I just watched Brave for the first time, and probably like most viewers, I’m crying. But for me, there’s an entirely different reason for my tears.
My name is Matthew Jacobs, I’m 24 years old, and I was born and raised in New Jersey. When I was 12, I started to realize that I wasn’t what I’d been told – a girl. I realized as puberty hit that I wasn’t going to magically turn into a boy, and became very depressed very quickly. My parents were totally unsupportive. I was, they said, their little girl, and I always would be. Dad called me “princess”, Mom called me all kinds of things, most of them gendered. They refused to acknowledge that I was a boy, and wouldn’t allow me to talk about it.
Over the years, the dysphoria got worse and worse as I blossomed into a carbon copy of my mother – medium height, curvy, and large-breasted with wavy black hair and ivory skin. A woman. My parents quickly grew tired of my “nonsense talk” and became manipulative and abusive towards me unless I presented and acted female. They didn’t care about my political views (communo-anarchy), my religion (LaVey Satanism), or my music taste (metal), as long as I was a girl. I tried to accept their conditions, but I just couldn’t. I began self harming, and attempted suicide for the first time at age 16. I overdosed on the antidepressants I was prescribed, mixed them with booze and painkillers, and woke up sixteen hours later in the ICU with a tube down my throat. This was not the last time I would attempt, nor the last time the ICU staff would see me.
When I was eighteen, I tried to run away. I slept in a park, on a bench, because I didn’t know where else to go. On the second night I woke up with a feeling that something was very, very wrong. Shivering, I looked around me, to find a guy standing not three feet away, leering at me. He approached me and asked if I was a whore. I told him no. He said, “Well, with a pretty face like yours, you’d get a lot of customers. How’s about I teach you some tricks? Let me see that body of yours.”
“You’re mistaken.” I said, “I’m not a girl. Please, leave me be.”
“Not a girl, eh? Let’s see the proof.” with that, he pulled my shorts off and climbed on top of me. He tore my underwear off and crowed triumphantly, “Ha! I thought so! Female after all! Let’s see how you like a real man inside you!”
“No, get off me, I don’t want this, not yet, not now, not with you. Please, stop!”
He put his fingers inside me and slapped my face, leaving a wet trail on my cheek. “Not with me? Cheeky little bitch.”
I began to cry and plead with him, and tried to fight him off, but he just held me down with one hand and covered my mouth with the other until he was done. With a final thrust that slammed my head into the armrests of the bench, he finished and got off me. He threw my shorts at my face and left without a word, whistling as he went. I put them on, ran back home, and cried myself to sleep.
Six weeks later, I woke up feeling nauseous and promptly vomited everywhere. I couldn’t stomach food, and regular smells made me want to throw up again. This continued for two weeks, every day, until a friend suggested I get a pregnancy test. She didn’t know what had happened, of course, but she’d asked at a party if I was a virgin and I told her I wasn’t, so she put two and two together. I bought the test, went home, and after five minutes and a half gallon of 7-Up, I got the result…positive. I threw the test at the window, smashing both, and collapsed, resting my arms on the toilet bowl and my face on my arms, sobbing. I hated my female body so much more at that moment, and blamed myself for not getting the ECP. I couldn’t bear it. For four weeks I was a robot, automatically cutting, sleeping, eating, going to school, and buying baggier clothes to hide my rapidly growing bump. Then one day it just all came crashing down, and the next thing I remember I was waking up in the ICU with a broken wrist, cuts all over my fingers, a fuzzy head, and a raw throat. They told me I’d put my hand through a window and drank bleach. I apparently threw most of it up, and then passed out. The charcoal did the rest. I noticed, through my haze, that the doctor looked uncomfortable, so I asked what was wrong. “Miss…were you aware of your pregnancy?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am…but we couldn’t save your baby. He died before we could administer the charcoal to you, and had to be removed via Caesarean. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Pamphlets for grief counseling have been given to your parents.” he wrung his hands a couple of times, then his pager went off and he gratefully scurried out of the room. I hated myself.
When I was twenty-one, I brought up the idea of transition with my parents. I had been binding and presenting male, and introducing myself to people as Matt, but Mom and Dad wouldn’t have a bar of it. They refused to allow me to transition, and I found my binding bandages in the trash more than once. I began abusing steroids, thinking they were basically the same thing as T, but they made me angry and scarily energetic, so I stopped them. I started calling various endocrinologists and psychs, and talked to my counsellor about it. She was supportive, and arranged appointments for me. My parents found out, and cancelled my appointments, or made sure I couldn’t make it to them. They had me committed for repeat suicide attempts and self-injurious behavior, and tried to have me diagnosed as delusional. I gained a diagnosis of depression and Gender Identity Disorder, which was validating for me, but to them was a big red flag that said I was mentally unstable. I continued trying anyway, and signed up to a binder exchange program.
When I was twenty-two, I decided to try running away again, but this time I’d be more careful. I carried mace and various hand-held weapons, including a butterfly knife, and memorized as much self defense from movies and YouTube as I could. One day I left while my parents were out, and left them a note, explaining that I was their son and if they couldn’t deal with that, then I was leaving. I took a bus to Atlantic City, and began my new life there. Unlike many young people, I had no romantic pre-conceived notions about homelessness, I knew it was cold and rough and difficult, and I knew I would probably die, or be raped again, but I felt it was the only option. So, guitar in hand, and with two hundred dollars to my name, I started over. I was Matt Jacobs, a runaway from Paterson, and that’s all anyone knew. The two hundred dried up fast, so I began busking to earn a living. I played songs on my guitar, and funds went towards food, shelter, clothing, T, and guitar strings. Every now and again I’d encounter a little girl, who was always on her own. She’d give me money or food, and I often found her walking around on her own at night. I was, of course, beaten many times over my year and a half spent on the streets. Nine times I was jumped, twice I had my money stolen, and once I was baited. Many of those times were because I was “clocked”, but there was one night when my binder rode up and one of my assailants called to his friends, “Hey, look, bitch got tits – it’s a chick!” before proceeding to beat me further and try to stick his hand down my pants and up my shirt. I maced him and fled to a nearby bus station, where I hid until sunrise.
I turned up here on the 2nd of March, sometime in the very early morning, while Coree (the frontrunner) was in the shower, having a body hate moment. I switched with him, and found myself in an unfamiliar place, in a female body. Ignoring the injustice of this, I got out of the shower, wrapped a towel around me, and went off to the room I was told I’d be in. I found someone passed out, kneeling on the floor, with their head and arms on the bed. I woke them up and they spoke to me in the voice of a small child. She said she didn’t know who she was, but she thought she was around five years old. She later named herself Clementine. She started remembering things after a couple hours, and it turned out she was the little girl I kept seeing. She was homeless too, abandoned or lost by her foster parents. She helped me out as much as she could, because she believes in sharing what you have, no matter how little it is. She was looking for a dumpster to sleep in one night when she passed a Bed, Bath & Beyond, where one of the employees was dumping “faulty” stock (messed up dye jobs, fucked up stitching, holes, etc) that was unsellable. She grabbed the blankets and distributed them, giving two to me because she found me shivering in my sleep near a drain, close to freezing, and keeping a sleeping bag for herself, which was later stolen in a mugging attempt. I swiftly adopted her as my little sister, and I plan to protect her as much as I can.
The reason I just walked you through my life story is so you’ll understand what I mean when I say I want a family. I want a mom and dad who don’t hate me for what I am. I want a family who will love and cherish me no matter what my gender identity is. I want what Merida has by the end of the movie. But, I don’t think I ever will have that. I have Clem, but I will never have the parents I want or need. Logic tells me this, but it doesn’t stop it hurting. I just wish things were different.