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  • Writer's pictureLeoOtherland

Lying Awake, Listening To The Rates In My Walls

The title of this is no joke, I’m sorry to say. The last week, I very much have been lying awake at night and listening to the rats in my walls. I’m not sure what happened, but when the weather changed and true winter cold set in, something, I am assuming a rat, moved into the walls of my new, better apartment. I can hear it in there, chewing, and it is disconcerting.

Though, my unintended, unwanted pet feels like the least of my concerns at this moment.

It has been one hell of a year with life taking me through a gauntlet ranging through COVID, homelessness, transphobia, therapy, inadequate funds, and publication. There have been good things and bad, but the constant has been unending stress and an overall sense of overwhelm.

I have felt like I’m losing myself, but also my place and purpose in life.

The last few days, laying and listening to my friend the rat, a song has been circling my head and I feel the need to share the lyrics with you:

My life feels like a painting left unfinished

But the artist died and here I lie, just a sliver of an image

I feel that there’s a purpose for my spirit

But it’s trapped in place stuck in its cage, suffering from this sickness

So here I am

My mind feels like a child left alone in the dark

I don’t wanna be afraid, be afraid

But I’m so afraid

I’ve walked this road for miles yet I’ve never felt so far

From what I thought was happiness as I decay and fade away

Fade away

Most days it feels like I’m just going nowhere

A perfect mess progressing less as the end keeps getting closer

The world is shaking, my bones are aching

I’ve slipped deep in a sleep without a sign of waking

So here I am

Discouraged and out of breath

No courage, nothing left

Will I let this be the end?

Discouraged and out of breath

No courage, nothing left

Will I let this be the end? (Be the end, be the end...)

The song is “Decay” by Villain of the Story. (A fitting name for a band for a writer to like, wouldn’t you say?) This song keeps whirling through my head as I listen to rates, watch as my car breaks down for the how manyith time this year, and witness states making anti-trans laws that effectively silence my publisher when it comes to promoting events and activities by trans authors.

Such as myself.

What does this mean? And, additionally, what does this mean to me on this day that happens to be Trans Day of Remembrance? Well, let’s start with what this day is.

Trans Day of Remembrance is an annual observance that honors the memory of trans people killed in acts of anti-trans violence.

According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign there have been at least 302 violent deaths of trans and gender-nonconforming people since the organization began tracking these fatalities in 2013. Thirty-two of these deaths happened this year. The Human Rights Campaign also noted the number of this year’s fatalities (and fatalities in general) is likely an undercount because the deaths of trans people often go unreported, or the victims are misgendered in news or police reports. Additionally, the data does not track the deaths of those who commit suicide, a cause of death documented at significantly higher rates among queer people than in the general population.

These numbers come during a year of unprecedented anti-trans legislation. More than 145 anti-trans bills have been introduced across thirty-four states this year, marking the largest number recorded by the Human Rights Campaign in a state legislative session.

Is it any wonder I have been in a constant state of panic, bordering on fear for my life and continued well-being this year? The land in which I live is actively trying to erase me, to silence me, and it would not mind in the least if someone shot me while I walked down the street.

And in the midst of this, when I feel it is the purpose of my life to stand up and write stories that give people like me hope, along comes another anti-trans law that threatens to tear away my ability to keep publishing and spreading the word about my writing. I sit here on this Trans Day of Remembrance with a hole in my heart, feeling abandoned and alone, indeed just a “sliver of an image,” a “child left alone in the dark.”

“I don’t wanna be afraid, be afraid, but I’m so afraid.”

I am afraid, my friends. So very afraid. And as those words of a song spiral through my head and I listen to rats clawing at my walls, as I feel they claw at the walls of my heart, I ask myself, “Will I let this be the end?” Will I?

I have felt like giving up, giving in. But then I remember I don’t have that luxury. “Silence equals death” was once shouted during the AIDS epidemic and it is a cry I cannot get out of my head. Silence equals death, and I am not ready to die. Where they attempt to silence me, I will keep shouting. Where they take away one right, one freedom, I will keep existing.

And I will keep spinning words of hope for people like me until my books are banned. And when they are banned I will find another way.

Today I remember those who have died before me, possibly died wishing for a better world for people like us, and I will not simply die and let their lives be in vain. I will shout and claw like a persistent rat until something changes. Until it’s better.

This will not be the end.

Not by a long shot.

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