26 + 1 years

[I feel I have a lot more to add to this, but if I don’t post it, I might never get this out]

The sum in the title will tell you my age. I am 27 years this day. I crossed the quarter-century two years ago. I have 23 more years to reach the half-century.

For twenty six of my years, the concept of Death has been quite abstract, a distant idea. I’ll admit I didn’t think of Death much, except in the sense of danger – for example, taking small precautions to ensure I don’t get hit by a car when I’m crossing the street, or making a conscious decision not to go down a creepy dark alley when there was no one around. I suppose I considered it would happen sometime, and being a generally healthy individual, it was a part of a distant future. I thought I had Time. Cliché, I know. a lot of people talk about Time when pondering Life and Death. And not only in the mathematical sense.

On good days, I barely gave Death a thought; like the song goes, I was pretty sure I could trudge on and sleep when I’m dead. There would always be Time: to sort out whatever I needed to deal with, time to lose and find myself through philosophical diatribe and introspection. Despite this, in my darkest moments, I was haunted by an inexplicable urgency, that the seconds were ticking by and I was wasting them through sitting around and doing nothing. Perhaps I was aware of the story before it was even written.

Of course, being my angsty and self-obsessed, self, when it came to decisions, I did occasionally sit on the precipice of my consciousness (if there was ever a place for me to go and think, that would be it – a high place, with a killer view and wrapped in silence) and ponder whether or not I regretted things. Things I’d done or said, or things I hadn’t. They do say you tend to regret the things you haven’t done, although sometimes they exaggerate exactly how much. [I mean, in retrospect, I could say I regret not having climbed Everest, but that’s not something I ever aspired to do anyhow – that’s just not me]

Alright, let’s talk about Time.

On February 26th 2015, I was diagnosed with severe heart disease and hospitalised. Eleven months later, through the miracle (if you believe in those things) of modern medicine, here I am celebrating my twenty seventh birthday. I guess you could safely say I never thought that would be something of an achievement for me. Sure, I was (and am) aware of the ableism in our society, while I often took my good health for granted, but it never occurred to me I’d reach a birthday with difficulty – especially in my twenties.

I’ve read a lot of books (not this year, but in the past), and seen a lot of films, and most of them insinuate that introducing sex into your life – at any age – involves a certain loss of innocence. I suppose that is true; first sexual encounters tend to be a big deal, most likely because they become a point of no return. When a grand realisation hits, it’s incredibly difficult to undo. How do you unrealise something? It’s so difficult the verb unrealise isn’t even in the dictionary. However, it does exist in the past tense (or past participle): ‘unrealised’, in the context of unrealised dreams – that is, dreams that don’t become real. Then there’s the word unrealistic. “It’s unrealistic to think you can do it all.” Or another favourite: “Be realistic! This is never going to happen.”.

For me, the realisation of my own mortality has become… well, real. It lives and breathes next to me in the form of an extracorporeal artificial heart. I can even record it for you. Admittedly, I could avoid thinking about it – Death, and the fragility of Life – and most of the time, my thoughts are far from it, filled with (seemingly ridiculous) concerns about food, drink, and company. I daresay it’s easier to ignore when you don’t have a machine that echoes your heartbeat for everyone in the room to hear. But why waste the knowledge? And how do you even begin to stamp out such a realisation? Not being dramatic here, but I know that I could die at any moment. Theoretically speaking, I know that anybody could; things just don’t turn out the way you expect.

What makes it worse is that I know that in order for me to live, someone else has to die. I need a heart transplant; that’s how bad the situation is (of course, I’m doing fine at the moment, or else you wouldn’t be reading this, but you get the point). For a heart transplant to happen, another person has to be declared clinically dead (that usually means the brain has ceased to function for some reason, but the rest of the organs are fine – like people who are in a coma and on artificial life support). It’s not fair. I don’t deserve to live any more than another person deserves to die. How do I even begin to justify being given another person’s beating heart? Sure, my heart is sick, but doesn’t that just displace the grief? Instead of my own family grieving, another one would be. I’m not saying I’m suicidal or willing to die for anyone or anything. Not at all. All I know is I will die, someday. That’s a certainty. But knowing someone else has to die for me to live? It feels almost… vampiric.

I’m not sure what this long ramble is about. On my 27th birthday, I just can’t stop thinking about the doctors who saved my life – in the most literal sense possible. Yes, I’m thankful and grateful for my family and friends who helped me get some help and continue to support me, but how do you begin to thank people who pumped another breath into your lungs? I feel like crying; mourning the loss of another kind of innocence: not so much a frivolity of youth, but rather a feeling of being unstoppable and invincible. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve never really been one for extremely foolish things – no unnecessary speeding when I used to drive, no extreme sports, no drinking till I can’t see straight. I can’t say I regret that; I just wouldn’t be the person I am if I had done all those things.

That feeling is gone now. Not entirely, but it’s not as persistent as it was. I guess spending half a year in hospital, taking more medical drugs than I’ve ever taken during the rest of my life, and having to watch my diet for fear of thrombosis or internal bleeding, can do that to a person. It’s not that I feel old and broken; I just know that some things I do push the boundaries of what I’m now allowed to. My parents and a close friend maintain that I’ve still not fully acknowledged the restrictions this condition has imposed on me. I’m not sure if that’s denial or just plain stubbornness. OK, I need a machine to stay alive at the moment. And yes, I have to be careful in certain situations, but otherwise… Why should that stop me?

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Burroughs on How to Escape the Society of Control

Te Ipu Pakore: The Broken Vessel

In “Electronic Revolution,” whence Gilles Deleuze got his idea of the “control society,” William S. Burroughs writes about how we can scramble the control society grammatically (see Ubuweb for the essay in full):
The aim of this project is to build up a language in which certain falsifications inherit in all existing western languages will be made incapable of formulation. The follow-falsifications to be deleted from the proposed language. (“ER” 33)
Why? As he puts it elsewhere,
There are certain formulas, word-locks, which will lock up a whole civilisation for a thousand years. (The Job 49)
To unscramble control syntax, the DNA precode of the language virus,
  1. delete the copula (is/are), i.e., disrupt fixed identities – YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE NOT [Lacan]!
  2. replace definite articles (the) with indefinite articles (a/an), i.e., avoid reification — THERE EXIST MULTIPLICITIES [Badiou]!

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Little death: a self-imposed #writing #challenge

[I attempted to use some of my favourite words and phrases, taken from my journal. I’ve listed them at the end of this post. They are words I am fascinated by and that I like the sound of. This is the unedited result. These characters and this dynamic just sort of… happened. Apologies in advance!]

He stared at her, the girl with the striking blue eyes and soft, flaxen hair. Her dirt-patched face was almost lucent in its pallor, like the scales of a fish reflecting sunlight. Her inner warmth compensated for her frigid exterior as, giggling, she bounced and spun in countless circles, arms swishing wildly and gracefully through the air. It was like she was dancing to music playing in her head. For someone who shared more similarities with a corpse than a living, breathing, being, she was certainly lively. And very happy. Not torpid or lethargic at all, actually. He found it rather disturbing. Then again, what did he know about such ethereal creatures?

“What are you doing?” he asked, stressing each word separately.

She smiled, languidly turning and turning, looking dead chuffed as she ignored him. Maybe she didn’t speak the same language. Ignorance is bliss, he reflected.

“Nothing fazes you, does it?” he continued, deeply unimpressed. He sounded like a stern elder, though, on the surface, they probably looked around the same age. Leaning against the gargantuan root of the tree, he folded his arms and rolled his eyes.

Another giggle in response.

She was just too happy. So pleased and content it seemed almost macabre to him. And she was wasting his time. Ironic, really, that a creature like her – with death hugging her like a second skin – was so keen to throw away these precious minutes.

“Have you no shame? No compunction… no chagrin?” He made the transition into his native French easily. That’s what comes of ‘fine’ breeding… an impertinent attitude, false manners, and more languages and words than one brain has use for. Not to mention the sincere lack of fealty towards anything untraditional.  He wrinkled his nose at her as if offended by a fetid aroma emanating from her girlish frame.

“Will you desist?!” he finally exploded. “Enough of this dallying!”

His raised voice caught her attention, shaking her tranquility, like a war drum calling out across a silent night. A dark expression clouded her features as she stopped moving. Finally, they were getting somewhere!

Just when he thought he’d made progress, she chose to cling to the gnarled root instead. Like a peculiarly shaped barnacle.

This is madness, he concluded with a shake of his head. I’m trying to reason with fire fodder. Witch, elf, nymph, zombie, spectre… Whatever she is, and whatever trouble she’s got herself into, I don’t care. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.

[Prompt words in no particular order: flaxen, gargantuan, lucent, dallying, barnacle, faze, chuffed, fodder, chagrin, fealty, corpse, drum(s), fetid, second skin, madness, torpid/torpor]

One night only

I must write. I must do research. I should take a break. No, no, no, I should write. I have a great idea. A wonderful idea (of course, it helps when I think I’m brilliant from time to time…).

Surely if I’m so excited by this idea, it can wait till tomorrow? I need a break – a chance to cram random ideas and imaginings into my brain for one night only, and then empty it out tomorrow on a page?

One night only.

#HumanRightsDay Open Letter

On account of UN Human Rights Day, I decided to write this open letter.

To whom it may concern,

I have heart disease. I identify as a trans man. I come from Cyprus.

Yeah, I know, what do you care? To be honest, it’s not really anybody’s business whether I’m cis, trans, or non-gender identified. You don’t need to know my name – I like my anonymity as much as the next person. However, since we’re celebrating the joys of human rights (or lack thereof which we are witnessing around the globe, including the European Union that prides itself on establishing the fundamental human rights through its Charter), I figured I might as well chip in with my proverbial two cents.

There are many places in the world where people’s lives are being made miserable by other humans, often for no reason except power. Just look at the top headlines. Being a selfish prick, I would like to draw your attention to a particular issue that has been gnawing away at me for a while.

My home country recently voted through legislation to support civil partnerships for gay couples. For some, this is a massive leap forwards and means they get to express themselves in the way they would like. To be honest, I suppose it was about time. However, while this is an important milestone in LGBT rights, Cyprus seems to lack the sheer willpower to support and update legislation on other issues, such as the issue of name change. We’ve been in the EU for over a decade (since 2004), and while this may seem a minor issue in relation to other perfectly logical, economically-driven programmes (like sticking ‘green’ wind turbines in a country that could probably benefit more from solar panels), it’s a pest – and that’s putting it mildly. Inhumane might be a better term. If you are trans and want to change your official ID documents in Cyprus, the state obliges you to go through all the relevant surgery, as well as psychological counselling. Admittedly, support from a psychologist is useful whether or not gender reassignment surgery is what a trans person is looking for… Of course, that’s if the psychologist is not horribly conservative and doesn’t view being transgender as a mental disorder – which is what I encountered in Greece (but that’s another story).

The problem is this: with the name change happening at the “other end”* of transition, by the time all the procedures of this ridiculous tick-boxing exercise are in place – the hormones, the surgery, the psychology counselling – the trans person themselves is probably destitute as they are unable to work, unable to travel (try getting through airport security with an ID that states a different name and gender to the one you generally pass as), and generally not recognised as a citizen in any way. In some cases, it’s even been suggested that the ID is fraudulent, as it doesn’t bear any similarity to the person carrying it.

And then, it’s important to consider that not all trans people want – or are able to have – surgery. After all, the very definition of trans is fluid and varies from person to person; it’s seen as an umbrella term – much like queer. Some trans people don’t even identify with the binary gender spectrum but nonetheless want to pursue a name change; what do you do about them?

In my case, I’m unable to pursue this kind of thing (at least, to my knowledge). Mastectomy, hysterectomy, and phalloplasty – not to mention the incessant rejigging of medication – would put incredible strain on a body that has undergone a heart transplant. So what am I meant to do? (Sure, that’s selfish, but like I said… I’m a selfish bugger)

The 2010 Directorate-General’s report on Transgender Persons’ Rights in the EU Member States even declares that my country (and quite a few others) is in clear breach of the established fundamental rights charter; particularly for having what they describe as “no legal certainty” in the matter of gender reassignment on paper. But it’s not like anyone can arrest a government, or charge them with discrimination until a case actually comes up. Local LGBT activists Accept seem to be making slow progress in lobbying arena, but perhaps they have too much on their plate (trans issues are not the only ones the legislation is sincerely behind in). It is important to note, though, that they are making progress. Change is happening. But for some people – less fortunate than myself – it’s crawling by. Perhaps, it’s just incredibly easy to avoid dealing with this for anyone and everyone who isn’t directly affected.

And that’s just the legal side of things. Unfortunately, the legislation is only the tip of the iceberg. In terms of society and prejudices, I can’t really make any claims as I’ve not lived in Cyprus since I came out as transgender (yes, I was very lucky that way). Some people I encountered while in hospital there, were quite understanding; others were quite confused yet still tended to be positive. And then others just ignored it. Of course, the last group were entirely supported by this because of the outdated legislation; on paper, I’m still female, using my old name.

2016 is upon us.

Time to make a change.

 

*Some might argue transition is a life-long process, and I must say, I agree, but to make things easier for lawyers and doctors, there is a finite end-point…apparently.

 

http://lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session6/CY/ILGA-Europe-AKOK_CYP_UPR_S06_2009.pdf

Rage-induced musings

Remember a few days ago, I was wondering about where that rage went?

Combined with some arguments with my mother (health reasons have shoved us back into living together), it seems like that question opened Pandora’s box.

I find it strange that a place is defined by its usefulness to us. Let me explain. Athens is the place I have come to get better – it’s a means to an end, according to my parents. My mother’s concern is that I will not be able to earn money, or have something to secure money when my health improves and I am able to live back home. Apparently, it’s been decided that I will live there. I’ll admit I considered it back in February when I could barely walk five metres without stopping for breath, but now, I’m not so sure.

Currently, all my stuff is there, and I am unable to access it at my whim, as I am unable to travel. No wonder I’m feeling trapped.

Anyhow, after a discussion as to what I will do with myself after all this is over, it’s become clear my mother took that desperate decision as gospel. I pointed out I don’t know what I want to do. I don’t even know if I want to live back home any more. In response, I was told to consider what I will do if I live abroad, as if there was nothing to gain from being in a country different to my own.

Apparently, “because I don’t want to” isn’t a good enough reason for longing to go back abroad… or so I’ve been told.

Well… I spent 20 years dreaming I could get a ticket out of there. No, it wasn’t torture to live there, I had a few friends (who are now scattered across the globe as they have lives of their own) but I wouldn’t say I was really there most of the time anyhow. When I wasn’t studying or exercising, I spent so much time writing and imagining plots in my head, because it felt so…limited. Sure, you’ll say I’m doing the same now. But it seems much better than sitting around and doing nothing.

Is not wanting to be there not a good enough reason? Sure, maybe before it was a case of “the grass is always greener” but I’ve had ample experience of living abroad now. I only left for health reasons, and because it felt like the only way out (my health was so bad it affected my relationships but, looking back, it probably wasn’t the only thing that led to a breakup and just seeing less of people). What I’m trying to saying is I don’t think if I was fine, I’d still be with my ex. That split might have happened either way, and I’m not interested in thinking that we’d be together, because quite frankly, it feels like we’re both past that. She’s happier now (or well, she seems happier), she’s got someone new, I’m doing better alone (except that everyone else seems particularly interested in why I’m not in a relationship…as if that means I’m damaged?) and pretty much enjoying rediscovering my love for writing. Sure, it gets lonely sometimes.

A friend of mine pointed out that back home isn’t necessarily all that bad. It has loads of advantages. Apparently one of these is that it’s quiet. I don’t like the idea of a quiet life. Especially not after nearly dying and spending a great deal of time in hospital reflecting on my life and feeling like I’ve not lived at all.

OK, I confess, I have a problem. After a long enough stay anywhere, I start to feel… agitated and trapped. Maybe it’s boredom, wanderlust, maybe it’s a case of “grass is greener”, onism, or a case of commitment jitters; feel free to analyse it as you wish.

I’m 26. After a transplant, I probably will never have a proper job – I never managed to keep a proper job when I was healthy, either. I’ve been told I can’t afford to live in my head forever; I’ll have to compromise sooner or later. But what if this is just what I’m good at? What if this is what I’ve learned from the hypocrisy of growing up (think things like being told I have to lose weight then being offered some fatty treat or dessert)? What if I’m just really good at burying my head in the proverbial sand, swallowing rage and dark thoughts, and spewing it all out in my regurgitated gunk of the written word?

Maybe I’m just not thinking like an adult. Whatever that is. It certainly feels like teen angst bundled in my chest. Or is it just piles and piles of anger, pushed deep down and stamped on because I was told it was never ‘nice’ to raise my voice, or never polite to swear? And somehow speaking exactly what was on my mind was never entirely appropriate? [I’ve learnt to ‘edit’ what I say that sometimes I wonder whether I know what on earth my original meaning was in the first place]

[No wonder I’m such a mess]

I know: never say never, but I don’t see why I should resign myself to the kind of life I’m expected to have, instead of the life I WANT to have.

 

Practice makes perfect…

Prompted by someone’s request to see some of my fiction on here, I’ve been perusing some of my old stuff. Man, that was dark. Proper angry. After my near-brush with death, it takes a lot more to scare me. I still can’t entirely believe I’m in this situation, waiting for someone else to die in order for me to live. Of course, when I put it like that, it just sounds like cannibalism (or is that capitalism? I forget…).

Still, reading over those old posts makes me wonder… where did that person go? The person who hated himself so much he had to sit up at 2 am to tell the world about it?  The man who angered so quickly but never acted violently? Sure, I’ve had loads of dark days this year, but I seem to be doing much better – and not only physically. Why, though? Is it because I’m writing now? Sinking slowly into a fictional realm? Or is it just because, like my mother says, I don’t listen to other people? I feel less tormented than I was, perhaps because I’ve refused to let my situation get me down. And in the process learnt how to ignore all the darkness?

I don’t know, it just feels peculiar to think of it. Feelings that strong don’t just disappear, even if they are triggered by the tiniest of events. It begs the question, where did all that rage go?

Maybe I’m growing more mild-mannered? Or maybe I’m just getting better at hiding from myself?

Practice does make perfect, after all.