On the Tip of Your Tongue: A Message For My Closeted Sisters

I was outed to my parents by a violent family member.

It wasn’t how I wanted it to be. In the privacy of our hotel room, he hurtled slur after slur at me: “Sissy, Faggot, Fucking Pussy.” It was the night of my sister’s wedding. Her dress was stunning. When I turned away from him and moved toward the door, he spun me around by my shoulder and head butted me in the face, knocking out one of my front teeth and ruining his forehead. A porcelain tooth fills that slot now. I see it every time I look in the mirror.

My parents disowned me when he discovered concrete evidence that I was a trans woman. They would eventually start calling again, but I would never reclaim what they had taken from me. I was out to most of my peers. I had informed those who didn’t already know with a Facebook post some six months prior. Something clicked in my head that night when my parents told me I should never come back. I decided that I didn't really care what any given acquaintance thought about me. I didn’t care if I lost my job or those “friends” that I had been putting off telling. This is largely what I want you to understand. Maybe not now or tomorrow, but eventually you will come to learn that it doesn't matter what they think. It doesn’t.

Think of it like this—those who would reject you belong to a hideous lineage of oppressors that have been terrorizing the marginalized since nearly the beginning. They are feeble-minded, and they do not deserve your respect. You would never despise them for their gender identity. But this is what they are serving you. My darling, Unicorns should not bow before rats. If they would be kind to you while closeted, but reject you when you at last learn to love yourself, it is the same as if they have been rejecting you all along. Because they have been, they just don't know it yet. Only you know that. You keep that pain a secret too.

The following are the thoughts that, along with the timely arrival of a dear friend, saved me from taking my own life in the wake of having been outed. This is for anyone who struggles under the weight of their oppression. Who believes she will never be free. Hear me, sisters. This is truth. Keep it with you always. Let it sit at the tip of your tongue.

We have two options as trans women in this world. You have two choices before you now.

The first is this:

You die for the beliefs of our oppressors. You do this by either slowly killing your spirit in that hideous closet, where every day is a subtle nod to their twisted understanding of your experience, or you do this by becoming so deeply submerged in their hateful rhetoric that you begin to accept that perhaps they are right about you. And then their words put that gun in your hand, and you go where so many of our sisters have gone.

The second is this:

You stand. Maybe slowly, but you stand. You take up that positively gorgeous soul in your arms; the one that is yours and yours alone—you feel it now, can’t you? Fluttering in your chest? Waking. It is a kind of fury rippling across your skin. This is your spirit—the one they have taught you to fear and resent and to be ashamed of. That is your spirit. You stand, draping it over your shoulders with pride. You stand with the names of every murdered trans woman married to the tip of your tongue. You stand with the acute knowledge that those same cruel stares they will soon aim at you are the reason that half of us have or will attempt to kill ourselves in our lifetime. And with it all suspended right there in your immediate consciousness, you walk out into it all, capable, for the first time in your life, of seeing the true nature of those that would despise you. And then you can see it. So clearly. It is the most important decision that you will ever make, and you can see it. You know now. You will live or die for your own beliefs.   

Let me tell you something that maybe no one has ever told you before, lovely.
You are fucking beautiful.

You are breathtakingly beautiful. Spine shatteringly beautiful. And don't tell yourself this isn't true—don't you dare think I'm typing this to cheer you up and help you to love yourself, oh no. Listen: every breath you draw is defiance, and every step you take requires more courage and willpower than the overwhelming majority of this planet will ever be capable of even understanding as potentially existent. Every second of your life is victory. Every time you match their gaze and their eyes shy away, you are paving the path that our future trans sisters will walk down. I don't want to fight a war. You probably don't either. But we don't get that choice. This is the nature of oppression. So silence them with kindness and dignity or silence them with righteous indignation. Just silence them. Be everything that they have always told you was impossible for someone like you to be. And ten years from now, twenty years from now, our future trans sisters will not be force-fed the shame that has been a staple in our diets since before we could fucking speak. We have to be strong for them if we cannot be strong for ourselves. Tell me something, gorgeous, what could mean more than this?

It will be the most difficult thing you will ever do in your life. But you will. I believe in you, my sister. Because when that initial disruption has faded, and you settle into your new life, things will continue to improve every day. You will gain more allies and comrades than you ever could have imagined. People will rally to you. Bigots will realize what they truly are when they stare into your eyes and sense the power in your soul. But most importantly, for the first time in your entire life, you will intimately understand what it is to be loved for who you are. For exactly who you are and had always so desperately wanted to set free. The stares and rude comments will slowly become comical. They will. I couldn’t have foreseen it then. But eventually you will welcome them. You will smile and giggle. And your laughter will turn their prejudice inwards. Because when they say the hideous things that they will say to you—when they point—when they openly stare and laugh…they are not truly insulting you. You will see this in time, lovely. They only insult themselves by revealing their own hideous ignorance.

I believe in you, gorgeous. I do. The other side is so magnificent. And we cannot wait for you to arrive.


Juliet Awry Irises is a faraway gendered trans grrl whose fingers flick almost continuously through her hair. When she is not writing poetry or painting, she busies herself with splitting the veins of the holy western masculine wide the fuck open, amen.