I have been debating for days whether or not to write anything about Lucy Meadows. I have been so filled with sadness and outrage and helplessness - and I wondered why so few of my friends seem to talk about this. A woman taking her own life. A woman whose transition from a male body to a female body was made public property (and publicly mocked) by British press. I worried that I did not have the right to feel sad, outraged or helpless about this because I rest within my biological gender. But I am a human being and it is my right to speak out against hate and ridicule - even if I sometimes have to be reminded about my right to do so. And I think of my former flatmate Alex and I also owe it to her to write about my sadness, outrage and helplessness.
Alex and I shared a flat back in the late 1990s. She had left her native country for Scandinavia partly because of a love affair and partly because she felt misunderstood. We shared a big flat with several others and we rarely spoke. That is, until one night.
I had come home late and Alex was out in the kitchen crying. Yet another boyfriend had broken her heart. Alex always fell quick and hard for macho men who promised to protect her - she was a tiny slip of a thing - and who vowed they loved her for her. Quickly, though, they always started to want to change her. They would buy her clothes and makeup and high heeled shoes and Alex would sit in the kitchen crying.
She told me that night that she was a biological woman who identified as a gay man within a female body and that she preferred to dress as a boy because female clothing made her uncomfortable. She didn't want to transition - she just wanted to be loved for who she was. Her real name wasn't Alex* but she wanted a gender-neutral name unlike her actual name. (And I refer to Alex as she because that was what she wanted me to call her.)
Oh Alex. Wonderful Alex. Shy, funny and skittish.
I was maybe 21 years old and naive for my age, but I grew up a bit that night. Alex was so full of pain and contradictions. We sat there until dawn and she just talked and talked. Our late nights became a habit. I left that flat a year later and I often wonder what became of her. She was vulnerable with very few friends outside the constant cavalcade of awful boyfriends.
Today I wonder if she ever decided to transition because her identity seemed very fragmented and contradictory - with a strong emphasis upon 'boy' - but I also recognise that there are never any easy answers. Identity is fragmented and contradictory and what may seem like an obvious thing to me may not have been an obvious solution to someone as complex as Alex.
So, I read about Lucy Meadows and I remember my late nights in the kitchen with Alex. And I want to shout and cry.
LOVE. Never hate.
* Alex wasn't even what she called herself but Alex will be her name here.