Trigger Warnings: Transphobia, Bullying, Self Harm, Suicide
Tonight, I will take the track with the Windy City Rollers All Stars for our 2015 debut against Team United Roller Derby from Des Moines, IA. And as per usual, when we take the track, I will be wearing a bandana around my neck, because I sweat like all get out and I don’t want to drip-drip-drip all over the track, especially at the jam line.
But, tonight I won’t be wearing the normal bandanas that I wear with my WCR uniform, like the white and black one I wore the last time I donned the Chicago flag in black and silver. No, tonight, I will be wearing a turquoise bandana, in remembrance and honor of Casper, a young trans skater in Michigan who took his life this past weekend.
Turquoise is the color of suicide awareness, and in the wake of Casper’s death, Anna Phylaxis (one of the coaches of his team, the Detroit area’s Darlings of Destruction) put out a call to the derby community and asked that skaters and teams incorporate turquoise into their uniforms this weekend to raise awareness of suicide, especially among trans teens, and especially associated with bullying.
Along with many other teams around the world, WCR answered that call and will be donning turquoise in a beautiful statement of solidarity amongst a community of outcasts and badasses.
For me, this statement hits incredibly close to home for many reasons. When I was first coming to grips with the queerness of my gender as a teen was the first time in my life that I was seriously suicidal. By that point I had already internalized an intense amount of negative cultural ideas about my gender and had begun experiencing them in the flesh and blood in the form of bullying or harassment.
I am honestly lucky and thankful that I made it through that time in my life and am alive to talk about it, but the reason I survived is because I hid. I hid who I was from the world and from myself and survived. It was a powerful and effective tactic, but it has come with debilitating consequences that I am only now, over 15 years later, finally acknowledging and processing through.
A few years ago, for a variety of reasons, I stopped hiding and started embracing and expressing who I actually am at my core. And while it has been magical and amazing and is way overdue, I am still experience all of the shit that I had internalized, worried about, and been subject to as a teen.
Much as I expected, I am regularly subjected to verbal and physical harassment, my basic right to exist and self-identify are not a given, and I spend so much energy just trying to survive that it’s often hard to actually enjoy living. Although I am a hardened, educated, and privileged adult, I don’t feel safe, happy, and healthy existing in most environments.
Even spaces like derby, which has been so amazing and supportive for me, are nowhere near perfect. Indeed, the most suicidal I have been since I was that teenager trying to figure out what heck I was was last year during Playoff Derby Season, when I had the fear (which was later realized) of having people Officially Call Into Question my gender.
And then a few months later when I was physically assaulted by a bouncer at an afterparty at WFTDA Champs. These recent events (including “The Nashville Incident”, as my therapist calls it, which I think is the title of a future album of mine) have triggered me back to some serious feels from when I was a kid, which lay unprocessed and hidden all these years and then came roaring to life all of a sudden. In so many ways, I am living through the things Teenage Me was worried about, and it is as scary and painful and confusing as he thought it would be.
But I am here. I am living. I am existing.
And sometimes I don’t know how that happened.
But then I look around me and I see all the people in my corner, and I realize I am not doing this alone. I am doing this as part of a community of badass outcasts who stand in solidarity. Who support each other from around the world.
So tonight, I am wearing a turquoise bandana and I am doing it for 57, and I am not doing alone.
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