I think about suicide pretty much every day. I am not currently suicidal. I think about death even when I’m happy. It’s become a kind of coping mechanism. If I read about famous people who (presumably) accidentally killed themselves getting off on auto-erotic asphyxiation – I know I want to go another way. If I ponder how to get people to talk about mental health issues and sexuality – I feel empowered to keep having the conversations. If I rage about the injustice of trans* teens killing themselves – I am inspired to live another day. I will not become a suicide statistic. I will keep fighting.
I used to feel that my suicide was inevitable – that I was locked in a constant battle for survival. As a gothy teen, I wrote tons of bad poems about sex and death, imagining that dying would be the best orgasm ever. I had good reasons to be suicidal as a young adult. I was different from everyone else. I spent most of my time hiding oceans of pain and anger. I felt powerless and trapped. At times I believed that nothing would ever get better. I desperately needed a way to escape and suicide seemed like a blissful solution to a daily agony. I imagined that I would slowly slip off in my sleep, death coming to me like a lover.
Death and sex just go together. La petite mort, n’est ce pas? Aren’t we all seeking that little death, that erotic spasm where we momentarily lose control? How far are you willing to go? I do understand why some people are willing to take their pleasure right to the edge of death, but I don’t believe suicide would be worth the thrill. I’m pretty kinky and I like to push myself, but permanent damage is a hard limit. Breath play and auto-erotic asphyxiation can be terribly fatal. Why go for one big bang when you can have awesome sex over and over?
I like to think that those final moments would be intensely sexy, but having witnessed death a few times, I kind of doubt it. I feel a sexual charge around blood and a certain romance around the death/sex matrix, but actually dying is not turn-on. I’m certainly still hoping to pass in the middle of intense sex, but maybe fifty years from now, assuming my mental health challenges don’t get in my way.
I rarely see sex and mental health issues discussed, beyond the fact that many psychiatric drugs interfere with desire. (Yes, it’s a train wreck that the medications prescribed for suicidal ideation tend to cut people off from pleasure and intimacy.) Yet, I believe that mental health challenges and sexuality are strongly linked. Both tend to bring out aspects of our lives that we would otherwise keep hidden. Both have the potential to be creative or destructive. If either goes out of control, the other tends to follow. How can we treat the mental health imbalances that could end in suicide without looking at sexuality? What about people who are depressed, anxious, or suicidal because they are constantly harassed by people who believe their sexuality is abnormal?
A survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 41% of trans* people in the United States have attempted suicide, more than 25 times the national average. Of trans* teens who suffered physical or sexual violence at school, 78% of survey respondents reported suicide attempts. Seventy-eight percent. Trans* people don’t kill themselves because they are gender non-conforming. They are desperate for escape because they live in a world where people hate them for being different. What are we doing? Why aren’t we making it safer to be trans*?
I still regret that I didn’t do more to befriend our neighbor who died right in front of our porch 3 months after we moved into our home. I don’t know if the overdose was intentional or not, but I am so sad. I got some of his cross-dressing catalogs in my mail by accident, so I kinda knew that was his inclination, but I never talked to him. He lived alone. After his death, it seemed obvious that his family was uncomfortable with the large amount of high heels, breast forms, dresses, wigs, and make-up in his home. I never got to see him dressed as a woman, but I would have loved it. We might have been friends. Maybe it’s not enough to let people have their secrets. Maybe I should have let him know that I was fine with him. Or her. I’m sorry Jess.