trigger warning: death, Amelia
1 The world is everything that is the case.Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by these being all the facts.
1.12 For the totality of facts determines both what is the case, and also all that is not the case.
1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.
1.2 The world divides into facts.
1.21 Any one can either be the case or not be the case, and everything else remain the same.
I was mistaken. So, it happens, was Wittgenstein, as he would later conclude. Originally published in 1921, Wittgenstein believed he had resolved all philosophical problems through a series of seven declarative statements in Tractatus, intended to be self-evident. The last of these is famously:
7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.Ibid.
and contains no sub-propositions.
The thrust of the twelve months preceding this moment was for me the decision (or discovery, if you feel so inclined) that the world does not actually divide into facts, or that if it does, the facts into which it divides are not by half as easily understood and felt as they are known. To know something is merely to be a repository of that fact; maturity and the process of becoming one’s own self entails processes far more mysterious and far less easily explicated. To feel something is to embody it, to give it a home in yourself and offer it tea and warm blankets, and wait until it becomes you (and you it) in a terribly beautiful fashion. I found that it is both impossible to know some things without having experienced other things, and furthermore impossible to experience some things without knowing yet more things. Thought, action, and reflection thus form not an ordered set of facts, but a swamp of qualia: consciousness.
In 2018, I completed my second decade on this cusp of contingent circumstances and questionable political decisions entitled Earth. “In 2018,” the books will say, “Earth is a place where people die. People die because they are loved, people die because they aren’t, people die because their death bolsters the position of the powerful, (or perhaps because their life weakened it) people die for no reason at all, people die simply because death is what became of them in the end.” Last year, as I shall use henceforth to refer to 2018, was pain, both desired and undesired. One loss stands out amongst the rest, the death of my friend Amelia Perry at the age of 26 on January 31st, 2018. Hirs was an unexpected passing that shook my trans community to its core, and left me wondering what my place in it was that I was trusted to sing at hir memorial service when I had only truly met hir in person for the first time scarcely a month before ze died. I found myself having to stay with Amelia around this time last year with my then-girlfriend, (later fiancée, now ex) and the one moment I will forever remember sharing with hir was when I asked how ze was feeling, and ze replied to the effect of “The world is quite painful, but it is somewhat less so when I am playing the game,” in hir exquisitely subtle British accent, pointing to the copy of Factorio open on hir laptop (this was a sentiment I was personally well acquainted with). I nodded solemnly and smiled, hoping to assure hir that I understood.
Despite the relative brevity of our acquaintance, I still felt as if I had lost a sister of mine on the day ze died. I was not alone in this. The reality of my trans community (and many others the world over, and I believe, communities of marginalized people more broadly) is best described as something not-quite a family in some respects but sharing with families a fierce devotion to each other and a fundamental sense of connectedness. Though quite painful, I found the initial shock of hir death to have mostly a numbing effect, with the worst pain to come in waves over the several months to follow, suddenly wracking me with sobs when I least expected it. I would later come to view it as the first in a series of events that year which taught me that the part of an emotional experience which crystallizes as your memory of it is at least as often the long tail of often dissonant and complicated emotions which follow it as it is the moment of the event itself. The moment is merely the opening notes of a musical composition, the piece as a whole is a completely different image.
With haste, I followed that tragedy with a series of poor decisions, including deciding to get engaged before I understood what marriage meant to me and while I still held significant personal and political misgivings about marriage as a historical institution, making an ill-fated move across the Atlantic Ocean and starting a life in London with my fiancée, and starting a handful of romantic relationships that ended up not lasting very long either. They all ended on relatively good terms, thankfully, and I cannot deny that through them I learned more about myself and life in general than I thought was possible for anyone to know.
However, learning from my mistakes is ultimately nothing more than a lens I apply to the past from my position in the present, and it risks ignoring the fact that those mistakes were in their time joyous and invigorating and life-giving and indeed, all seemed like a good idea at the time. There is simply no reason to reject them as invalid as such, and the need to move on with one’s life does not necessitate their dismissal. I will hold them dear for the rest of my days, as they made me a better person and I could not now imagine a year without them.
Last year caused a totalizing shift in my personality at the root of my selfhood. I can now say that I am beginning to understand what it is to be an adult, what it is to be mature, where before not knowing what was there I assumed it to be nothing and that I had reached the zenith of personal development uncharacteristically early. It is impossible to describe how the events of last year changed me, from watching in paralyzing shame from an apartment in Golder’s Green as the country of my birth began separating families at the border and rounding up brown people for permanent imprisonment, to recognizing that it would be the best for my health and wellbeing to break off my engagement and remain in the US during my visit in September which ended up being a permanent return. More than anything else in that horrifying and despicable moment in May, I wanted to be there, to be able to throw my body on the gears of fascism, to slow their advancement by just a few turns, if that was all I could.
Life is not everything that is the case. It is neither the totality of facts nor things. It is not about knowing things. It is not about saying things. It is, paradoxically, the sum of that which sustains it. It is about being. Getting older is the process of realizing it is possible to grow beyond the boundaries of what you thought possible, for your self to expand beyond the boundaries of what you perceive in the other, whether in a book or in a movie or even another person.
A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.Gilles Deleuze, Mille Plateaux: Capitalisme et Schizophrénie
After so many years of feeling like I had stopped growing, that I knew what life was about, that nothing much would change and my years would continue to drift by mostly unannounced, one by one, I finally started to feel things again last year. I finally started to grow. Gender dysphoria often stunts personal development in a way that can make trans adults feel like children trapped in the armor of an adult body. Last year, I stopped feeling like the age of 13 would forever be the most significant time of my life, the time at which I became what I would be forever. I finally started to let myself take control of that becoming and guide it towards my actual desires. Life is breasts getting bigger. It is feeling girly, womanly, and sometimes nothing at all. It is, in the end, stability, not without change, but with the constancy of safety and friends, of cuddles when you want them, and deep pressure from weighted blankets when you don’t.
Happy New Year, fellow traveler. I wish you great growth and contentedness.