It’s not this death, this most recent and, at least to we embodied humans, the most final death that we need to think about here today.
No, the death today is just the cumbling of an zombie that became unsustainable for Callan. Zombies aren’t like humans, you know — they don’t heal. They just keep adding up the wounds until they crumple and turn to dust.
How would you feel if you looked back on your life and saw the fire of it, the years of energy, enthusiasm and potency, the time of passion and possibiility, all blowed up?
Some peopel encourage Callan to change clothes when she wanted to, and never understood why she didn’t take any opportunity. But for my friend Callie it wasn’t about the clothes. It was about letting out that beautiful power-femme woman who lived inside of her, and that took more than just slapping on a wig and some makeup. I know that she could see when that fragile flower dissapeared and the zombie hulk took over, and more than anything else, it was those moments of death and dissapearance which tore her heart to shreds.
We saw it, we all saw it, that tender beauty and serene smile of femme. But we also saw it dissapear, hidden under piles of dead flesh, dead hopes and dead dreams, just like it first did so many years ago when voices would roar about taking off those girl clothes.
Callie learned to internalize, and that was a blessing for her and for all who could enter her world. But she never learned to externalize, to make her place and her space in this world, make a home, a church, a place where she could be out and safe. That wasn’t possible.
Callan worked hard to go back and find herself, to treasure that truth, but by the time she could do it, her time was running out. The zombie just had been worked too hard, the defenses of that hulk used up and gone. How can this beautiful girl show up in an old, fat balding man’s body? How?
It was this, in the end, that broke her heart. The zombie died, too many slams & slights, and imagining how to use that ravaged body to take power in this world just seemed beyond possible. As the zombie became unsustainable, she fell off the grid, losing to debts and beuracracies and all the other challenges we as humans have to endure to live in society.
A few offered solutions, usually the option of claiming illness and getting medication, the possibility of claiming charity. But Callie just had too much pride to take that route, too much truth to engage the process of people questioning and questioning again, all in the attempt to get her to just admit the truth and be normative. After all, that’s what started killing her in the first place.
The messages were there, were always there. It was five years ago when she wrote “How Old?” for Transgender Day Of Rememberance, a poem which asks when we learned we had to die. Death was a constant companion for her, not because she was looking to die, but because she was trying to make sense of her own death, the death she took upon herself at such a tender age, the death which sapped the life out of that zombie who finally wore out.
Please don’t think about the death of an unsustainable zombie today, projecting whatever sharp slap of reality you think would have made him come to his senses and take responsibility for his zombie life.
No, stand with me in thinking about the death which made that zombie in the first place, the murder which left the not-living undead, squeezed of desire, passion and vitality, to walk in pain though this earth.
Today we gather to mark the end of an untenable zombie, a shell that could not be sustained. But even if you assume that zombie, being what we saw, was the only real thing about this person, please hear me now when I tell you I saw sparks of the life that could have been, that should have been, the open-hearted, skirt-swinging woman who had beauty in her essence.
I mourn for her, that she could never break out of what was piled around her, flesh yes, but more than that, expectations. And I can only hope that when people read what that sweet girl wrote, they can start to put aside those expectations and live, letting other people live and blossom — especially the trans-kids who still feel the weight and threat which collapsed Callie’s heart, making it into a black hole, all turned inward