[trigger warning: child sexual abuse, incest, language that may seem dissociative]
I had a scary thought the other day. It was the kind of feeling that reaches deep into your chest, seizing up your throat so that it hurts to breathe. I lay in bed with the blanket over my head, trying not to panic. I sent a message to my friend E, who said that even if it was true, it wouldn’t change anything— she would still be my friend.
The more I thought about it, the more it felt right to me. But just the thought made me so sick; I started shaking. I thought that I would throw up— I almost did— so I spent some time hunched over a toilet, trying to tell my body that it was okay and that no one would hurt me again. I kept repeating that thought, trying to make sense of it. Eventually, I understood that there was no way around it— that what happened is what happened.
What I realized is this: the person I’ve been living as is not Chungyen, but someone else.
Chungyen is dead— I know this now. Chungyen died years ago, being hurt by his brother, hurt by so many other people who ignored him or made things worse or punished him for just existing. That person is not here anymore— he died suffering, screaming inside his own head, searching desperately for some way out of the confusion and hurt.
Someone else came out of that— someone stronger and braver. They were formed out of the need to protect Chungyen in a situation where the balance of power was slanted strictly against his favor. They’ve always been there, in the background. I call that person Elle.
I am Elle. The person who has been writing this blog from day one is Elle, not Chungyen. I thought that was me, but I was very wrong— Chungyen is only a ghost now, clinging on to the past, still wanting someone to notice him and his pain. He died a long time ago, but I never noticed this. The idea has always been there in some form, with my inability to plan for the future (because the future seemed impossible), or the trans identities I have tried in the past. I just didn’t— no, couldn’t— accept that until now.
I have written before about how child sexual abuse is like facing death. However, I never thought to apply that idea in a more broad way to my own sense of self. What the abuse did is it erased someone; it reduced an entire person to nothing, effectively murdering them. A little eight year old boy doesn’t stand a chance against the kind of overwhelming, pervasive emotional destruction that a grown up, or even a teenager, can wield against him. But someone was born out of that— the person I am today.
It hurts to realize that Chungyen is dead, maybe even murdered. It hurts a lot. But I am here now, surviving for the person who couldn’t.
You can call me Elle.