Why I’m Compiling Queer and Trans Goodbye Letters to Places We’ve Left Behind

For the past year, the ACLU has been tracking nearly 500 pieces of hateful anti-trans and anti-queer legislation in the U.S., a place so often carrying the false mythology of freedom. This creates a reality in which citizens become pushed to the margins within their own country, forced to travel between states for healthcare and more. But, violence is not exclusive to the state. It shows up in our homes, schools, and workplaces, which can also make a person have to choose to move to save any sense of dignity, safety, or self.

Even before this recent deluge of bills, the question of “Can I exist here?” has been on our community’s mind. Along with:

“When can I leave?”
“Will I ever go back?”
“Is it safe to return?”
“What does it mean to be visible if a part of me is already gone?”

I have started compiling an anthology, Meet Me There, Another Time, a collection of letters by queer and trans people to places they’ve left behind, inspired by these questions, which I too have asked since my childhood and well into my departure from the Midwest as an adult. I experienced a forced exit alongside the making of an earlier anthology I self-published, Portable Homes. It centered on domestic violence survivors, a term I had not used publically for myself until the age of 21. Paired with threats and screams of “do you know Lexie is a faggot?” from my childhood abuser over the phone, I knew home had to be reinvented. I could not stay amongst the Great Lakes safely.

Over the course of the next year, I lived in over 40 different homes and hid behind the guise of the Portable Homes project and the assumed wanderlust of being white with a fresh liberal arts degree. I had hoped to return anywhere but there, anywhere but my body that was still carrying the pain of transphobia and childhood sexual abuse.

The truth is, I was extremely lonely while not knowing where to land myself safely. I felt myself experiencing a slow death. I cut myself off from loved ones, did not share a mailing address, and tricked social media by showing pictures of myself in places I had already left. The circumstances tricked me into disappearing little-by-little.

Now, ten years later, I stand with the grief of maps and the ways I bittersweetly still carry the places I left. I wish to build an atlas amongst a community to begin undoing the isolation. In Meet Me There, Another Time, queer and trans people write directly to the places they’ve had to leave behind. The anthology responds to the forced alienation our community members have long endured while centering on our voices and healing process as we seek to belong where we can. Queer and trans people always have a way of making our world bigger while others try to make our world smaller. These reconnections with the places we’ve left offer a reminder that we are always here and, in a way, always there.

Letters, so far, have been written to entire countries, like Singapore, Turkey, or an entire body of stolen land, like Turtle Island. They have been written to states, like Ohio, or cities, like Pittsburgh, or that one public school. The letters have been written to a mother’s dream home, to the trans boy someone never got to be. Many of these stories take place well before the swarm of bills arrived. The desire for an exit came from domestic violence, from the bending into family patterns, from threats, from the anxiety to go outside, from the urge to drink, from the urge of needing rest, finally.

Our visibility (where and when possible) came before the laws; our secrets came first, our struggle to stay came first. So it seems, it’s harder than ever to find a place to stay. To this, I offer Meet Me There, Another Time to nod to each other as we go from place-to-place. To say, “you have not disappeared; I see you even in the in between.”

If you are wishing to contribute to the anthology, you may visit our submissions page, and submissions are due April 15th. Below is a beautiful anonymous submission for the project from someone who has a story that intersects with my own. For a moment, here we go to the coasts of Massachusetts:

Goodbye to the Giant Window to the Beach

that made me feel like we were always
on a ship. The ocean swirling in teals
and blues in front of us. The salted air
hitting me just right since the day I was born.

Goodbye house on the hill in Falmouth Heights. The gray siding that makes me
think only of Cape Cod. Goodbye to the rocky
gravel drive that I used to run on. The rocks

I tried to count as they wedged between
my toes. Why do queer people cling
to rocks and stones? All my trans friends
hold rocks in their hand and I wonder,

do they disappear into the rough or smooth
edges too? Goodbye to the place where I lost
the edges of my body. The place where I could
run around naked and see my body as a whole

People talk about surviving abuse but they never talk about losing sight of your toes.
I have to force myself to see them, remember
there are edges and ends to the curves

of my body. Goodbye to the man who owned
that place, the carpeted stairs/the cut out
in the kitchen wall to hold our aquarium. He had a room dedicated to cacti. Goodbye

to everything sharp and full of hard edges.
That house is so clear in my mind, the sheets on my bed/pink quilts, the never closed door,
but everything else is blurry/becoming dark.

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Lexie Bean

Lexie Bean (they/he) is a trans multimedia artist from the Midwest whose work revolves around themes of bodies, homes, cyclical violence, and queer identity. They are a Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, member of the RAINN National Leadership Council, and a Lambda Literary Award Finalist for their anthology Written on the Body. Lexie integrated their personal experiences into the acclaimed The Ship We Built, the first middle grade novel centering and written by a trans boy released by a major US publisher. Their work has been featured in Teen Vogue, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, Ms. Magazine, Them, Bust Magazine, Autostraddle, as well as JKP's Surviving Transphobia. Currently they are working on new book projects, including Meet Me There, Another Time, film writing, and co-directing their first feature-length documentary, What Will I Become? www.lexiebean.com

Lexie has written 4 articles for us.

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