fight like hell for the living

people marching with many signs, including a large sign held by several people, white with black letters that reads "we who believe in freedom cannot rest" by Ella Baker

cw: trans & nonbinary existence, death

I’ve been having such a hard time consuming any news whatsoever. The disparity between the rights of queer people — very specifically trans and non-binary people — here in the US and in other countries is becoming a wider and wider gulf.

My fear for my trans and non-binary siblings is at an all-time high.

Even for myself, being probably as safe as possible right now given the blessings, ability, and security folks that I live with, I am terrified.

And in my role as a deathworker, all I can feel right now is all the death that is coming. All the rage and mourning and unchecked violence by both the state and its citizens. All the precious ones who will not live to see this through to the other side, whenever that happens to one day be. All the angry ones who fight for us that will become nameless martyrs as so many die or disappear that there is no one that can keep track of all our names.

When I am deep into my feelings of sorrow and the portents of grief-to-come, I often default to thinking and speaking phrases and quotes from either the Lord of the Rings books and movies, and I always feel in Theoden’s words the echo of mournful rage and the battle-loss that is nigh. For him, there was an end and it was near ever since he awoke and found his son had died while he went wandering in dark dreams.

soldier [referring to Aragorn]: ‘Why does he leave on the eve of battle?’
Gamling: ‘He leaves because there is no hope.’
Theoden: ‘He leaves because he must.
Gamling: ‘Too few have come. We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor.’
Theoden: ‘No, we cannot. But we will meet them in battle nonetheless.’

selection from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, film adaptation

I am torn; my life is taking a trajectory that may give me a safe boundary between me and mine and the terror that has descended and will continue to fall upon this place. And in the meantime, the reality that I may need to meet these things in battle is still hauntingly near.

It is never far from my thoughts that some of us have already said our last words to those who are beloved.

The gaping, ever-hungry maw of death that cannot be sated has opened and will not close, not for what may feel like an eternity. So many of us will fall into it, either fighting, or letting go, or being pushed. While the halls of our own personal hereafters may be blessedly different than the life we must endure now, our experience of death may be not just a tragedy, but a crime against life itself, a war crime that can never be sufficiently punished and for which no reciprocity could ever hope to rebalance. We are a feather on the scales and everything that is being done to us will always, always, be heavier than the feather. But that fact in itself will not stop it happening.

We are at war and it is a war that many of us will not win. We cannot all make it through. If we could, the danger would not be so real.

‘So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?’

Theoden, son of Thengel, King of Rohan

I like to try and find hope so that I can give it, pass it along, pull it into something that feels real and tangible. To give it to you so that you can carry it with you as you go along.

We have just had a Trans Day of Visibility, and I have the heavy dark feeling that in the future, this day will be a day of death more than a day of celebration. Perhaps I see death everywhere because of who and what I am; it’s not necessary for everyone to see the world like I do. It’s not necessary that other people live this kind of liminality. Most people do not need to practice the kind of energetic daily hygiene that keeps me Here and not There.

Here is where my Work is found. Here is where all kinds of death happen all the time; natural, quiet, loud, surprising, awful, final. We will all touch death, as it touches us. And I am not afraid for you in the finality and end of your life here; I am seeing the resignation and sometimes terror on so many faces when they realize that this is now the end.

Before I go, I will try to give some hope:

We will not all die because we are trans. We will not all die because we are non-binary. We will not all die because we are queer. There will be people who remember, who can carry the memory forward, who will be safe for one handful of reasons or another; and some of those people are us. We will live decades and decades and reach old age.

“No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away, until the clock wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life is only the core of their actual existence.”

Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

I am also a follower of many gods, and even if human memory cannot hold the names that should be remembered, there are beings in this world who remember far longer than we do, and many of them are here with us.

Be comforted, I hope, by the knowledge that even in these dark hours, we still do have each other. And that is better than anything else, because love is the deepest connection we can ever have.

Even if all I can ever do is see your names and email addresses, I am seeing you. You exist. And may you continue to exist and to love and to survive as we all fight the darkness that wants to take us. I hold the Light; you can also hold the Light. So long as we have one another, we are never alone.

P.S. If you’d like to leave a comment for me to respond to, or send me an email, I hope that you do. If you would like to dip into the waters of Mastodon, I would love to see you there. If you just want me to know who you are, I want to know you too. I’m here.

— Nix

featured image is a photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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