Gasping For Life

My lungs are collapsing as I scream for my life, one last moment of struggling to get someone to hear me.   I am sealed under a plane in a game called “Christmas Cracky,” my job to figure a way out of my entombment, being smart enough to get out of the trap by myself.

The trap, though, is rigged, so all that happens is it tightens as my chest is compressed tighter with every breath, the back of my throat burning with pain as I try and scream for help.   Not only does no one hear me over the voice of the engine, but the raw pain just increases as my mouth dries out, clogging my breath with every gasp for a bit more air.

Struggling, struggling, struggling for a last bit of breath, the recognition that my quest is futile sets in and I prepare myself to die, the sadness swamping me as my final air leaves me, never to come back.

All I can do is choke myself awake, breathing shallowly as I wake, my skin soaked with clammy sweat.   I realize the Christmas Cracky game has been a dream, just some kind of fatal experience of compression beyond revival, that leaves my body in spasmodic aches.

My dry throat has combined with my viewing of the second season of “Transparent,” and the kind of shock that ripples through the Pfefferman family and their kin, the waves of loss that destabilize them to their cultural roots,  immersing them in echoes of trauma and terror, leaves me wet, hurting and lost in this dark, isolated basement.

How long have I been screaming, told to help myself out of my own coffin, others assured that I am smart enough to find my way out of the closing, compressing crypt?

Even as I try to pull my tortured, jangled body back towards some kind of stability by doing the only thing I know how to do to offload my experience, typing into a text box on my screen, the best sharing I can possibly find to do, I know that tomorrow is my father’s birthday, marking exactly three years since he and my mother died under my care.

It took to and a half years for the finances to be settled, so for the last six months I have been stalled in my own vacuum, unable to reboot, to start breathing on my own again.   I gasp for breath and find only pockets of muck and sewage, clogging me up and forcing me to try and squeeze my lungs clear one more time, never getting enough volume, feeling the compression, losing air bit by bit by bit.

I wake up in a sweat, my mind struggling to make sense of my experience, of an aging and damaged body, of desperate isolation, of emotional entombment and every time feels closer to the last.  It is no effete, artistic game for me, it is the residual capacity of a closing life lived fighting for space, for air, for breath.   The ache, well, it does not stop.

There is no one else, though, to move the story along, to offer caring release, to play the part of salvation.  I’m supposed to be smart enough to do this by myself, and even when I reach out to clinical professionals, they can’t imagine any way to change the scars accrued from a tortured life full of scraping for survival and love while carrying too much, too much, too much, too much.

The epigenics of my life, the weight I have struggled to carry and pass through, have left me paying a high cost, going deep into deficit in a way I can’t just use my own thinking bootstraps to pull myself out.

So I wake up gasping for breath, shock coursing through my body, desperately trying to think of some thing, some place, some experience, some connection that can help to heal me.

And all I can do is write & pray.


I want to be visible in women’s clothes because I want to be able to connect with other women.

I know how to be visible as trans to speak as a shaman, to stand for continuous common humanity, to do my part to open the space for others to explore, express, emerge and heal.   That’s work for me, a fight to make, the kind of fight I make in my writing everyday.

I don’t find that work all that directly rewarding, though.  It demands a great deal of me and tends to keep me separate from others, speaking from authority and power.

Easy connection, though, comes hard for me.   I don’t have the training for it, I don’t have the mind and vision for it, I don’t have the understanding for it.

The kind of connection that I do comes from a very deep, a very fundamental place.   There is only one humanity and we all share it.

The connection most women have is essential, bonding over a shared essence.  It’s their flavor which gives them easy connection.  They have a shared history,  shared experience, a shared outlook.

The connection women have with men is often more essential than fundamental, exchanging flavours with a smile or a flirt.  They have learned to enjoy the complimentary essences of gender, coming together with a bit of a spark, no matter how tiny it is.

Even transpeople have trouble with fundamental connection, with the kind of queer approach which affirms the choices of another even if we would never, ever make them for ourselves.   Instead, they look for affirmation of their own choices, rejecting those who make choices which squick them.

That essential connection is beyond me, even if I own the fundamental connection incredibly deeply.

From the first trans support group I went to, I knew that playing out some kind of magical fantasy of external transformation — “Now I’m Biff! Now I’m Suzy!” — would never work for me.   Instead, I searched for androgyny, a more integrated gender expression which reflected my fundamental humanity.

Moving beyond simple group boundaries, though, has moved me beyond simple group boundaries.  I just don’t have “my peeps,” a group that I feel safe, at home and connected with.

My lack of training in how to be a group member is definitely a part of this challenge.   That history gives me an experience which sets me apart from most people who have prized group identity for most of their lives.   They have trouble understanding the experience of an outsider, just as extroverts have trouble understanding the experience of an introvert.

Assuming that our different experience is just because we are blocking our natural behaviour leads them to tell us to relax, ease up, drop our barriers and just “be natural.”   Explaining that we are being natural is met with dismissal and even derision; how can we not be regular like them, even if we block it?

If I can’t connect with other women, if I am stuck just being a potent queer shaman, where do I find simple caring, fellowship, understanding and nurturing?

I have been to people who identify as healers, but rather than meeting me where I am, finding common ground, they mostly do their traditional manœuvre, demanding that I sign up for their doctrine before they can help.   They only have power, they think, on their own terms.  They come from a fixed belief system, not from a place of connection.  Their way is the only way they think healing can work.

Meeting people where they are is the key to my healing approach, trusting that everyone is a unique individual.   My connection to them is not in what we both believe or in how we both follow the same rules, but rather in the fundamental shared human nature which binds us.

It’s more work not to have a standard routine, but is also much more rewarding to see people find their own unique power, to emerge into their own special blossom.

I know how to be visible as trans to speak as a shaman, to stand for continuous common humanity, to do my part to open the space for others to explore, express, emerge and heal.   That’s work for me, a fight to make, the kind of fight I make in my writing everyday.

Feeling essential connection, though, feels like the lifeline I must have.

And it feels very distant.