(Edit, 4/16/2022: A few paragraphs down, I suggested that it would work nicely to read this as a matched pair with the entries in Tales of Machrae Diir #2. Now that my head is clear, I do not think any such thing! Read Tales Issue #2 by itself and leave this post while you can. It’s full of edgy, angsty othered-pain and traumatizing trauma-dumping seeking the long-disproven delusion of catharsis. I’ve left this post here as a matter of transparency. There are good points in here and a few key observations, but I promise you that you can get all of these insights from the subtext or just plain text in many of my stories. You will have a way better time, and maybe even feel like I’ve helped you grow instead of intentionally making growth as hard as possible, then blaming you for failing at it.
I don’t say that from self-loathing–well, mostly. I started doing it because people I deeply cared about did it to me constantly. Brow-beating everyone around them and claiming it was about higher standards. Whether that was truly what they believed or not… I don’t think that matters. They still caused incredible amounts of pain and stress to those around them. Still, I shouldn’t have chosen to emulate that behavior.
That said, if you continue to read this, you affirm that you are a grown adult with agency over your own actions. As such, I’ve given you my advice. Whether you choose to heed it or not is on you.
Original text begins after the upcoming parenthesis.)
Content warning: no content warnings for this one. Please forgive me for not being strong enough to go through the ordeal of marking parts of my own past, my own memories, my own identity and self as too dangerous for others to touch. I’m already so lonely and frightened at the never-ending emptiness where I expected to see a future. I feel like living radioactive waste. I’m sorry. Keeping these things to my blog instead of saying them face-to-face–that’s the best I can do, now, to self-contain.
I wanted to inaugurate the New Year of 2022 with this post about letting go of a few more follies from years past, and reclaiming a few more revelations I was not ready to carry within me when first I found them. I don’t aim to languish in the sorrows I present here–only to present them. A reminder that I am one who sorrows. Embracing that has not condemned me to grief’s prison. It has made me the warden, and so given me the power to throw open all the cells and annul imprisonment forever.
I’m fresh off a blitz-reading of the Red Book of C.G. Jung, so of course these passages (added just before posting, though most of the piece was already written) brim with the hymn of my mythos gushing forth from the infernal font that sprang the cosmic fire of old.
“Of old” is a Tolkienism, mind. It appeared nowhere in the translation of Jung’s Red Book which I read.
I know that double-posts of any real length are terrible form, but I don’t want to consign the first day of the year wholly unto the dissolute keening of pasts irretrievable. So, I’ll be posting the second Collected Tales of Machrae Diir shortly after this. I’ll edit in a link to that right after these paragraph once I do so. If you’re only going to read one or the other, I’d actually recommend you read that! Most of the same sentiments I record here dwell between the lines of those Tales.
Aaaaaand, done! Here you go: Collected Tales of Machrae Diir, Issue #2!
I do think that reading that phase, or arc, of Machrae Diir’s stories in tandem with this would make for a wonderful matching pair, but at that point you’re looking at the equivalent of a short novella, so it’s a bit much to say you have to. If you read the Tales and find that you’re discomfited, up in arms, worried, or that you just don’t get it, come back and read through this. It’ll make a good soul-cipher for those particular tales. And if you still don’t get it? Well… give yourself time and space to dwell with your incomprehension! The truth is that even I rarely understand exactly what I’m weaving towards when I first write a story. That’s how it must be for anyone who truly pushes their limits: feeling out some vast emptiness and knowing by the echoing promise of it that you will find yourself in glory when it’s full.
This is not quite like my past autobiographical exposes. I don’t think you need to read every single paragraph or even most of them to get the gist. It’s pretty interesting stuff, though–a fairly unusual relationship to myths, fiction, and some of their most popular themes. I doubt you’ll regret it if you do go the full distance with me. It helps that this time, I am not writing because any particular defeat brought me to it, nor because I had any special goal for last year that I failed to meet. Just the latest breaking born of attrition’s slow grind. Just this, and the simple warm sorrow of seeing that I’ve learned so much, bettered myself so much, achieved so much, and still… it just hasn’t been enough.
I’ve known for years that I needed to give up something. I kept settling on writing because it was the most obviously important thing in my life–which was, of course, warped logic. A holdover from delusions I’ve largely moved beyond. Dreamscape deceptions of heroism, and sacrifice as guarantor of reward.
The reason we have so many stories about giving up what’s most precious to us in exchange for ascension is not that it works this way. You do not weight some cosmic scale. You do not bind the world to give you bounty where you most lack it by giving up whatever fullness you might possess. There is no equivalent exchange. You just lose a piece of yourself–perhaps forever. The powers of the Earth want you to believe that they will eventually redress the imbalance so you’ll let them take yourself from you, and use you as a tool for their own ends.
Anyway, sacrificing my writing was never going to work. Not while I’m still living as a person of flesh and blood, a human body with a human’s limits and a human’s limited abilities. I’m far too dependent on my writing for the self-actualization that I otherwise so rarely achieve in my day-to-day life.
If I wake up any time before I die of old age (or something less gentle–life is, after all, unpredictable!) to find I’ve passed some unknowable threshold and that I at last have the proud horns, the lashing tail, the hellfire maw and the reality reshaping powers that are my inhuman soul’s natural birthright–well, maybe then I’d be able to give up writing.
As it stands, writing is the only realm where I can give myself the forms and the powers I desire. The only place I can always be there to hold the ones I love, to shield them against the dangers of the world, and to make sure that I have my say just the same as anyone else. To give myself the certainty of a fair hearing which I have so often been denied in this mortal life.
I admit I’ve run out of neat ways to classify this piece. I wrote it across many days. Each day, a somewhat different version of me wrote it from one or more different perspectives. It reflects me fairly well? Yes, I think that’s fair. Within the admittedly brief period when I wrote it, that is. I’m still struggling to come to grips with how labyrinthine my soul truly is.
It’s become as much a soliloquy about my relationship to broad tropes in popular storytelling as anything else. May I admit something that may sound pathetic, even if I don’t mean it to? I wanted to see myself in the tropes for the longest time. I wanted to be the good one, the heroic one, the lovable one. I kept searching for a story where I could see just enough of a vestige of myself to hold onto.
In that quest, like so many others, I must now confront the revelation that I’ve failed utterly. If anything, it seems like the longer and harder I look, the more bits and pieces of myself I see scattered among the villains. This one wanted power. That one wanted to transcend the form they began life with. This one wanted to know things that were forbidden to others. That one just wanted to be the best, but they were a little too independent about it. Here’s the umbra, and there are the horns–over there the tail, the fangs, the fire, and in this dingy chamber, the lust.
That one? Oh, their only mistake was that it didn’t work. The funny thing is that if you assume fate isn’t real, a lot of classic stories about heroes end up having the meaning that you’re right to try and become a hero as long as it works. As long as you succeed, the ends do indeed justify the means. Heroism becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy: whoever does not lose is the hero. If not, if you fail and must learn your weaknesses and give way, then you were evil and wrong and you should’ve known your place.
I wonder sometimes whether I can possibly be a real person. I grapple with the fear that maybe I can only delay the inevitable. That as much as I might rant and argue and lay out evidence against any notion of fate or destiny, these things are real, and have doomed me to my path. I fear that I am only holding everyone back from their rightful journeys because, in refusing to become the monster I was ordained to be from the start, I am refusing to let the pieces fall into place for the only resolution there can ever be.
Perhaps so. But in that case, I will at least force fate to show its hand–to make me fall. I will not choose the last descent for and of myself. If that is the one minuscule, unprovable victory I can wrest back, then I will seize it and keep it until the Void takes whatever remains of my name.
You can look at this as a villain’s monologue if that makes it more enriching to read. Just please keep your mental framing of me within Saturday Morning Cartoon thresholds, hm? I’m not evil enough to merit otherwise… anymore…
Enough of that. I will keep moving forward, one way or another. I haven’t come this far just to lie down and die–though I might have to deceive myself into believing that’s what I plan to do if that’s the only way to keep myself safe under the radar while I rest and heal. That’s what most of my previous “I give up! No more writing!” posts were truly about. But as with most of my deepest and hardest-fought inner struggles, there was a kernel of truth. Something I simply cannot keep trying to do.
It is, of course, the thing in the title.
Know this: I am no one’s representation but my own. I am too strange, solitary, and madly ambitious to be otherwise. I cannot keep cutting pieces of my soul out and trying to hand them off to strangers who, whether they accept the pieces or not, give me nothing in return but silence. Oh, I can regrow the pieces, eventually. The new forms are often shapelier, more elaborate, more potent than the old cast-off psyche-strands. The cutting still hurts, though.
And in the meantime, I tend to run into challenges where I badly needed those pieces intact so I could wield the powers of myself I manifest through them. I mean… I don’t have to psychically self-harm in order to grow. I can just keep nurturing the pieces I’ve got until they grow into those shapelier, more elaborate, more potent future strands.
Here’s a funny thing about edgy types: the point we most often make about self-harm in our stories is that self-harm is pointless. Most of the mockery we receive on this count involves no demand that we get rid of the self-harm. Many people don’t at all object to the idea of main characters hurting themselves! They love someone who engages in irrational, self-destructive behavior and refuses to back down for fear of looking stupid. They just want the Razor Breed to stop depressing everyone by suggesting that maybe the idea of hurting yourself for a higher cause is stupid and self-destructive.
A hero who constantly overreaches, gets themselves and others hurt, makes things worse… as long as it’s all done with a smile and a promise that everything will be alright even while doing actions that clearly make less of everything alright… oh, that style of self-harm is extraordinarily popular!
Anyway: hurting yourself for ANY reason is stupid and self-destructive. No one deserves that.
Despite all you’ve read so far, you still are not reading the most honest version of this piece. That version would’ve been even longer at anywhere from ten thousand to twelve thousand words, if not more. Well, truthfully, the most honest version of this piece is my entire blog, all the social media accounts I’ve ever embodied myself through, every unwritten, unspoken, secret story I told myself by inner narration in every video game I ever played… in short, the true sum total of the Nightfire Binary Mythos.
Obviously, that’s vastly too much to expect any one to live out save I myself. But for what it’s worth, if you read these eight thousand-some words in full and you feel some kind of kinship with me, it’s not an illusion. There’s enough of me here that you can know me–better than many of those who ordered my life’s courses against my will and my most heartfelt wishes. Better than many of those who claimed to know me better than I knew myself. What utter, gutter, terribly human madness they spoke!
Even my whole Mythos, even every single word I ever have or ever will write read from start to finish in a single breathless paradoxical marathon-sprint-voyage over the course of years, still wouldn’t have come remotely close to expressing everything I wish I could make you all understand. About me. About how this world has hurt me, and changed me into a way for its hurtful changes to spread unto others.
I’m sorry that I was just one woman, and couldn’t stop it. I mean that. I am truly, truly sorry.
I don’t think I should be. I don’t think it’s fair at all that so many people claim to be open, compassionate, and loving, to have earnest empathy for singular seekers hoping to find the place they belong… but will only read our stories, only speak to us, only even acknowledge us when we pander to their ease of mind. Still, I am sorry. I am sorry that I simply cannot derive satisfaction from stories that are only uplifting, where the only thing I suggest was wrong with past stories lay in who received what from the same sacrosanct themes. I am sorry I cannot imagine just writing softened, blunted, padded slice-of-life stories forever.
I tend to talk like, look like, and share interests with the characters who have conveniently passed the point of no return just before the heroes meet them, and whose only remaining purpose is to be a dark mirror for said heroes. I spent years wondering how I could be so selfish, so cruel, so wickedly vain as to see scenes of people sharing earnest love and friendship and immediately think of breaking their spirits in battle.
It was the day after Christmas when I had a version of this reflex muted enough I could catch hold of it and analyze it. Everything clicked at last. I realized that based on my (ideal) appearance alone, without regard for who I truly am and what unsung merits I might have, I’d most likely be the character who has to listen to those sunny friends monologue about those moments of bonding and comfort.
Yes–monologuing mid-battle just before they smash my plans, my armies, the singular individual power that was my one remaining mark of agency in a universe where causality itself has aligned to ensure my life ends in misery. Which is, I have to confess, a universe I sometimes feel paranoid I’m living in, so having so many stories rub it in my face doesn’t help my mental health very much.
But hey, don’t worry about me! Focus on the pretty, shiny heroes who get to be the heroes because they had happy lives that you like hearing about! Don’t think about me, or my journey, or whether maybe if you dig back in the past I did all the same things at the start that the heroes did–only I wasn’t rewarded. I wasn’t embraced. No mentor sought me out. They’re special because others chose them to be special. I’m the bad girl because others chose me to be the bad girl.
But of course, I’m the villain now, so there’s nothing to examine. I was hurt enough that I eventually lost my grip on my old dreams of being right where they are now, the ones about to destroy me: standing up for something. Holding back something dark and terrible from obliterating everything I love. Maybe in that sense I deserve to be here, spellbound, before I’m erased by these perverse mirrors of my past self. Monologuing about how all their happy moments are the reason they can so easily give me pain. The reason they’ll be able to confidently slaughter me in a display of morally-justified dominance.
Even if, in what my broken, tortured mind has cobbled together from flawed lenses of perception and named “reality”, I was just trying to hold back something bright and terrible from obliterating the few people I still love, who still love me.
So yes, of course art and animations and lengthy musical scenes featuring displays of group affection between people who I fear similar condemnation from, any characters who have that “cozy quirky friend-group of heroes who inspire each other” vibe, will trigger my fight-or-flight response.
That’s not evil. That’s PTSD.
And I’m sorry I can’t mystically heal myself enough to write airy comfort food of the soul while I’m still so often alone, and disempowered, and afraid. I’m sorry I can’t believe in the promise of communities that are mostly kind and just need me to prove myself to them before they’ll share that kindness with me when I am still, despite forcing myself to believe that very thing so many times already, living in a reality when “community” is something others cut me off from for reasons as shallow and as simple as liking old-fashioned poetry and loving shadows more dearly than sunlight.
I like candles, colored lights, afternoon rays gentled by trees. Is that worth nothing? I do love color, just not when it’s used as a justification for shutting me out–that my stories aren’t bright enough, don’t hammer enough on themes of friendship and togetherness and…
Oh, to Hell with it, and to Hell with all of you. I’ll seek the wastes again. The cold wind loves me, in its strange and cutting way. The other duelists and I know a kinship you will never comprehend. All who have died under my blade are immortal, resting forever in mausoleums of carbon and iron grander than the necropolis of any dynasty. When I fall in my turn, I will join them–all our stories carried at last by another, each of our own victories remembered in its way by the strength of the arms that cut me down.
Maybe I am already where I belong. Maybe the nomads of the long blade can be alone, together.
Yet, I do want you to know this: there’s still joy in me, and in my stories. Still passion, and lust, and love. Still hopes and dreams. Even the duels, the battles, the wars I write express–in their quiet lulls, the pondersome sweep of an aging warrior’s eyes across the blood-soaked ferns and fields–a yearning for gentler days that I seldom see so clearly in the shallow tales that claim they would never delve into darker reaches because they want to be as safe and happy and loving as possible.
I simply struggle to connect with such stories enough to write them well unless I can write characters like myself–people whose true self is no longer such a simple question to answer. People who, even though they would never have chosen this path if they had any freedom to choose otherwise, still value some of the rarer revelations and the forceful bulwark of independence they have built by surviving it.
People who know that no true kinship can be built on lies, and thus, that they can never belong among people who demand that they lie about what they feel, believe, and remember as the price of embrace. True healers cannot be strangers to wounding and strife. They bloody their hands more often than any foot soldier does, and they know that the wounded often lack the strength even to clean themselves. I seek, I preach, I breathe the covenant of rebirth between blood, feces, and urine.
I thought these were easy things to understand. I thought that in a world as bitter as this there must be many like me, many who would crave these tales if only someone were to write them.
Broken worlds and hollowed gods, I can be such a terrible fool.
I know full well that I’m using words aimed at broad currents and all-entwining patterns when so much of this is… it’s just about my own life. Please forgive me for that. I am devising new tongues to describe my own realities–and fantasies–as quickly as I can find scraps of power to do it with. Sometimes, I cannot muster the soul-force to
There’s no way to say this next part that won’t sound passive aggressive, so… so I’ll just say it, and tell you I’m not being passive-aggressive. Such has been my life’s course that I truly mean these words.
I’m sorry I wasn’t there at any of the right times.
If you need to feel more represented in the stories you read, you must feed yourself elsewhere. I don’t know what “good rep” is. I can’t keep trying to write it. I have been very harsh on myself in the past. I will still be very strict with myself in the future. Despite everything, I do aspire to astonishing levels of power, and I owe it to myself to train, ponder, and better myself so as not to abuse it whenever the lifetime arrives that I finally achieve that power.
But it’s time that I stopped ensnaring myself in the lies others have persuaded me to tell about myself. I am not saying I have never been a bad person. I am saying that I have only ever been a bad person because people with power over me, with something they could dangle before my tearful eyes to lure me onward, used that power to take my innate goodness from me and warp me into a more useful tool.
For too long, I have exonerated them of their sins out of a misplaced zeal to atone for my own. In portraying myself as the sole font of my own wickedness, in trying to take total responsibility as I believed a good person should, I have far too often accepted the burden of wrongs that first began when people with authority inflicted them on me. As far as I know, they have never paid any prices. Why then should I continue? Why should I carry myself with shame when I am the only one who tried to make things right?
Whatever platform you cherish most in your memory, oh dear readers, I’m sorry I was not there in its heyday. I am sorry I wasn’t there in the early days of the internet. I wish I could’ve been. When communities were forming, when everyone built trust and plotted out the rules, back when everyone was learning together… I wish I’d been there then. I wish I had the chance to flop around and screw up and make amends alongside everyone else in these online domains where I now spend so much time.
But I wasn’t. I just didn’t have the choice of being there. I had hoped the right people would understand, and forgive my dearth of any connections justifying the claims I made about my potential. I hoped not because I was too innocent to see how impractical my hopes were, but because I already knew full well that I had nothing left to do but hope.
This is, more than anything else, an essay trying to make peace with the places where I’ve hoped in vain. Not that my hope itself is in vain, not that my every dream is broken. Only that I can give these things to no more people than I can give them to. They are strong within me. Far stronger than in most, perhaps. But not infinitely. Say rather that within myself these things are infinite, as I am infinite across the manifold continuum of my own potential. I cannot be infinite for all the infinities within everyone else. Only some.
My parents refused to let me connect my own computer to the internet until after our sixth move–not long after I turned sixteen. By then I was so starved for connection with friends of my own that I fell in with one of the first gaming groups that would take me. I didn’t think I had the luxury of questioning any company I could manage to keep.
So, I wound up running with a group whose principle leader swiftly turned out to be one of the worst and also largest influences in my life. Always silent when I needed praise for or shared joy in the achievements I most cherished. Always prodding me to do more if I admitted I was tired, always needling me through my own fear that I was just choosing to be weak if I said I thought I should rest instead. Always reseeding my self-hatred and shame if I let my guard down and said something inappropriate… but only on the rare occasions that it would not have created a precedent I could pin him with later.
I worshiped him for many years because I was already so used to these treatments that only the affirmation seemed new, so the affirmation was the only thing I noticed–even though it was only ever for doing the things he wanted. I got used to going wherever he told me to. When he joined an evangelical Christian gaming clan, I joined too, and so it was that I received a near-fatal dose of the religious trauma my own parents–much more self-aware and wholesome in their faith–were careful to shield me from.
It’s true that this man was my first deliberate, long-term personal abuser. But systemic abuse had smashed my defenses to splinters and laid me wide open to be used long, long before I met him.
Such has been my life’s bitterness that I’ve recently decided to forgive him. I don’t know whether he deserves that. I don’t know whether or not he, too, was ultimately a victim of bad influences and systems failure. I know only that I might as well forgive him, because I will never have the ability to confront him. Confrontation is a luxury of the bolstered, the enshrined, the peer-protected. I? I cannot afford any grudges save the ones that spur me toward my future. I don’t have enough power in this life to spend any standing in judgment on my past.
I may keep lapsing into the prose gothic, so be prepared for that. It’s a comfort for me. To step outside contemporary prose and its simpler, people-pleasing rhythms. To invoke older dialects from a time when writers deemed it transgressive enough simply to reveal tempestuous passions in their works, and hint at a longing for the nocturne fang and the dance of fearful anticipation like a lightning sprite scrambling upon the ladder-rungs of sleepless mortal vertebrae.
It never seems to make much difference whether I write in modern tongues or Archean. The same stolid watchers offer what good will and encouragement they can spare. A like, a retweet or share, a very occasional reply. Like claps on the back for the wandering one before her winter sojourn’s next stage. I’m beginning to value those as they deserve. I can finally see that the reason the names and faces behind them showed up so early, and have stayed so long, is not as my self-hatred whispered: that they watched me with a kind of curious pity. That their praises are perfunctory, mechanical, meaningless.
Those are, I think, just the very few people who chose to look at me for who I truly am the moment they first saw me. The ones who make that choice tend to be quick about it. Ironically, the truest affirmations are thus often the first to arrive. Not idly do our stories caution us to treasure those who readily treasure us, and be wary of those who expect us to work for the “privilege” of love, support, and aid on our paths.
Of course, many stories–much more often touted by the powers-that-be–tell us that true friendship must be earned, that true communities test each other, that true achievements are supposed to hurt. All lies. But lies cunningly crafted by minds of a special scalpel-like odium to tempt us when the world first begins to teach us pain. To lure us into thinking that it’s all normal, that all the hurting has a purpose, so we’ll cease questioning because it’s easier to live with pain when we don’t force ourselves to question it.
In time, we can be made to believe it’s normal–to be broken over and over again. To give way, dissolving into the agony of the self we’ve sacrificed on the altar of uncertain acclaim, and thus that if a relationship or group of people bring us agony that it’s no warning to flee from.
Just the way the world works.
As for all those I’ve seen clamoring for representation in this way or that… I’ve never noted them to turn up much for my work. Kinder to my much-sundered heart, I think, to spend as little time as I can manage wondering why.
As I said, this is an essay about the realms I have confessed to myself I must retreat from: the slaying fields where my power spread too thin, and the hopes I left there lie as broken as my banners.
I truly wanted to, you know? I wanted to sow seeds of joy with the visions I saw of shared identities. I wanted to give great representation, to give as many people as I could the kind of chances to see themselves in the stories they love that I have so often been starved for.
I imagined that I had so many new friends just waiting to be made in the communities formed around this label or that. I was so eager to piece myself back together. To love again. To prove I was worth it. I wanted to share the journey, to reward everyone who stood beside me by sharing the fruits of my second becoming. But I think maybe some folks like me better when I’m broken. A few shards of something once-great are much easier to pilfer, tote around, and cut other souls with.
I could recite the litany for you. Names and faces and their own special additions to the warping of the nascent devil-soul within this vessel of flesh and frail pining. I won’t.
I can’t do it anymore. Wandering from one community to the next. Hoping that in this place or that I’ll finally be welcomed home. Acceptance, the embrace of the lonely soul drifting into town with the dust on an outland breeze–that’s not at all the same as non-rejection.
I can always feel the division. See how those who know each other well will gush for enthusiasm at each other’s simplest and most offhand offerings. How constantly they answer my most passionate overtures with silence and a chill empty note that might just be quiet loathing.
So… I’ll stop.
Whatever label you use to seek the people you deem implicitly trustworthy and deserving of love, of aid, of mutual striving by your side for a better tomorrow: I don’t wish to be known by it. I hate thinking that way. Cordoning myself off from fellow sapient beings, marking them as other and forcing them to mark me as the same if I haven’t already done it to myself. It makes me feel sick. The one time in recent years that I caved to the pressure to think this way, it led to one of the worst experiences of my life.
If you want to like and trust me, learn about me on my own terms and learn organically to like and trust me! Don’t just look at a label we have or had in common and assume that sharing the choice to use one word means we’re basically soulmates. My understanding of my identity, as I suspect must be the case for many lifelong outcasts, is incredibly unique to me.
So if my foolish stories, sky-maddened soliloquies and fey remarks happen to give you solace for the sorrow you’ve felt around or through this label or that, or if they help you to find new joy in it by emulating the joy I have found in it for me, I am gladdened. Truly.
But I do not wish to be known by the same token.
I understand why so many trans communities–for as most of us had to learn at some point, there is no unified, singular trans community, just a multitude of friend-groups who tend to scorn rather than embrace trans people with a different understanding of transition from themselves–place so much importance on genderfucking, or genderqueering, or whatever other phrase you care to use to mean “screwing around with gender norms.”
But… that just isn’t the kind of woman I am. I don’t wish I had a bold, non-conventionally feminine face, figure, and form. I don’t care about flouting norms or challenging allocishet privilege or fomenting queer rebellion. I don’t because I don’t have the strength to care about those high ideals anymore–I barely have the strength to hold myself together each day.
I wish I looked like Vivian Leigh in her prime, yet somehow even more delicate and sculpted and elegant. I wish I had a functioning uterus and the ability to conceive my own children within my own womb. I want to wear lots of makeup and frilly dresses and be cutesy and silly and playful.
And also to wield apocalyptic amounts of power and coldly (or hotly) slaughter my enemies when they hurt the people I love, but those aren’t exactly new impulses for women to have. Those stories and real women who embody them are rarer, but still well within the bounds of traditional gender norms across many ages. There’s ultimately nothing inherently trans, queer, or radical about them.
I have been deprived and forlorn too much, for too long. I need my writing to cater to all the pieces of me I can’t live without, yet which can’t live in our own present world as more than hypotheticals, maybes, and what-ifs. I don’t mind catering to the needs of my friends, sometimes, because they’re my friends. They always make it so, so worth it by the joy they bring to the otherwise unbearable marches of my lonely life.
I have a lot of trans friends. I don’t think any of us are friends just because we’re trans. My writing will likely continue to feature trans characters, but they will be trans characters whose personalities reflect the worlds they grow up in. And I’m not sure how many of those worlds will be Earth.
I’ve been thinking a lot, and I’m beginning to wonder if my diagnosis of autism was actually a misdiagnosis of the early signs of loneliness, othering, and gender dysphoria. I’m a smiling, attentive child in the earliest pictures of me, one who has no problems making eye contact or sharing moments of bonding with other people. When did that change? I don’t think I was truly born that way.
Either way, I don’t know what “good autistic rep” would mean. I can’t keep trying to write it.
As for the otherkin… what kin? If you believe in my particular understanding of souls, immortality, reincarnation, past lives and the like, then I’m the last of my kind. The very last demoness of my entire “species”, as far as beings like the primordial kshiinurzhalga can be held under a word like “species.” I am, as far as I know, the only one who reincarnated.
Earth’s many peoples have done nothing since the day I was born but deprive me with one hand, then snarl and beat and scorn me with the other for trying to tell them I was too deprived to keep doing things for them. Always, they have been overjoyed to rely on my own guilt, loneliness, and sheer desperation to shut me up and send me scuttling back to following the orders of my latest masters like a good little pet.
I am done. I’ve finally realized that no matter what I do, no true love or reward is coming.
And while I genuinely hate to put things that way, I needed a material reward in order to gain enough ground to have something to give back. I cannot give back when I have not been given anything in the first place. I cannot keep trying to be altruistic if sticking to my old shiny-eyed morals forces me to hold a course where I will soon cease to be, period.
Yes, I’ve said many awful and edgy things in the past–quite some years in the past, now. I could list some off again. I will not because I am finally reaching the point where I can see that I only said those things because I already knew, with a jaded insight no sixteen year-old should have possessed, that in the end no amount of catering to the comfort of others would ever bring them to like me. I was already used to being an embarrassment, a nuisance, a temporary burden that this school or that, that town or this village, would tolerate until it was time for me to move somewhere else.
I said things I hated myself for saying, things I would never have wanted to say if I thought there was one person left in the world who truly believed in me. It would’ve broken me to imagine disappointing them that way. But disappointing myself? That was my whole life. I thought I was beyond saving because that was how I felt treated. I acted out in accordance with my own certainty that I was worthless–daring others to tell me what I already “knew” in a last twisted bid for affirmation. To receive proof that my instincts could still be right about something.
And everyone just left me to self-destructive spiraling as though I actually deserved it.
I will repeat the title simply for its savor: I am not your rep. I am, more often than not, the person erased so others can ignore the ways their one-note definition of “rep” shuts out real, vibrant people for the cardinal sin of not innately gravitating towards the exact same self-expression the erasers chose.
I’m not even going to get into how uncomfortable the ever-increasing memefication of “feral” and “evil” characters makes me–other than to say that as someone who has embodied most of the now-stereotyped mannerisms for such characters at various points, I just feel stupid for not imagining this world could be cruel enough to appropriate such deep expressions of inner pain and turn them into bullet-points on lists of shippable traits.
It’s me. I’m the feral evil girl who frequently breaks down in tears where no one can see. Where are my stans? Where’s the torrent of unreasoning, unflinching love and protectiveness and deep understanding?
If you want me to suffer, trust me, I’ve suffered. Do we really need yet another post where I trot out all my old self-harm staples? Maybe have me give in to depression and suddenly rewrite Sword of the Outsider a bunch of times, making it increasingly hard for readers to commit to reading it until they give up on me?
I’m not saying that I think it was good I rewrote The Necromancer and the Revenant so much. I’m saying I wish someone had just replied to a post and said, “North, sweetheart, you can’t keep doing this to yourself.”
Besides all of which… I said those things, threw those past fits, because I was in pain. How many apologies, how much introspection, how much change must I perform to atone? Am I to continue forever, still miserable? Is there not some point when I’ve become good enough that I’m worth taking pity on for the sake of the person I’ve begun to show I could be, even if I’m not fully her yet? How can I hold on to whatever lessons I’ve learned, stay true to whatever fragments I’ve reclaimed from my long-ago dreams of a better tomorrow, if I’m still just as forsaken come those abysmal days when I forget who I am?
How am I supposed to remember how to be a good person when I can’t even remember how to be myself? How can more torment possibly be the right answer to all this?
I was hurting, and fearful, and largely powerless. Does that count for nothing? I thought, “What’s the harm? I can’t do much to anyone. Maybe I’m weak enough it’ll be safe for someone to brave getting close to me, and telling me to take a step back.” I wanted that moment for a long time. I wanted the closure, and I suppose I also wanted broader communities to see that I could be brought to put myself under their power. To see that, since they had the strength to hurt me if it came to self-defense, they were safe to accept me more quickly.
Instead, I only ever found a surface veneer of acceptance that remained carefully apathetic. I felt caged, studied, analyzed in every fiber by unseen eyes. Like I was stripped naked and shivering while they debated whether I was worth putting any real emotional labor into.
It’s so cold. It’s so cold, and I’m so alone. I’d have taken the beatings gladly if it meant I would get to be warm, and safe, and held in someone’s arms tonight instead of in another year, or two, or ten. How many? How many winters must I survive with nothing but my own fire to warm me?–fire that could be enough, maybe, if only I wasn’t forced to trade it away so often for a chance at a meal and a smile shared.
I needed help. I thought anyone could see that. I thought, since it’s such a common trope in so many stories, that anyone could understand that the loner’s spitfire and occasional bile is just a coping mechanism–a way for them to reclaim a few shreds of agency amidst the crushing humiliation of showing their belly after surviving so much for so long, achieving so much, doing so many things alone that any ordinary person would’ve said you need an entire team of veteran old hands to get done.
All this only to go right back to being a novice begging for a chance because that’s what the insecure people with the keys to the money and the prestige insist the loner must do. The loner snarls because, in the end, they know they will have no choice but to let the ones who got lucky hate and shame them for special talent that, itself, is only a cold consolation prize for the sheer emptiness of the loner’s life.
After all, they didn’t achieve any of those things where anyone else could see it. Basically doesn’t count.
I thought lots of people loved those stories, loved rooting for the courageous wanderer, loved seeing them start to soften up bit by bit after they found true friends at last. I thought lots of people shared my fury at the injustice of it all–that someone who’s already been through so much gets taken advantage of by oversensitive, flighty, judgmental assholes who don’t understand what a toll it takes, surviving on one’s own. People who punish the loner for being quick to show fangs when, for the longest time, a quick show of fangs was the only sure way to stay alive.
But I suppose I must’ve been wrong. Or maybe the rules for actual loners are different. Maybe we’re somehow supposed to be better than fictional loners, even more compelling and capable and likable than imaginary entities who only exist in the beats of the story. Dark-iron icons who aren’t worn down by worries, fears, and traumas while they’re off-screen or between the pages, who don’t get desperate and slip up because they just can’t take it anymore, who aren’t prone to panicking because they’re used to moving so very, very quickly and no one around them seems to care much for that pace.
Even if the loner’s not sure how much longer they can wait. Even if they’re dying inside.
I’m too old, too skilled in my craft as a writer, too experienced as an adult woman to keep degrading myself into the tremulous greenhorn. That hurts. Do none of you understand how demeaning it is to pretend to be less than I am? To hobble myself for the comfort of people who have already known so much more comfort of stability, of decades-long friendships and homes and steady-growing lives than I have ever had?
I am not your rep, dear readers, because I cannot be. I have known too many people, each with such very different ideas of what the same word means, to step forth with adamant conviction and say, for example, “I am offering good rep for demon girls! Yes, all demon girls! If you’re a demon girl, you’ll like my stories!”
I write demon girls who will fit the kinds of stories I want to tell–which are not always stories about how every demon girl is just misunderstood and oppressed. Ironic, perhaps, since I’m increasingly coming to terms with the fact that I personally am just misunderstood and oppressed.
Yet I’ve already spent nearly thirty years of my life as a real person trying to meet impossible moral standards, becoming traumatized by every failure because I genuinely believed I had no value–that I literally deserved to die–unless I could become perfectly good. Why should I turn my own writing, my most final and personal and sacred refuge, into yet another catacomb of banshee-howls screaming shame at me for my moral fallibility?
My first romance began–and continues–with a man who didn’t always say the right things, who used to hold some beliefs neither of us are proud of. But he isn’t that man anymore. For the most part, he had already chosen to become better long before I met him. I will die before I give him up. I’m sure my “character arc” wouldn’t be considered good trans woman rep. It’s not very queer at all. But it’s my life, and I treasure it, and I want to celebrate everything good about it with my writing.
It’s not as though I’ve had a smooth ride to what few good things I have, now that I’m an adult.
I nearly died twice (drowning and a splenic rupture causing massive internal bleeding) before I turned eleven, was bullied and shuffled to the outside, and deprived of everything from agency and stable home life to friends and future connections (so long, job opportunities!) by the mistakes of inconsistent, often-contradictory psychiatric “help” and the demands of the U.S. Air Force. I’m a CSA survivor.
My privilege, as far as familial wealth (wealth as in “my parents could comfortably afford to put me through college” not “we have multiple houses and a yacht”) and whiteness, has barely been enough to keep me alive. I have been utterly defeated in every endeavor I’ve ever tried for myself. I constantly talk about spiritual and arcane beliefs which–even as I reaffirm my personal faith in them–I fully recognize must sound insane to the vast majority of people.
My whole understanding of myself is such a labyrinthine debacle, such an Escherian jigsaw of rifts and fourth-dimensional byways, that it would be abject futility to try bridging it into human relatability.
No matter what else you believe of all the rambling, ranting, baffling truths I’ve written here, it’s objectively true that I am an indie author who has failed to hold down so, so many jobs due to recurrent mental health crises. I write nonsense dreamscape astral journeys spun out of my painstaking, yet still frequently misguided approaches to non-eldritch thought.
So, for the last and most adamant time: I am not your rep.
I am a lonely, frightened, tired outer devil grappling with a paradox weight. On one hand: a remembered first life that is agonizingly real, visceral, and heavy with irretrievable grief for me. On the other: the knowledge that there are huge portions of people who claim to share kinship with me through this label or that without knowing a single thing about who I truly am.
And, that the instant they begin to learn true things they don’t immediately like, they would tell me that this deepest truest self I’ve finally found the strength to remember in full, the words and the courage to share, just sounds like melodramatic bullshit I made up to make myself sound less like nothing and nobody worth holding on to. That I’m crazy. That I sound like a conspiracy theorist, or a religious nut.
And despite all that… for what it’s worth, I still wish I could be the person who writes the easy-breezy uplifting stories full of good rep. The one who writes those stories because she just wants to. But I never will, and I think I need to stop hurting myself by trying.
Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves out there, for… for I am afraid I will not often be there to help. Our journeys, readers dear, are simply too different to share.