Identity

“He was a beautiful soul”, speaks his mother, pausing to sob into her handkerchief. Her tears are of loss, of sorrow, but despite everything, not of regret. She still calls him her son.

She turns back towards the gathering of apparent gloom. There is no body, for they couldn’t bear to look at it. It lies buried six feet under a headstone marked as ‘beloved son’. It lies in a casket softer than the bed the person it belonged to slept in, draped in clothing these people no longer ridicule.

The father of the dead faces an old portrait of his only child. He died at 23, but the portrait dates back to middle school, for after that he had become a disgrace. The photograph is framed in silver and placed high on a pedestal as if in high regard, where the deceased was never pictured, even as he was slowly dying of being denied an identity.                                 

“My son”, he says, “was confused”.  His words fail to hide the fact that he spoke, not of his deceased child, or out of love for him, but for his own consolation. He doesn’t cry.      

“He was confused”, he repeats.

More come forth and speak as the service goes by. They speak of the departed as an inspiration, as his death a great loss to the world. It’s funny how hollow their words sound, how transparent their lies are – oozing with the guilt of never having being said while the referred was there to hear them. What’s funnier is how they only ever talked about this person like they do now – in third person, for they never conversed with the person at hand, only about.                                                                                                                                         

And yet, they all line up now with nice things to say, acting like they all lost their best friend, jerking up tears lacking the hurt they had forced onto this person all his life, and which ultimately led them to this funeral. One by one, they count off the niceties, offer condolences to the parents who stood by the old portrait in each other’s arms, and go back home whispering things they didn’t dare say at the service for the sake of etiquette.

And as usual, as at every such funeral, one comes forth in utter refusal to speak about the deceased, and talks, instead, about how suicide is never the answer —  about how there was always hope, a silver lining to every cloud, a dawn at the end of every long night. His speech is met with approving nods and sad faces, erasing the real cause of death by the ‘fact’ that the one they lost had been suicidal.

But what had really killed him? It wasn’t  suicide or recklessness. It wasn’t  the choking pressure of not being able to meet the expectations of his family. It wasn’t being bullied all his life. It wasn’t being denied a peaceful existence. It wasn’t even the fact that ‘he’ did not wish to be addressed with a ‘he’.      

In the end, it was everything he endured through all of this that killed him.

In the casket lay the body of a girl who hadn’t been born in the body she wanted to be in. A girl who was never accepted as one. The girl had been found alongside a gun missing one solitary bullet, but it was not her own hand that killed her.    

 She pointed the gun at her head when she couldn’t see another way ahead, and society pulled the trigger.

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