch through this? My dad could!” Even then, at nine years old, it struck me as ridiculous. No, his dad could not punch through the cinderblock, but I didn’t challenge the idea with him. It did not occur to me then how odd it was that he would have this unrealistic idea of his dad, but it happened again much later, in the seventh grade, when a kid described his dad’s hand as “alligator skin,” proud of his dad being a Working Class Hero, and remarked that a puppy could chew on his fingers for hours and never draw blood.

I didn’t have any of that. When I was six years old, the state showed up with its footsoldiers to kidnap my sister and me, and our mother was powerless to do anything about it. All she could do was cry. I learned that day that my mother–who I’d been with since I was born–was ultimately not the one responsible for me, and that these other people called “the police” had usurped her authority. A brutal lesson for a six year old to learn, but one that has served me well since. My dad wasn’t ultimately the one in charge of me–my mother had trumped him by taking me in the first place, so clearly he was ranked below her in the hierarchy. My mother was also not ultimately the one in charge of me, because her impudence in the face of the state and its footsoldiers left no room to believe that.

And what of my father? Well, you lose the image of your father as the Glorious Personification of Everything Great around the time you see him faceplant into the dirt at a baseball field after eating too many Xanax and drinking too many beers. And if that doesn’t do it, then watching those very same police officers arrest him after a vehicle wreck and place him, powerless, in their police car will shatter that image. There’s absolutely no doubt: some of my earliest and most jarring experiences involved the state exerting its authority. I have very little doubt that this is what left me inclined to view the state as what it is: the slavemaster.

Would I be an anarchist now, if none of this had happened? Another useless hypothetical.

Every experience is not just an opportunity to learn; it is also a choice. No matter what happens, we never lose the power to choose how we react. We are not* mindless machines who operate on extremely complex if-then programming that dictates our responses; we are not powerless. We are not at the mercy of our reactions; our reactions are at our mercy, and nothing changes this. Just because some people choose to let their responses unfold emotionally, with no tempering or self-control, doesn’t mean that they have no choice in the matter, and we shouldn’t allow them to so easily escape the fact that their reactions to things are their reactions. We are not wild beasts braying in the field. We are human beings, and it’s time we acted like it.

If someone says “Fuck you, you’re an idiot” to me, it’s true that I have very little control at this time over my initial emotional reaction of anger and desire to retaliate. Evidence suggests, however, that extensive meditation and self-reflection can, in fact, put us in control of even that lightning-fast emotional reaction. And that’s the key: “lightning-fast.” Emotions are instantaneous. That anger lasts only a flash of a second. If left to its own devices, it would immediately die out, but more often than not we embrace it and purposely keep it going, stoking the fires. Larry Sharpe Sunday night (and today at 2pm Central at www.lrn.fm) is a clear example. After saying that he’d accepted Arvin’s apology and forgiven him, and that they were “good,” the indignation and anger in Larry’s voice were still audible–he was clearly still clinging to those emotions. I actually initially attempted to call attention that, but couldn’t formulate my thoughts quickly enough in a way that weren’t antagonistic, so I instead let it go immediately. While saying that he had let the matter go, he kept bringing it up, even after we tried to move on to other matters, and his voice was absolutely dripping with emotion. Regardless of what he said, it is clear that Larry is keeping those emotions alive rather than releasing them.

Still, that I would immediately react with anger and a desire to retaliate is still on me. It’s still my emotional reaction, and my failure to control my emotions to that degree is my failure. It’s not this person’s fault. They didn’t “make” me angry. I made me angry. They were merely the catalyst–they merely presented me with the choice of how to react, and I chose to react in anger. However, I would typically choose within a second or two to let it go and to release the anger, rather than dwelling on it. Unlike Larry Sharpe, if I forgive what I perceive as a transgression, then I’m not going to bring it up again, because forgiving someone is an internal thing–it has nothing to do with the transgressor, which the Vegas Chick made me realize when I pondered whether she could do anything that would “cause” me to forgive her–the answer was that whether I forgave her had almost nothing to do with her. Demanding contrition or restitution isn’t forgiveness, even if that restitution comes in the form of a simple apology.

Through my own failure, I have no control over the initial emotional reaction. Through much work, I have largely (though certainly not perfectly) taken control of the following moments. My own failures lead me to make the wrong choice in the first place, by reacting with anger, but the choice that immediately follows is whether to release that anger or to embrace it. Both of these are choices.

* At least, we don’t appear to be.

Western Nihilism 4: A Dose of Reality For an Insane Society

Just a little while ago, I saw the comment from someone on Facebook that Wal-Mart needs to pay its employees a “living wage” [Note: there were obviously multiple comments like this. I’m simply addressing the one that mentioned this dollar figure and rent] (How about you show some responsibility by not shopping at places that don’t pay their employees what you think is fair?), because one wage of $13.73 (or thereabouts) isn’t enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment in most major cities.

*Record screech*

Two bedrooms?

Why does this person making such a low wage need two bedrooms?

Before we get into that, though, it’s worth pointing out that an additional $1.27 isn’t going to make a damned bit of difference for people making $13.73 an hour. Basic math tells us that this is $2,196.80 across four weeks. Assuming an average of 4 weeks in a year, it works out to $2,196.80 a month. The exorbitant rent that this person claimed the person making $13.73/hour couldn’t pay was a mere $875 per month.

I honestly don’t know what kind of math she’s using, but by my records this person making $13.73 has $1,321.80 left over after paying each month’s rents. Even if they run their air conditioning (perhaps they live in Vegas) 24/7, their electricity bill is highly unlikely to pass $400/month, which leaves them $921.80. A typical smartphone bill with Verizon or AT&T will cost $120/month, bringing this figure down to an even $800–$200 each week. If a person can’t survive, after their electricity, rent, and phone bill have been paid, on $200 each week while also managing to put back a considerable bit of that, then they are absolutely terrible with money and need to learn to budget.

There’s no nice way to say this. At present, I make $300 a week, on salary. Yet I pay my rent, my electricity, my phone bill, my Internet bill, and everything else just fine. And because I’m an anarchist, I refuse to use government assistance (though at a wage of $300/week, I certainly qualify), I pay for 100% of the food that I eat, and I don’t have health insurance. Meanwhile, I manage to put back money toward moving to Vegas, shelled out nearly $2400 to government extortion so far this year, and spend $67/month buying hormones from China. If I can do it on such a meager salary, so can anyone.

Of course, I don’t have kids, and that’s the main point: two bedrooms. Why does this person making such a relatively low (apparently) wage need two bedrooms? It can’t be a spouse, as that would require only one bedroom and the spouse would be able to get a job, thereby doubling their income from $2,196.80 to $4,393.60 a month. If you want to look me in the eye and say that two people can’t survive just fine on $4,393.60 a month and be putting back at least $500/month into savings, then you’re a moron who almost identically copies the character Jonathon of my fantasy novel.

See, Jonathon is from a noble family–the Guilder Estate. His parents died when he was young, but his sister took over the estate with the help of a family friend–a dwarf–named Therekas, who helped keep the filial parasites out of their family’s wealth. Once Jonathon was old enough, he joined the Knights of Raine (per family tradition), and Coreal (his sister) seized the opportunity to get the hell away from all of it by making Therekas steward of the property while she joined the Church of Biena and effectively became a nun. Stuff happened, and they had to flee the Kingdom of Raine, while their estate was seized by Lord Tyrenius. Not long after their journey, they obviously began talking about how they were going to make money, and Jonathon’s understanding of “how much money it took to survive” was so out of whack that the entire group spent a few minutes laughing at him for the idiocy. Whereas he expected it to take 50 or 60 gold coins per person to survive a single day, because he had no metric for understanding what things cost in the real world, the truth was that they could all live in relative wealth with only a thousandth of that.

I’ve lived on much less. It’s only been within the past few months that I was able to get back up to paying myself a salary of $300/week. Prior to that–at this time last year, in fact–I wasn’t on a salary at all, and averaged about $120 each week. And even then, I managed to keep everything paid, though I never had even a spare penny and was constantly digging deeper into the hole. Let’s face it–that wasn’t even enough to cover my rent, so the negative number got bigger every month.

While I was in college, I was married, and my wife didn’t work because we had only one vehicle, which I was using for school and work (my job provided us with medical insurance, whereas hers didn’t, so she quit hers when I started school). I made Minimum Wage. Yet I kept all of our bills paid, our rent paid, and our bellies full. Oh, there’s no doubt that it sucked. We didn’t have extra money often; when we did, we usually used it to buy season DVDs from Pawn Shops for $3 each, as that provided the most bang for the buck. We didn’t have a phone (and definitely not a smartphone) or an Internet connection, or satellite/cable TV. We had a TV, a DVD player, a PS2, a GameCube, and some classic consoles like an NES, all of which we’d purchased years before when we had two cars (before she totaled hers) and were both employed. And we had each other.

You seem to want me to believe that a person literally can’t survive on a wage of $7.50 an hour, when I happen to know for a fact that not only is that false, but a person can support two people on that wage. I’ve done it.

In reality, there are two possibilities when Expenses exceed Income. Sometimes, this is because Income is such a small number. I don’t deny that this is possible–I’ve experienced that, too, like when I made only about $120 a week. It simply wasn’t possible to afford rent, electricity, food, a phone (necessary for work, actually), and gasoline on that amount. Even if I lowered expenses to the bare minimum (which I did), I still didn’t have enough Income to cover them.

However, the alternative is what usually happens in the United States. Usually, the problem is that a person’s Expenses are so high that no Income can reach it, generally because they have “that mentality” that causes them to increase Expenses proportionally to their increases in Income. I’ve seen poor people go from making $7.50 an hour to making $15 an hour with no change in their overall situation (I’ve also been there). I’ve seen people scraping and clipping coupons to make ends meet receive checks of $10,000+ and be broke just a few weeks later. It’s not because Income is too low that this happens; it’s because Expenses are too high, and they lack the self-reflective capability to sit down, identify, and address the problem.

Maybe those two people making $4,390 a month are spending $15/day on cigarettes. And yes, I can tell you from experience that the cost of smoking adds up fast. Maybe they’re buying honey buns and crap from gas stations on their way to work each day. Who knows? But you can’t seriously expect me to believe that two people making $4,390 each month are broke because they’re just not earning enough. The reality is that they’re earning enough; they’re simply spending way too much.

And anyone who has two bedrooms and only one provider has made some mistakes somewhere along the way. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. I was married for like 6 years and I don’t have kids–that’s not an accident. I’ve been having sex since I was 14 years old, and I don’t have kids–again, that’s not an accident. I was 28 years old before I ever got a girl pregnant, and then I was more than capable of bearing that responsibility, as a college graduate in a place where employment was easy to find for someone with my training and skillset.

The most common criticism I receive for this is the reply, “So you’re saying that children are only for college graduates? That’s so messed up!”

No, that’s not what I’m saying.

I am, however, saying that children are only for people who can actually provide for them. This is the “We don’t understand reality” thing that the title of this post is about.

I fully expect stray cats and stray dogs to have offspring that they can’t provide for. This is why stray animals have such a high mortality rate, too. Not only can the parent not show the offspring to enough food (once nursing is over) to survive all 6-8 of the puppies or kittens, but a good many of them will be picked off by predators because the parent can’t provide protection to them all, either. This is why wild animals have offspring in those numbers: most of them die before adulthood.

Therein lies the rub. Such a high percentage of western children make it to adulthood that I can’t find statistics on it (I could if I cared to look further, but I don’t, so…). I’d hazard that 98% of western children reach the age of 18. For stray cats and dogs, that number is probably closer to 5%, with one out of every two or three litters reaching adulthood. Thanks to the incredible developments of our society (for reference, as recently as the 19th century, most men died at the age of 22 and women at the age of 24 in Korea), we have an insane longevity and a very low mortality rate among offspring. I don’t mean to be harsh, but we’ve prevented nature from doing its job. I think this is a good thing, but it also means that we had to pick up the responsibility, and we failed to do that.

In fact, the idea that parents bear no responsibility or fault for having children that they can’t support is making the argument that huge portions of the population are no better than stray cats and dogs. We expect that behavior out of such low animals, after all. We expect better of humans–or we should. Liberals, evidently… don’t. Their paternalistic, condescending bullshit extends to the point that they are okay with treating humans as though they’re no better than stray dogs. After all, we don’t blame the stray dogs for being overrun by hormones and recklessly having children when the dog knows–on some deep, perhaps instinctual level–that most of its children are gonna die in terrible ways. “It’s just a dog being a dog,” we say. In fact, we’re willing to address that problem: “Spay and neuter your pets so that this doesn’t happen!”

But when it comes to humans? No. We don’t even hold humans to that high of a standard. “It’s not their fault for having offspring that they knew they couldn’t take care of. What do you mean ‘Spay and neuter such people?’ You can’t ‘spay and neuter humans!*’ What the hell is the matter with you, you uncompassionate pig? It’s their right to have children! Children aren’t just for the elite!”

That’s a straw man fallacy, of course. There’s nothing “elite” about taking one’s ass to a community college, which literally anyone can afford to do. And the difference that even a 2 year degree makes to prospective employers is the difference between $13.73/hour and $18.73/hour. People with Associate’s Degrees average $5/hour more than people with only high school diplomas, and that amounts to $200 a week. Not to mention that such jobs usually come with a 401k, health and dental insurance, perhaps stock options, and other benefits.

It’s not elitism, however, to demand that humans act like they’re more intelligent than stray dogs, and fuck you for suggesting that humans act better than stray cats is elitism. Fuck you for suggesting that humans should be treated with the same eye-rolling condescension with which we treat stray animals. We know that stray cats and dogs don’t know any better, and we don’t expect them to consider questions like “How am I going to afford to send my puppy to college?” before getting knocked up. If you don’t demand more than that of humans, then you might be the most arrogant, condescending person on the planet.

I spend about a fifth of my time reminding people that we’re animals and that we’re part of nature, and so the same rules that govern animal behavior govern us. I fully agree that an 18 year old who gets pregnant has been overcome by biological instincts in the same way that the stray dog is. However, I think the 18 year old should bear the responsibility for that, especially in a society that has made it so ridiculously easy to avoid getting pregnant and that spends at least 4 years informing people of what not to do in order to avoid pregnancy.

And that’s the harsh truth. What happened here is that the human was consumed by their biological programming in exactly the same way as the stray dog and the stray cat, and you don’t expect more of them than that. You don’t expect them to say, “Wait a minute… I’m a human being, by God! I can think about this before I do it. I know that I can’t financially support my offspring. I know that satisfying these biological urges by having unprotected sex will cause pregnancy. Woah, woah, fella. Put on this condom, or you’re leaving.”

Instead, the bleeding heart liberal expects something more like, “Wait a minute… I’m a human being, by God! I can think about this before I do it. I know that I can’t financially support my offspring. I know that satisfying these biological urges by having unprotected sex will cause pregnancy. *Shrug*. Oh, well. Yes, dude, let’s have unprotected sex anyway. It’s so hot that you’re unemployed!”

To return to something I said earlier–we lowered the infant mortality rate. That’s a great, wonderful thing. Picking on Korea for no reason in particular, in 19th century Korea any parent who had a child they couldn’t support would have ended up with a dead child. This was true in the United States in earlier centuries, too**. After all, Nature is constantly trying to kill us. So a parent who can’t support their child is literally a parent who can’t prevent nature from killing that child. In that way, Nature took care of the “problem” in the same way that it takes care of the overpopulation of stray animals: they die.

And yes, it’s a good thing that we’ve eliminated that particular problem in the west. I’m not saying that we should let children die. Don’t straw man the points here; instead, absorb them and take them in. The child isn’t to blame that his or her parents can’t provide for him or her. That’s the parents’ responsibility and the parents’ mistake. They are the ones who bear responsibility for that. Since we can’t sit by and watch parents starve their child to death, the onus falls to bystanders and the community adopt the child away from the parents until such time that the parents can actually keep that child the hell alive.

This is not what governmental welfare programs do, but that’s another matter for another day–perhaps the next in this series on Nihilism.

You know what the universe does if you have a child that you can’t feed? It kills the child. That’s reality. That’s the world we live in. You can’t change that with good feelings, and pretending like that isn’t true is the very definition of delusional. The universe doesn’t give a shit about your feelings. If you can’t feed the child, then the child dies. It’s that simple.

Luckily, we humans are more… enlightened… than stray cats and dogs. We have this thing called “empathy” that leaves us unable to stand by and watch (in most circumstances, though our lack of concern about the children killed by American bombs in the Middle East calls this point into question) while a child dies. If you want to provide for that child, so be it, but don’t pretend like it’s okay or normal for the mother to just shrug and say “Fuck it–someone will feed Little Billy for me. Someone will take care of my problem. I’m a helpless child and can’t do things for myself, and need the government to take care of me.”

Pretending like it’s totally okay for humans to have offspring they can’t support while curtailing Nature’s solution that problem is a recipe for disaster, because it creates a net drain on society and productivity. Someone has to put in the effort to acquire that food; manna doesn’t fall from the sky. And what do we know is the long-term effect of net drains? They build up. It’s not a big deal to be $100 in the hole for a few months. But do that for 10 years, and you’ll wind up $12,000 in the hole. What may seem like a trivial, inconsequential thing ultimately adds up to society. And what do we call it when society collectively has fewer resources to go around?

Why, we call that “an increase in poverty.”

And because no one is doing anything to actually address or fix the problem, it means that the reckless people who have more children than they can afford are passing along those genes and tendencies, such that even more people will have children that they can’t afford. This is called “evolution,” and it didn’t stop because humans invented electricity. Whether there are alleles that make a person more or less likely to behave irresponsibly has not been determined (to my knowledge), but given that poverty is primarily hereditary, circumstantial evidence suggests that it does play a role. After all, resisting the inclination to spend more money–$10 here, $15 there–is a daily battle for me. Is it a battle because of genetics, or because that’s how I watched adults behave my entire life? Nature or nurture? Really, it’s not very important, because if we aren’t even admitting that it’s a problem, then we certainly aren’t addressing it, and the problem perpetuates and, because of the nature of procreation leading to population growth, constantly exacerbates itself.

Well done for eventually destroying western society.

Bravo, liberals.

Bravo.

* I agree entirely, and am just making the point.

** Actually, because of Puritan origins, I’d venture the guess that the mother would end up homeless and destitute, but someone would have taken in the child, but I’m not an expert on colonial America. My point isn’t that big of a deal anyway.

Educating = Parenting; Teaching = Child Rearing

As part of Dancing in Hellfire*, I get a bit into parenting and how, to be perfectly honest, the overwhelming majority of parents in the United States are doing it wrong. There’s a reason that I don’t have children. I was married for like six years and was with the girl for two or three years prior to that, and I have only once gotten a girl pregnant–and that was a legit accident, and only a year or so ago. Against my wishes, she aborted; c’est la vie.

It’s not that I don’t want children, or that my sexual identity or orientation get in the way of that; neither of these things are factors. For the longest, it was that I wanted to be able to give the child a stable home life, and there were so many things that I still wanted to do. When I was married, I was playing in a rock band and trying to make something happen with that, while going to college and building a career. This is where I diverged from a large chunk of my generation, as it seems that many, many people in my generation thought that it was their life’s purpose to start pumping out children as soon as they finished high school. Honestly, I’m one of about five people I know my age who don’t have children, and almost everyone else has one or two children, most of which are about ten years old, some even older.

Most parents would gladly say that their primary focus is what is best for their children, but the sky high divorce rate in the United States tells a different story. I’m no traditionalist–obviously–and don’t care if you’ve got two men, two women, or a goddamned lesbian witch coven raising a family; the important aspect is stability. That’s not the end-all-be-all, of course, since there must also be love and attention, and that’s my next point. The high divorce rate shows that stability is not a concern for most parents in the nation, and if stability isn’t a primary focus then the children aren’t a primary focus.

It was difficult enough to juggle my time with my spouse. I have a lot of hobbies. I make music–you can click the embedded music players to hear it. I’m a writer, and try to write daily articles. I’ve written three novels, two nonfiction manuscripts, and miscellaneous short stories. I’m a reviewer with Cubed3 and an editor with the same site, and occasionally I write guest articles for places like eBuyer. The only really pointless hobby that I have is playing video games, and those don’t really take up much of my time these days. It helped that my ex-wife played games, too, because we could spend time together playing games. Oh, god, the thousands of hours in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Party, Mario Kart, and World of Warcraft that we put in together. Not to mention Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and just about any game that we could play together.

Which of those was I willing to give up in order to give my time instead to a child? None of them. I can’t help myself but write, and if I don’t regularly make music I act increasingly weird and become melancholic.

And that’s where parents get things wrong. They don’t have that mindset. They don’t think they have to sacrifice their time. I know one guy who goes to work every morning before his sons wake up, returns home and… watches television. His wife helps their son with their homework, but there was a years-long period where the husband would sit in one room of the house while the son sat in another, each watching a different television, while the kid was like 5 years old. This guy would say there’s nothing more important to him than his kids, but that can’t possibly be true. He preferred television so much that he and his son sat in different rooms every evening while the mother was at work.

Although that’s probably an extreme example, nearly every parent I’ve ever met is at least similar to that. Dealing with the child is a hassle. The child asking a question is met not with “Yes, love?” but instead an exasperated and frustrated, “What?!” that the child dared speak when it wasn’t a commercial–“I’m watching Game of Thrones, goddamnit! You know you’re supposed to wait to a commercial!”

It’s a sad reflection on the state of affairs that that’s even a thing–the notion that a child should wait for a commercial to get attention from his or her parents is disgusting, but it’s so common. My parents did it, too. And I’m sure your parents had at least one show that you weren’t supposed to make noise during, unless it was a commercial. We must fall to our knees in subservience to the bright glowing box.

So what am I getting at? Because television isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom of the problem.

The problem is that we no longer have any fucking idea what parenting is, so go ahead click play to this next one, and I’ll let you in on a little secret.

There is no difference between teaching and child-raising, between educating and parenting.

Parents delegate so much of their responsibility and facetime with the child to schools, totally failing to grasp the significance of what they’re doing. For the average kid, though, assuming a 6:00 AM wake time and a 9:00 PM bedtime, the child will spend equal time with the school as with the parents. But that time with the parents won’t actually be spent with the parents. Dad’s gonna watch television, mom’s gonna cook dinner, and somewhere along the way one of them might actually sit down for twenty minutes and complete the laborious, tedious task of helping the kid with his homework.

And let’s not forget that the average child watches, if I recall correctly, four hours of television a day, while the average American watches five fucking hours of television every single day. These are gargantuan amounts of time to be sitting down and doing nothing. But, again, this isn’t about television. Or is it? It may be, but I’ll discuss it another day. Regardless, the child will get home from work, eat a snack, and jump straight on something with a screen for the next several hours. There’s no parenting going on, no direct one-to-one time with the child, no going for a walk and spending time in nature.

People talk of homeschooling as though it’s some bizarre, unusual thing, and let me tell you–I don’t see parenting or education the way most people do.

See, I think the public school’s only useful function is to serve as a daycare while the adults are at work–an unfortunate reality of life in the United States, but a reality all the same. The knowledge that it teaches is so slowly conveyed that it takes 12 years to cover ground that other countries cover in only six. This is really hard to explain, so let me tell you why I advocate homeschooling, why I don’t yet have kids, by telling you what it will be like when I do have a kid.

I see the kid and me walking through the woods, stopping for me to explain why the leaves are normally green, and why they’ve turned brown–educating the kid and parenting. Because, again, they’re one and the same. The teachers at your kids’ school are parenting your kids. Whether they mean to be or not, whether you’re aware of it or not, and whatever euphemisms we use, that basic fact remains.

“No, Johnny, it’s wrong to hit people. You don’t get recess today.”

Kids are not just getting dry science facts and learning math. They’re learning the rules of our society, they’re learning our moral values, and they’re gaining role models, learning how to live and function. They’re being raised, and they’re simply being taught science, math, reading, and stuff through that process. There is no way to separate the two. Public education is turning your kids over to the state to be raised, and it can never be anything else. It never stops at just education, because it cannot stop at just education, unless you hire a private tutor who you give explicit instructions to avoid all subjects besides math, science, and language.

Parents in the United States turn their kids over to the state and then bear almost no responsibility for it. They pat themselves on the backs for being great parents, when the school has done at least as much parenting, and probably more, given that the television eats up so much of the time at home. It’s always a boarding school, but the roles are reversed–the school is the child’s true home, and the place with the parents is just where the kid watches television and sleeps. The place where the child is raised, brought up to be a fine, upstanding cog in the machine–that is the school. And the parents play almost no role in it.

There is a stigma against homeschooling for a few reasons. First, some parents use it as an excuse to utterly fail their children and shirk their responsibility to raise their children. I knew a few kids like this growing up, who were “homeschooled.” Except they weren’t. They didn’t have any school.

That’s rare, though. The real reason is that it makes the other parents feel like shit, because they know–they must know on some level, deep down inside–that they’ve effectively turned their parenting duties over to strangers. Because they didn’t put their kids first, they react in anger and hostility to people who did, because those people inadvertently hold up a mirror into which they have to look. “Oh, I’d love to homeschool my kids, but I just don’t have the time…”

I love that argument, though, that it turns kids into weird, isolated socially awkward rejects.

That’s so true, you know? Because everyone knows that before the Department of Education, we were a society full of weird, isolated socially awkward rejects. This happens with almost everything that the government does. The government took over mail delivery–“But how will we get our mail without the government? We need the government, or we can’t have mail!”

“But muh roads! OMG WHO WILL BUILD THE ROADS”

Libertarians hate roads.

So now we have “public education,” which basically means that I, a person without kids, get to pay for the education and parenting costs of other people’s kids. And when I challenge them on this, they reply that they just can’t imagine any other way that they could possibly have education for their children–partially because they lack the time to educate their children.

I’m sorry, what?

Isn’t that kind of like the mother of four who is pissed off and angry at the world because she can’t afford to feed her family with her minimum wage Wal-Mart paycheck? What happened to individual responsibility, foresight, and thinking shit through? “Should I have children? Well, hm… I don’t really have time to properly raise the child. So… No.”

People say this shit with a straight face, man. We can’t abolish the public school system, because they don’t have the time to homeschool–they don’t have the time to be parents. And I’ll give it to you that one won’t be able to devote 24 hours a day to being a parent, and no one is asking anyone to do that, but the idea that someone with a child doesn’t have the time to homeschool is both stupid and wickedly irresponsible. It’s the equivalent of saying, “But I need my foodstamps, because otherwise I can’t feed my kids.”

What is the matter with such people? Why would someone have children that they can’t fucking feed? This is where sympathy becomes nihilistic, because if we send our minds back to early homo sapien, what would have become of a woman who had four kids, no specific mate, and no way of acquiring food for her four kids? That irresponsible, reckless behavior would have caused her death–but probably not the kids’, honestly, because our species has never been able to turn away from crying children in a wide enough scale for it to matter, and it’s a red herring to demand 100% anything–and her kids would have seen that and said, “Shit. We better not be great big fuck ups like mom was, because that didn’t work out very well for her.”

Similarly, why would anyone have children that they don’t have time for? They do have time, though. We all have 24 hours in a day–16 minus sleep. So that bullshit that someone doesn’t have time? Yeah, that’s bullshit. We all have exactly the same amount of time in every given day as everyone else. No one has more or less time than anyone else. If anyone has ever had time to properly raise their children, then it means, ipso facto, that everyone has the time to properly raise their children.

What they really mean is that other things are a higher priority, and they aren’t willing to give up part of their time and spent it raising their children. They don’t say that, but they can’t possibly mean anything else, because, as I said, we all have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else. I don’t have five more hours in each day than other people, and homeschooling parents didn’t manage to magically conjure up 31 hour days.

So I don’t really advocate homeschooling.

I advocate people taking responsibility and owning up to their decisions and choices. I advocate people having the self-awareness to say, “You know what? I do have the time. I just can’t be bothered. Tell you what, why don’t you pay for my kids?”

The first step of fixing our supremely messed up society is to drop the euphemisms. There’s no such thing as “public education.” There’s only sending kids off for other people to raise so that the parents don’t have to. We can examine whether or not it’s actually necessary for some parents to do this, and we can discuss whether it’s beneficial to the parents and children for it to happen, but before we can discuss that, we have to call a spade a spade. Public schools aren’t “educating” children. They’re raising children.

What is really the difference between homeschooling and public schooling? In real terms, the difference is that in the former the child is raised outside of the state apparatus; in the latter, the child is raised communally. I’m not here making the argument that either one is really better than the other, although I would certainly say–based on mostly gut feelings, though–that homeschooling is vastly superior to public schooling, because the parent knows the child as an individual and can cater directly to the child’s needs, while the teachers cannot. If a child is to be taught to their potential, then that is a task that only the parents can accomplish.

* I heard back from the agent about two weeks ago, informing me that she had a very busy end of the year and hadn’t read it yet, but that she is going to and will get back to me. That’s twice now that my instinct about this agent were correct, which I take as a good indicator she’ll ultimately take it.

Podcast: “As I Live” & Video: “A Message to Transgender Teens”

I used the Podbean app to record this podcast, and I’m really sorry that the audio is so low. Use headphones, but be aware of volume spikes. I hate that about the Podbean app: it records at super low volumes. 🙁

I also published a new video this morning: a message to transgender teens, because it was on my mind as soon as I woke up. I hope you enjoy it:

Hopefully, I’m not talking a mile a minute in it!

Looks like my internet has finally straightened itself up! Huzzah!

But yeah.

I don’t typically check my Analytics page on Google, because I’m not really popular enough to get good info. I know most of the people watching my videos, listening to my podcasts, and reading my articles, and they tell me directly what interests them and what doesn’t, and I try to accommodate that anyway. So until I’m average 100~ downloads per podcast, and 250~ views per video, Analytics just isn’t much use to me. However, I like to keep it in place, because it’s not that all the data is useless; it’s just that the data doesn’t have a very big scope.

Last night I merged my Podbean analytics with the new website (the one you’re reading), and in so doing caught a glimpse of the last 30 days of data. My view defaults to the United States, because that’s obviously where most of my audience is, and I’m simply not trying to appeal to people in Uganda, you know? It’s all well and good that they like it, but I’m not really going to take Pakistani people’s interests into account when I do a podcast. And what I saw was that Nevada had an unusual number of views–more than any state but Tennesse, and Tennesse is supposed to have a lot of views, because that’s where my gateway is. Every time I visit the site to upload a podcast, change something, or whatever, it logs another visit from Nashville. The only state that came close to Tennessee…

was Nevada.

So I clicked the state, though I knew what I would find. I was not surprised to see this:

stay away from me

I eliminated the #2 location of Paradise from the image. Paradise is still Vegas anyway, and it’s still you.

Why?

Why are you here?

Stupid Suggestions

Out of all of the negative responses my GoFundMe campaign has gotten, two of them in particular stand out as ridiculously unhelpful and stupid. The first was someone suggesting that I come to India. While they never said it, it was strongly implied “Come to India and be with me. I’ll support you.”

There are so many things wrong with that idea that I wouldn’t know where to start in explaining why I’m not willing to do it. Beyond that, Vegas is the destination. The destination is not India. Not only would it be tremendously fucked up for me to change the destination and plan now that I’ve gotten donations through the GoFundMe campaign, but it would be horribly stupid to take the word of someone I know through Twitter that there are jobs for me in India.

Vegas was not an arbitrary choice. I know from first-hand experience that Vegas has lots of jobs for me, giving me the power over the employers, not vice versa. See, in Mississippi, the employer chooses between a number of qualified applicants. For someone like me in Vegas, I choose between a number of job offers. That difference in the balance of power is one that should not be overlooked. While in Mississippi, workers are courting employers, the opposite is true for I.T. people in Vegas. I know, because I’ve been there. I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it.

Beyond that, this person said that he’s considered weird simply for speaking to a transgender person. Does the fact that I’m trying to escape hostility toward transgender and LGBT people just completely go over people’s heads? Vegas is freaking pro-everything. No one would look twice at a transgender person in Vegas. Vegas is the double whammy, the “killing two birds with one stone” destination–it is anything but arbitrary. It has jobs for me, and it’s pro-LGBT. I know of no other city (except, perhaps, Los Angeles, which is too big a place for a country girl like me) that meets both of those criteria.

I’ve set the initial GoFundMe video to Private, because it didn’t really say what I intended it to say, and it wasn’t an effective video. What spurred this on was someone commenting and saying:

do u have a car? i lived out of my car and now have an apartment move to texas.

Fuck off.

Seriously, what the hell kind of “suggestion” is that?

First of all, Texas? Texas?!

Texas is as hostile to LGBT people as Mississippi, or very nearly so. It may be slightly better, but it’s not much better. And I’m not sure how the job situation really is in Texas, but I know it’s not as good for me as is Las Vegas. I’m an experienced slot technician. Vegas is the casino capital of the world, with lots and lots of slot machines and nowhere near enough people to fix and maintain them. I’m qualified and trained to do that. Just as Silicon Valley as Mecca for computer science majors, so is Vegas Mecca for I.T. people, especially those with slot tech experience. I know how to fix, repair, and maintain slot machines. See why Vegas is the choice?

Secondly, I’ve lived out of my car. I did it last year, not long after I returned to Mississippi, for about a week and a half. That wasn’t the first time I’d been homeless and living out of my car, either. The first time happened when I was 17 years old, when my dad kicked me out the second time, and I was no longer with the girlfriend who I had been able to stay with the first time. I’ve been down that road twice–the first time during a snowy winter, the second time in early June of last year.

I’m trying to make my life better, not make it worse. However much it sucks now (and it does suck), I at least have a roof over my head. I’m sorry that your situation was so bad that you had literally nothing to lose by living out of your car while you saved up money and got a place, but I did that last year, and I have something to lose.

My cats.

A lot of people won’t understand that.

But consider how I clearly have no friends:

At least, not any that matter.

And consider that you know I have no family now.

My cats are all I have. They are my family. They are my friends. And they are coming with me. Just as they went with me to Vegas last time. And they both nearly died last June when living out of my car with me.

During August–go live out of your car in the fucking Mojave Desert!

What a suggestion.

What an absolute piece of shit.

If someone doesn’t want to contribute to the campaign, I understand that. There’s a lot of backstory there to go through, and a lot of people would rather deal with something simpler: “Someone’s house burned down,” “Someone has cancer,” “Someone died and we can’t pay for the funeral.” My issue is complex, and there’s a ton of backstory there that does, honestly, largely excuse me from blame regarding my current situation. For someone to be willing to contribute, they basically have to take in all that background information, and it takes a while. That’s a big problem.

*****************************************

GoFundMe just suspended my campaign for 2-3 days while they inspect it to verify that it’s not set-up to address a legal matter. I’ve contacted them to ask if they’ll include my campaign in the weekly email, as a gesture for totally taking my campaign offline while they realize that it’s got nothing to do with a legal matter.

It’s because I rewrote my description, inspired by the last paragraph I wrote here to be brief and succinct. So I mentioned my dad being arrested for embezzlement, and evidently that triggered their automatic flagging process.

Great.

I don’t know how good the chances were that I was about to get a donation, or that I’d get one tonight or tomorrow or the next day, but I know what the chances are now: zero. There is zero chance that someone will donate to my campaign today, tomorrow, or the next day now, because the campaign is currently offline. Even though GFM’s support “responds within 5 minutes,” it takes them 2-3 days to verify that a campaign doesn’t deal with a legal matter.

I would understand if my campaign had just been created. But all I did was edit the description. Fuck, go back to the old description, or let me remove the part about my dad. There are plenty of fucked up things I can say instead of that one.

Spirals

I’m not sure what to call it, but I’m sure that it will come to me as I write this. “Spirals” isn’t quite right. It’s self-reinforcing, though, perpetuating itself because it is and cannot be anything else. No, I haven’t been hit by a bout of depression or anything–I’m just thinking about the fact that, of my friends, none have ever done anything to help me do anything.

Poverty perpetuates itself. That is what I was trying to say.

I totally get why none of my friends would donate to the GoFundMe campaign, and I don’t begrudge them for that. They’re Mississippians, too, which means that they face the same harsh reality that I face: there’s just no money here anyway. In order for them to give me money, they’d have to have money, and they grew up in the same area that I did, faced the same economic despair that I did. Most of them live on their parents’ land, in a trailer on their parents’ land, or in a trailer on their wives’ parents’ land. Less than 1% successfully broke away, and those who did were already safely middle class. I think of the guy I went to school with, with whom I was best friends when we were much younger but drifted apart because I moved closer to atheism and faith is a big deal to him, and how he is now a reporter for ESPN or something. I’m thrilled for him, but that brings something else to my attention.

It’s fair to say that he had a better start than I did–Hell, than most people here did. The circle of friends I had in school all came from similar backgrounds, and I’ve mentioned it before: our parents were on drugs, divorced. Many of us didn’t live with either parent. And so we all rejected the system that had spit upon us.

Many people would here say something like “Oh, you’re blaming the system for everything now? Grow up and take some responsibility!” I’ve heard that refrain often. Never directed at me, though, because until the past few months I’ve never really sat down to think about how all of this came about. It was pointless. I simply went with the hand that I was dealt, and it served no purpose to sit around thinking about how some people were dealt better hands. And I’m still not doing so–the hand I was dealt is irrelevant, because I don’t mean any of this in a personal way. I’m talking more along the fact that it’s borderline impossible to be born to a poor family in a place like this and change those circumstances.

A lot of people grow up with parents who talk about putting back money for college funds. How hilarious. Because I remember when my dad took my sister and me to cash out our savings bonds that were supposed to go to college–all one of them that we each had–and instead used that money on himself. Probably on drugs. It never occurred to me in high school that there would never be a college fund, and it actually might have been helpful if my dad had sat me down at some point and said, “Do you see the way I live? You don’t have to do that. If you apply yourself, if you focus and try to excel, you can break out of this bullshit. But I won’t be able to help you do it. I’m not man enough to help you do it.”

Other people talk about getting $150 allowances from their parents each week while they’re living in dorms in college, and I can’t even fathom what that is like. I’ve been working since I was fifteen years old, specifically because my father couldn’t pay for me, and because I had to pay for myself. Even before that, he had me working outside during the summers at the trailer park at which he was a maintenance guy, putting this shit called “Cool Coating” or something on people’s roofs for $100 a trailer. Of course, he enjoyed a $40 Finders Fee for each one of these.

The last time I did this at all, I had four trailers to do in a single day–$400 for a single day of work. I was 14 years old, and had never even seen that amount of money, much less held it. I was dreaming about finally getting a PlayStation 2, like my cousin had because his parents had bought him one. Just as I’d gotten myself a Playstation X by trading in my Super Nintendo and every single SNES game that I had to Funcoland. I didn’t have a single game for that PlayStationX (there’s a difference between the PSX and PS1). In fact, I didn’t even have a way to connect it to my television, because my television was one of the old CRTs with only coaxial inputs, and the PSX came with composite cables. So there I was, without the SNES that my mother had given me for my birthday the year that the N64 came out, and without any of those games, but I didn’t care. I had the latest and greatest. No games for it, and no way to even connect it to my TV. But I had it.

That was what I wanted: a PlayStation 2 and Final Fantasy X. It looked amazing.

Instead, as we were leaving for the day, my father asked for $140 to pay back his boss for a loan. “I’ll give it back to you Friday,” my dad said. Then, after we left the office, “I also need to borrow $200 so I can get my license plate renewed.” By the time we made it home, I had $60 left–all that remained of the 8 hours I spent standing on roofs in the hot Mississippi sun at 14 years old coating people’s roofs in some coolant. Of course, my dad never paid me back, as I knew he wouldn’t, but it’s not like you can call your father out on things like that, not when you’re 14 and living with him. “Oh, I didn’t know you liked having a roof over your head.” Not to mention that my dad was spiteful in the extreme. “I guess you can buy your own food and start paying rent from now on then!” he would have replied.

There was a period of about a month where he basically made me play the boardgame RISK with him and his girlfriend every single fucking day. While I like RISK (not so much since this experience) and did enjoy playing it occasionally, a friend had loaned me a guitar, and I wanted to be practicing that–since I didn’t have a guitar and couldn’t borrow it indefinitely. That kid, Chris P., is solely the reason I was able to learn to play the guitar, something that I’ve become quite good at and that has saved my life on several occasions.

I also had Final Fantasy IX, I remember, and I badly wanted to play it. I’d gotten it at Wal-Mart for $20 with some of the money I made doing the cooling crap on roofs, because my Disc 3 had stopped working. Funnily enough, this was because I’d let my cousin borrow it. After weeks of trying everything from nail polish remover to toothpaste (yes, toothpaste) to remove the scratches, I accepted that there was no option but to replace the game. And I finally had. So I could finally get back to my quest!

But no. Because everyday I got home from school, ten minutes later my dad got home, and then we had to play that stupid goddamned boardgame for the next six fucking hours. After weeks of this, I decided that I just couldn’t play anymore. We never finished any of the games. We always stopped about five hours in, when it was obvious that my father was going to win, and decided “We’ll finish it tomorrow.” But then tomorrow came, and, rather than finishing, we’d restart the whole fucking thing. That went on for weeks. Seriously, weeks.

It doesn’t take that long to get sick of The Game of Global Domination.

When I said “No, I’m not going to play,” my father flew into a rage. So angry that he could barely speak straight, slurring his words and stuttering about what a “piece of shit” I was, and how I could just take my ass outside and cut the grass. With a weedeater. Because he was never going to buy a lawnmower, and never did buy a mower. His solution was what you’d call the “Cheap Because I Don’t Have To Do It” option of buying a weedeater and pushing responsibility of cutting the yard off onto me. After all, he wasn’t going to get outside with a weedeater to cut a few fucking hundred yards of grass (this was my uncle’s land).

So all that was to say that my father is petty.

But even that experience where my father “borrowed” $340 wasn’t the reason I stopped doing it. No, he would never have allowed that. He needed me to do it so that he could “borrow” *wink-wink* money from me, so under no circumstances would he have allowed me to stop doing it.

Instead, the reason I stopped doing it was that someone offered to pay him in advance, because they needed him to purchase the stuff. Two barrels of the stuff was about $60, if I recall correctly, so he was given $160. I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

First, he decided he would “borrow” part of the $100 from me to get various things that he needed. On day three, that $100 was down to $0. So on Day 3, he decided that he would “borrow” from the $60 for the materials, and then “Pay it back on payday.”

Just like he “paid me back,” I’m sure.

So after that, I couldn’t continue doing it, because he had to come up with $60 to buy the materials, and he had to come up with something to pay me. Even he wasn’t a big enough piece of shit to ask me to do it for free.

Shortly after that, he was fired, as one might expect. A tenant complaining to the landlord “Hey, your maintenance guy kinda stole $160 from me” can have that effect, especially since my dad was never qualified to do any sort of maintenance anyway, and had already borrowed $2000 from his boss. That’s right. $2000. For what? Who knows. His car was paid for, and we lived in the one bedroom addition to my uncle’s house. And, at that time, my dad’s rent was a measly $150 a month.

Drugs, I’m sure. You’d be surprised, if you’ve never been down that road, how quickly you can burn money on drugs, especially lortabs at $7 a pop. Hell, there were days that I paid $10/pill. When you’re addicted and desperate, you’ll pay just about anything.

I got sidetracked on Quora arguing with someone who literally argued with my answer to a question while specifically demonstrating the exact mindset that I was talking about. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up:

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-many-people-against-direct-democracy-after-Brexit-when-it-works-quite-well-in-Switzerland/answer/Aria-DiMezzo

How in the hell can someone say in one comment that they don’t like direct democracy because they don’t agree with the criteria by which people who disagree on the policy came to their dissenting conclusion, while saying just a moment later that they value liberty? I am reminded of that brilliant passage from Thomas Paine in The Rights of Man:

It takes in a field too vast for their views to explore, and proceeds with a mightiness of reason they cannot keep pace with.

Love me some Thomas Paine.

When I took British Literature in college, I asked the instructor if I could do my term paper on Thomas Paine. This was a class that was largely dedicated to Romantic poetry (the reason that I took the class–I’ve always loved Romantic and Victorian era poetry). To my surprise, he allowed it. So I talked about how Thomas Paine had a better understanding of rights and liberty than most people today, and how he demolished the Pentateuch, as well as the notion that it was written by Moses, in The Age of Reason–after which I later named a song The Age of Aquarius. One of the greatest tragedies of human history is that Thomas Paine’s influence has been so narrow. The Rights of Man, in particular, is a masterpiece of the theories of self-government, and almost no one has read it.

I’m not really out for pity or sympathy when I write things like this, though. A friend of a friend commented this video:

…by saying that he knew I wasn’t after sympathy, and it never occurred to me that someone could feel sympathy over it. I don’t really feel bad or disenfranchised by any of the shit that has happened.

All in all it was all just bricks in the wall.

Although, I can’t deny that I’ve been much more focused recently on talking about my past and various things that have happened. But I don’t think it’s sympathy that I’m after–but understanding. The last thing I want is for anyone to feel sorry for me; I’m too proud for that. And why shouldn’t I be proud? I rose from a dirt poor family in the economic despair of Mississippi and put my fucking ass through college.

IMG_1521

But there’s no scholarship for me to apply for if I desire to move out of Mississippi and put this college degree to use. And though it’s only an Associate’s Degree, I’ve frequently considered getting my BA, but have ultimately decided against it. There aren’t many more doors that a BA would open that an AAS doesn’t. But I need to get to the doors. And there are no doors here.

I am humbly asking for help to make this happen.

https://www.gofundme.com/transgendermove

Transgender & Need To Leave Mississippi

https://www.gofundme.com/transgendermove

Saturday, the realization occurred to me that in the past year I’ve been able to make pretty much zero progress in my life here in Mississippi. All I’ve managed to do was tread water, and that took tremendous work, and the prospect of drowning has loomed over me pretty much every minute of every day. I look on envy at the people making Minimum Wage, as the numbers show that I would make more money if I flipped burgers at McDonald’s. So why don’t I do that? Well, there’s the problem exactly!

McDonald’s won’t hire me, because I’m a college graduate and wildly overqualified. In the past year, out of the inestimable job applications I’ve put in, I got only one callback, and that was for a busperson position at a restaurant–and I didn’t get the job.

Because I was overqualified.

The death of my television and my total inability to scrape up the paltry amount of $160 to replace it is an absolute disgrace to myself as a human being. This is why I busted my ass all those years ago, working a full-time job while being a full-time college student, doing homework like a lunatic on my lunch break? Going to sleep when I got home from work at 2:00 in the morning, and then waking up at 6:30 to get ready for class? This is my reward for that labor? To be totally unable to come up with a measly $160 to buy a cheap fucking television? To live on a diet of (literally) ramen noodles and bologna sandwiches–without cheese? Without cheese, for fuck’s sake!

I’m angry. I’m tremendously angry. And I have every right to be angry, because no matter how it’s sliced, this isn’t my fault. Even if I had never gone to Vegas, my situation wouldn’t be much improved to how it is today. No, this is almost completely an extension of how my parents and their drug usage, separation, and irresponsibility stacked the deck so heavily against me. Through my whole life, I’ve fought against those odds, and I’m furious that circumstances have trapped me here. The more I think about it, the angrier I become.

https://www.gofundme.com/transgendermove

But I’m in a Catch-22 here. I need money to leave Mississippi, and I need to leave Mississippi in order to make money. I am turning to the wider world and asking for assistance in extricating myself from this untenable and wretched situation, where not only am I unable to “get ahead” because there is no “ahead” to get to, but because I am transgender in a state that is not going to simply allow that to happen.

So if there is anything that you can do, from donations to sharing that link, it would be tremendously appreciated. I need $3,500 to safely and securely move out of this hellhole and be able to establish myself elsewhere, and put this miserable existence behind me.

Expense Estimated Cost
Gasoline (1700 miles @ 15/gallon @ $2.25/gallon) $255 Note A
Deposit + 3 Months Rent ($545/month) $2,180 http://www.apartments.com/vibe-apartments-las-vegas-nv/l67j48e/
Electricity/Water/Gas Deposits $200 Perhaps unnecessary, will know when Vibe returns my contact
Pet Deposit (Probably) ** $500 Unnecessary at Vibe Apartments–waiting to hear back from them*
Food, Miscellaneous Household Items $150
Hotel Expense $60 Amarillo, TX Super 8
Miscellaneous? Drinks, etc., Gas Jug, Water Jugs $50 Note B
$3,395
Note A: This is slightly high, in fact, by about 10%. The trip to Vegas from where I am in MS is only about 1600 miles, and I get better than
15 miles per gallon. “How much better” is a figure that I don’t know, but it’s not considerably better–perhaps 18-19 per gallon. That certainly
adds up over time, of course, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Plus, the cost of gas varies across the country.
Note B: One does not make a drive across the country without a few gallons of water and a 5 gallon jug of gas in the trunk. The last time
I made such a drive, there were two occasions when the gas jug came in very handy. While it wasn’t necessary, better safe than sorry.
* Given the circumstances, I hope that they are willing to work with me and have a way of me filling out the requisite paperwork from
a distance. For obvious reasons, an interview with them is hardly an option. But surely this happens somewhat frequently.
** If this proves unnecessary, it would be ideal for me to have my female fixed before making the trip, for $135. My male cat is fixed
already, but the female just about stays in heat these days, and she would drive apartment neighbors crazy.

I am humbly requesting the assistance of anyone and everyone who can provide any help whatsoever.

Dancing in Hellfire, 2nd Draft Preview

This is essentially the first few sections (because the manuscript isn’t divided into chapters) of the upcoming autobiography Dancing in Hellfire and is, basically, the Submission Sample. While I’m not submitting yet, because I won’t until the final draft is 75% done (I really dropped the ball on it, but have recommitted to x pages per day, which is the only way to do such things), I think that this will get the job done. I’m going to continue rewriting those first few paragraphs until they leave people fucking speechless, though. Anyway–I hope you enjoy. Well… I hope you find it fascinating and interesting, because it’s not the sort of thing anyone should really enjoy…

You could also watch this video, where I tell a very small portion of the story–only a few parts that relate to being transgender–in video form, with wickedly appropriate music in the background. 😀

Introduction

 

The absolute best that I can say about my mother is that: even if she was kidnapped and wasn’t murdered outright, it has been seventeen years, and she has surely been killed by now—so, even if she was tortured in some psycho’s basement, it’s over now.

It’s the greatest of the series of tragedies that characterized my early life, and the worst part is that there is only truth in the above; that is the best that I can say of her fate. She vanished when I was twelve years old, and no body has ever been recovered. Since the last person with whom she lived has served a prison sentence for an unrelated murder, and that all he had to say back then was that “She left with a truck driver named Tim,” it’s not hard to piece the puzzle together, but it never grows beyond speculation. Without her body, it can never be more than baseless speculation.

And though that is surely the worst of the true and unembellished tales I can impart, it is far from the only such story. Instead, there are more horrors to be uncovered and shared—a reminder of the terrible depths to which human depravity can sink, and of the extraordinariy resilience of the human spirit that refuses to surrender. Because it’s possible—and I know it’s possible. Sometimes other people delay things and force transgender people to be something they’re not, but survival is always an option, and nothing can truly destroy someone’s spirit, hope, or identity.

It’s strangely easy to forget how much all of this really sucks. It’s easy to forget how horrible it was to lie awake, crying and listening to the screaming and sounds of shattering glass as my mother was beaten by her alcoholic boyfriend at two in the morning. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself, to make myself forget who I am. And it’s easy to forget how terrible it was when my father killed a woman, when I was interrogated by police at the age of five, and how deeply the emotional scars of that childhood really extend.

When my mother disappeared off the face of the Earth, never to be seen again, I was only twelve years old, and people today are stunned that I speak of her murder so matter-of-factly, though her body has never been recovered and the only real evidence of her death is that the man with whom she was living has since been to prison for another murder. It’s amazing what the human spirit can become accustomed to, a fact clearly evidenced by the almost lackadaisical way I approach these would-be bitter memories.

But that’s all they are: memories.

Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississisppi—the U.S. state that just passed a law allowing discrimination on religious grounds. Really, this is about as frustrating and difficult as one would expect, and the only thing that keeps me safe is the secrecy that surrounds me—not many people can link my male identity to my female one. That’s only dealing with what people do under the radar, though—in the open is another story, because it was already impossible for me to find a job as my true self, which forced me to live a lie to some degree as long as I am here, so the new laws don’t really have any impact for me. And I survive. As always, I simply roll with the punches. There is no choice. Nor was there a choice those early mornings as I became witness to horrific domestic violence.

C’est la vie.

I once uttered that phrase almost ironically, but it’s now one that I speak with the greatest of sighs, because there is no truer expression in any language: “Such is life.” It’s not that I consider existence meaningless and bleak, but I have been looking upon an unnecessarily brutal world since before my mind was capable of even grasping its tragedies. I did not live the sheltered life, and that delusion, that there is a Great Justice that one day is due us all, was ripped from my hands before I had even taken my first steps into a school.

I don’t begrudge the past. If anything, I am thankful for it, because we are all shaped by our experiences, and I’m pleased with the person I am. However, I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter are, perhaps, even more unlucky, and lose themselves to the blade of a razor.

Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons? Obviously, with the family that is, to be frank, to blame. Though I am not perfect and have done plenty wrong, my mistakes generally come after I was shaped by that childhood and adolescence.

My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, and I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. With the exception of only myself and one of my cousins, the family is almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.

Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, and that’s one of the main points I’ve attempted to make in online communities: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. It must be acknowledged, though, that the common thread between us is that we’ve broken free of the terrorizing and gripping fears of the local religion. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”

My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their will,s and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled, and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are… absolutely priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.

Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”

With all due respect, to everyone involved, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house; if they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps. These are the type of people that comprise my family.

Again, this isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes, blunders, and stupid decisions that brought myself, and people around me, severe difficulty and hardship, and that is particularly true regarding past relationships.

My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It honestly doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. That said, I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.

 

South Pontotoc

I was born premature, thankfully, too, because the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was born black, reportedly. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.

I don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt like hell, and it was pained because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as we’d expect from such early memories, but the needles hurt and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things were stabbed through my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.

Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and that wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew… nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. And then I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate; I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother happy to have a new sibling, or rocked in the cradle while the soothing voice of a loving grandparent read a story. I was in a room shining in fluorescent light, alone, and hurting.

That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.

And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.

The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s, then. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing it and embracing it.

I was, of course, born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I soon began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom I didn’t have any, and so that I could then wear panties instead. There I was, at three years old, taking all of my tidy-whities and throwing them into the back of the closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.

So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Daisy was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to laughingly make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.

My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Dickbag (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.

I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.

 

A Look At My Father

I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.

But he is.

That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the predominant emotion I have for my father, even now, is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.

His own childhood was no walk in the park, and was tarnished by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.

At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path, winning the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college the rest of her days, finally retiring at the age of 67.

True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother, for undisclosed reasons, to live with Uncle Ben and Aunt Ethel on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Ethel didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What set of circumstances caused Jessica—I’ve never heard my grandmother refer to her own mother by anything other than her name—to send my grandmother off to this farm? What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quite resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?

These are questions to which I would dearly love the answers, but I’ll never have them; they are not things that my grandmother is happy to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t really blame her for not wanting to talk about it. She lived a difficult life, but she’s also the strongest woman I’ve ever heard of. I would love little more than for her story to be known, and that’s part of what makes her so remarkable: she doesn’t want her story to be told. Her humility and sincerity are matched only by the courage and wisdom it must have taken to craft the life she did in a time when women were “not allowed” to be more than housewives.

On one particular drunken rampage, my father was forced to hold a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he even had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Assface’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to get in the way.

For years, my father insisted that he had been drafted to Vietnam, and he even pulled the whole John Rambo thing, where he talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. At one point, though, my sister and I realized that… there’s no way. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had crafted, he had to be older than our mother (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one, by several years), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.

He retconned his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him, and have even signed up for one of the paid services to look. Whether he did fight in Vietnam or not, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.

He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by looking at his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other members of the family, the secularism is applied in strangely selective ways, and he’s generally just as fundamental as everyone else in the family—he continues to believe that Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite the fact that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.

I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a wildly popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.

As an aside, with the recent HD Remaster of said video game’s release to PC, I actually installed it onto my grandmother’s computer for him, thereby allowing him to play through it again. He’s been really excited, and I’m glad for that. Though I’d name him Lardnugget if I had to “All names have been changed” him, I’m still glad that I was able to do that for him.

There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the more numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because the traumatic childhood seems to have destroyed him; he is one of the ones who did not come through unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, whereas I left with the same feeling and the certainty that, whether the world owed it or not, it would never give it willingly.

The rifts between us began because I was just… not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I would wager the guess that, particularly at those young ages, it was related to my premature birth, but, regardless, I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I really wanted with me when I slept.

My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it with my finger and thumbnail until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad told me to bring my pillow outside.

As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived and implemented during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy and had the random idea to start a flower garden. Naturally, the high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of stones—at least for a while. Then they died, unwatered, neglected, and forgotten.

Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly with the flickering glow of his lighter shining on his face, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid. “We need to burn it!” he said, and I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard into the trash this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?

“We need to burn it!” he said again, and I ran back inside, crying to mom that dad wanted to make me burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father knew it; he knew very well that I loved that pillow.

And that’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.

We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. But he wasn’t content to simply force me to throw away this pillow that I loved, this symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he so desperately wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.

It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.

It was my heart.

My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was even an issue that I wanted to keep my pillow. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me (and still doesn’t).

It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to inanimate objects: even before the separation, neither parent spent much time with me, and there wasn’t much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brittney was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.

 

Aunt May and Kay-Kay

For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brittney and Anthony were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. Sadly, I’ve also been told that my father fleeced her out of most of her money, which is the same thing he did to my great-grandmother and is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend any of that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.

It sucked at Aunt May’s, though. There was probably nowhere that would have been worse for my three or four-year-old self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo the vast majority of the time, which left me there alone with an eight-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not really able or happy to babysit a four-year-old.

A kid at that age should be outside playing and having fun, not sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s a child would have been thrilled beyond measure to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.

But just imagine the blank and horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse! Of course, I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.

I don’t mean any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both my parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”

Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Autn May; the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head at that point, so it was perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustahce. Cars have tires, and cows go “moo.” It simply was.

One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed in the corner from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The kitchen was near the back of the house, and had a door to the outside attached to it, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.

She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (I don’t think she even had a phone), or did anything else about it, but my memory of that ordeal is really vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.

Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, and I recognized that as an indication she was alright—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew enough to know that it was a great thing to have a house.

Kay-Kay, however, was a pretty ordinary woman, but there was a lot going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.

Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay expertly put my fears to rest by handling it so well. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it whatsoever. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, they stopped for a moment, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, clearly coming from somewhere in the back.

“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head there was the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.

“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”

Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then stopped. I never learned what any of this was about, and Kay-Kay asked me to not mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.

The Rise of Tumult

There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic guy. Being my parents’ friend, he was also heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a bit of a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch, unmoving and in a stupor, droning out “Yeah…” to no one.

I watched my mother, laid out in the loveseat on one side of the living room, look over at my father. She held up and toward my father a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “Lardnugget, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both just out of their minds, just high as hell.

Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer one day and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father as I do, it’s amazing that he had any money at all, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.

Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” and my father understood what that meant: Doc had been caught shooting up by the gang. Doc had to get out of town before the gang could find him; whoever had discovered the secret would tell the others, and they would force Doc to run the Gauntlet. Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail. Doc was eventually found, and he did not survive.

We also frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Danielle and Uncle Dickbag (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, though there is no body or evidence, would one day murder my mother), as well as our cousins. We did this regularly, and one of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.

As Brittney and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded on both sides by trees and steep ditches that spelled certain death for anyone who lost control and went over, an 18-wheeler decided that he needed to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous sideview mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I were cut.

The fault was probably my father’s, driving under the influence of one drug or another, but the reason officially given was that the highway there simply wasn’t wide enough to feasibly pass. This excuse was given much later in the day—after the trip got significantly worse. Whether the trucker stopped after the incident is anyone’s guess, but I don’t blame my father for continuing on; in an age before cell phones were common, it would have been stupid to stop in an isolated place and confront a trucker who had, whoever was to blame, just smashed a torrent of glass through the truck that held two children (Anthony rode with our mother).

We ended up in Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father simply didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection—reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.

The driver of that car died on the spot with a broken neck.

Obviously, the police were called, and my father was arrested. The police had Brittney and me wait in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have literally no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.

My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and we were repeatedly questioned about the accidents by police, doctors, and therapists. Of course, we were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that served only to make the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Danielle and Uncle Dickbag briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.

For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after having been in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, to fix the problem, they shoved pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably simply Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits; knocking me out with drugs was the only way they could get me into one, though eventually that anxiety faded.

Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was ever clean for any noteworthy period of time, and they continued inviting friends over frequently. These parties, while they were more or less tame and simply consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, they were not what would constitute “normal” for most kids.

On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened some time around my fifth birthday.

I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing video games, snacking whenever I desired, and just basically doing any damned thing I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?

We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.

Getting approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and just months later that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, and that he was just disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.

It was a schoolday when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.

Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had one of the NES Satellite devices that allowed four controllers to be used.

I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.

To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint to simply inform my dad of what was happening.

Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”

There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.

The story goes on to explain that, obviously, my dad wasn’t dead. He just, quite pathetically, wanted my mother to think he was hurt so that she’d stop and check on him.