I have a few tattoos. I plan to get a few more. With each of my tattoos, there is an obvious meaning and a more personal meaning. For example, there is a piece clearly visible on my forearm disclosing my insulin dependent condition. Superficially, it’s an excellent alternative to a medic-alert bracelet. Actually, though, the main reason for having my boy give me that particular tat – a reason which I do not discuss casually- was to make it slightly less convenient for me to commit suicide.
This is the case with all of my tattoos. “Die cis scum” is a pretty clear message. It conveys frustration and rage. For me, though, that is just the surface. It has intensely personal meanings that have little to do with my anger, but instead address personal struggles and unhealthy desires.
I’ve debated a lot about making this publicly available. I haven’t up until now because this information seemed entirely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what the meanings or motivations are for a display like this, right? What matters is how others perceive it.
Also, I find it incredibly bizarre that when this phrase started getting thrown around with some frequency by angry trans* people, a few folks seemed to think that I was some kind of authority on that sentiment and intent. I’ve seen offhanded comments I’ve made on my tumblr quoted in some pretty random and unpredictable places elsewhere. Look: I do not speak for angry trans people. I sometimes am an angry trans person, yes, but we’re not all alike and we all have our own things to say.
Because of the weird idea that “Die cis scum” was mine and whatever I said about it reflected on anyone else who used that phrase, up until now I have avoided talking much about anything but the most obvious, superficial meanings. After a while I just tried to avoid talking about it at all.
So, yes, I’m still pretty unsure how good an idea it is provide a more personal context for me to wear this tattoo. We’ll just see, I suppose.
What follows are my personal reasons for “Die cis scum”. They are true for me. Let me reiterate, though, that the anger and frustration of the plain message are also still very true for me. This is not some attempt to dismiss that meaning. I am simply offering my personal context.
I’ve mentioned before that I came out as trans once years ago. It was in Santa Rosa, a little north of San Francisco. It was not a good place to come out.
Bad things happened. Do I need to go through the list? There was quite a lot of a wide variety of violence, mostly physical assault. There was literally more violence than I can remember. I still carry scars on my body. That wasn’t pleasant.
For me, what was worse than being beaten up was the constant scrutiny. Whenever I was in public, it was certain that someone would be staring at me. I would spend an hour in front of the mirror in the mornings before I could work up the nerve to leave the house, shaving myself bloody, applying painstakingly perfect makeup, changing my clothes over and over hopelessly trying to find some acceptable outfit. I did this because I knew that if I presented in any way less than perfect, the constant scrutiny would find my flaw and single me out for violence and it’d be my fault for being so careless.
It was that social pressure that cracked me. Not the attacks and the murder attempts and the black eyes and the blood soaking my thankfully black shirt and the cops denying aid because “Do you always look like that?” All of that was just the icing on the cake for me. When I de-transitioned, it was because I could not deal with the stares any more.
That was a while ago. I’m different now. Matured a bit, perhaps. I like to think that I have a better perspective on personal boundaries and what things I ought and ought not to give a fuck about. That said, it’s not like I am a different person. That was my experience: I have gone through with pretending to be cis, and it was fucking miserable, and it almost killed me- just as surely as the front grille of a swerving pickup.
The thought that I might do that again terrifies me.
So. That’s one of my personal motivations for my tattoo. I know that I am trans, despite the self-doubt, despite my painfully surreal and alienating agender identity. “Die cis scum” functions as insurance against some very possible moment of desperate fear, in which I would gladly cut away my satisfaction and my truth and my life for some fleeting and hopeless dream of being accepted by strangers once more.
There is another close personal meaning for me in my tattoo. I am pretty open about the fact that I am an addict. What that means for me is that I am fascinated with destruction, both for others and for myself. In my natural state I fixate on the various and plentiful means of destruction- of things, of relationships, of people. I work hard to not be in that state as much as possible.
Self-destruction can mean many things for me. It includes substance abuse, emotional abuse, and self-harm behaviors. One of the self-destructive behaviors that I fixate on most frequently is based on my trans status.
When I get into the familiar headspace of fuck it let’s burn the goddamn world who gives a shit anyway we’re all going to die, one of the things that I find really appealing is the idea of going to a bar and picking up a rough drunk cis het guy for casual sex without disclosing.
My tattoo is pretty prominent. I’ll admit that chances are it’s not a fail-safe against this plan, but it certainly makes this time-to-die fantasy of mine significantly more awkward. And when I am in that certain state of mind, every little bit of dissuasion against acting out my addiction helps.
My tattoo is a passive counter to these deep personal fears of mine. Just by existing on my body, it helps me to avoid making terrible, suicidal choices.
Having written all that, I’m still not sure how relevant this is to anything. Is it worthwhile to pay any attention to the internal significance of an external show of hostility? Honestly, I doubt it. I understand that all of the above does nothing to alleviate any pain and confusion “Die cis scum” might evoke in others. I suppose I just wanted to let people know that I wear it because it helps to keep me alive.