I’ve spent part of the evening staring at this photo, trying to decide what it is that lies behind those eyes.
Not long ago, during a particularly difficult time, my therapist told me I should write a letter to myself at seventeen. The goal, to find a way to forgive that person their foolish acts and stupid decisions that created such chaos. She said I had to learn to accept that it was what I needed to do to survive even though I never understood that.
Then suddenly appearing in a newsletter from my high school, is that person, at seventeen captured for all time in the very heart of the storm. Shortly after this photo was taken, I had a breakdown which looking back, totally changed my life. Looking deeply into his eyes, I search for any hint of the turmoil raging under the surface? What does an impending breakdown look like? If I had had someone to turn to, or someone that recognized the signs, was there anything that they could have said or done that would have made a difference in how life unfolded?
My struggle with gender dysphoria was well under way at this point. In payment for the guilt and shame I felt at my perverted thoughts, I had already begun my collection of self-inflicted scars. When that pain wasn’t sufficient, thoughts of suicide were frequently added to my daily struggles.
I know what it was like to live that life, I have not forgotten. It lives on vividly, burned into my memories for all time.. Yet this photo takes all that pain and uncertainty and gives it a concrete existence. What I see from this vantage point fifty years later, is deep sadness, eyes that look out toward a future holding no promise of any way to stop the suffering.