From 15th May 2020 till 15th June 2020, EMPOWER Malaysia organised an essay competition for aspiring writers aged 13 to 23 with the theme “The Freedom to Express Myself without Fear”. This is one of the top entries, a captivating and personal essay from Vaughn, aged 23.

There is something peculiar about being a damaged adult. You are always hyper-aware of everyone’s feelings when they’re interacting with you. You know your insecurities and the moment you see them being projected onto your friends or your partner, you build up a wall and refuse any form of intimacy. Most importantly, you try to write about the things that have ruined and traumatized you. You always try to write. In line with the Japanese art and philosophy of kintsugi, you want your broken pieces to be glued together by gold. You believe the damage will be made into a beautiful piece of “art”. So you put your trauma on blast.

People feed off of inspiration porn, but you are anything but inspirational. In fact, some days you wake up and think “maybe today is the day I will finally die”. You think “die” is noncommittal compared to “kill myself”, which is heavy, and very committal. You don’t want that kind of commitment. After all, you’re really afraid of pain, and planning, and you don’t have the tenacity to want to die. Maybe you don’t really want to die. You fantasize of the day your graduate school applications to a state university in the United States finally gets accepted, and you carve a new life for yourself. A life where you’ll probably be constantly worried about finding money to stay nourished and pay rent, after all, you come from a working-class family. On top of that, you’d be anxious about visa processing issues and live with the constant fear of getting deported. Fun.

You cut your daydreams short each time – these are just fantasies.

At the age of 21, you were forced to come out to your parents because your father, who was driving a car on a highway, asked you if you were gay. You got sick of hiding who you are, and you retorted “Why? Does it harm you?” What followed next was a string of hurtful and traumatizing remarks directed at you. Your father’s insecurities projected in his venomous words. He called you Satan’s spawn and said he would disown you. You have no savings, no job. After all, your father forbade you to work; he told you to focus on your academic work, not that he’s supportive of your field of study in the first place. That day was the worst day of your life, this is the one nightmare you begged the Universe to not let happen. Fearful that your dad would kill or rape you, you call your best friend to pick you up. “I don’t care, just get me away from here.”

Away from here.

Your fantasies are mostly centered around going back to the United States. You went, fully sponsored, for five months. And then you fell in love with someone who didn’t even love you back. Deep down though, you believe one day you will be reunited with her, and things would be good again. You’d be happy again. But you know that’s not going to happen. You also punish yourself for putting your happiness in the hands of others. I have never known what happiness felt like, how do I make myself happy? You try to heal your inner child, but that proved to be impossible living with your parents (what a bad idea!) and having their homophobic and transphobic sentiments affect you daily.

Your “default” draws up an unspeakable rage in you. You hate your local university professors because they, too, are queerphobic and they let their biases get in the way of grading your tests and assignments. Your professors always spew tired and hackneyed “wisdom” that are insensitive, classist and extremely white supremacist. You wonder if they ever were exposed to decolonization (probably not!). However, they offer you to be a PhD candidate after you’re done with your bachelor’s. Maybe that could work. But remember, your goal is to get away from here. So you say no, and you walk the path less traveled – the tortuous and labyrinthine path of moving across the globe and staying there.

Your parents are cops. No, they’re not police officers. But they police your body and your body choices. They dictate your gender expression, the clothes you buy, how to wear your hair; they don’t want you to get raped. No, the worst thing is to let the neighbors mistaken you for a man, you cannot let anyone mistaken you for a man. You want to die, but you remember if you die, everyone at your funeral will be misgendering you and your tombstone will bear your deadname. Your parents, they don’t love you anymore. Your little brother, whom you were best friends with, don’t love you anymore. Not like this. Not when you’re non-binary.

“Why do you like tormenting your spirit?” your friends would ask you. It’s rhetorical at this point, they all know the answer. You want to die, and tormenting your soul is the closest thing to death, is it not? Nevertheless, you live. And you persist. You’re not sure if it’s even worth it. So you daydream, fantasize, and manifest the day you would finally, get away from here. Anything to ease the pain.

The views, opinions and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of EMPOWER Malaysia.

Picture by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

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