a funeral for a murdered tranny.

It was a funeral for a murdered tranny. This time though, like so many other times, the murderer and the victim were the same person.

The people who cared about Rhiannon gathered to remember her and to talk.

"Didn't she know how many people loved her?"

"Things were going so well for her."

"I talked to her just days before she did it and she didn't mention anything. "

"I think this was well planned. She decided she wasn't coming back, just to kill herself."

"She has dumped the mess for other people to clean up, like she did so many times."

Rhiannon's wife of nine years and fellow bisexual activist broke her jaunty exterior and started wailing just before the service. Women helped her back to the fellowship hall in this 1870 limestone cathedral, walls full of the fossil life that came before, bodies turned to rock. Just a block from the gothic New York State Capitol building, this place has seen many funerals, but few sadder than a 34 year old person who turned their back on love and help to murder themselves.

"Steve was a smiling kid," said his father, in front of a posterboard with the pictures of a transgender life. "Puberty changed that, though, and the loss of his mother when he was 19 didn't help."

Others saw the anger, rage and pain though different lenses. "She was up to three times the estrogen of a pregnant woman, and then down to nothing. Those hormonal swings couldn't help," said a friend who spoke of wanting to start a suicide hotline to remember her. Would she have used it? "No, I think she had decided this was the only way out. I told her a week before when she mentioned suicide that I would call emergency, and she just said if they committed her she would commit suicide after she got out of the hospital."

"I was in a support group with her," said another, "and I saw all the signs of an Army buddy who killed himself with smack. She was so isolated, but she hid it well, even from therapists. You would reach out to help and she would slap or run back."

Rhiannon was on the edge. To move forward she would have open up, leave behind the raging bastard who had protected her for so long. She would have to turn her back on her pain, let her rage die and go naked into a new place. To abandon who we are seems so difficult, almost impossible.

For Rhiannon, it was impossible. She chose to be murdered. At the funeral, we want to feel for the victim, but we want to rage at the killer, yet when someone dies at their own hand, who can we blame? Maybe her therapist should have been more aggressive, maybe someone, just if, possibly..... There is no one to blame here -- friends were there, life was life.

If there is no one to blame, though, how can we stand the wails of a young wife turned a widow, so much pain and loss inflicted on her by the hand of another? The service in this sacred space, lead by a MCC clergyperson, with a Yoruba priestess, a shaker hymn and a Jewish prayer seems sweet, but the pain and rage are palpable here, transferred from someone who held onto their pain to those who loved them, and embodied by the wailing of a bereft wife that seeps though the sanctuary and out to us.

The Yoruba priestess asks us to honor our ancestors, saying Rhiannon is now one of them. People are asked to imagine her here, happy at last, seeing the people who loved her, asked to light a candle and take an orange feather.

Is Rhiannon here? How did she see her ancestors, those who were tied to her and her transgender? How did she move to the light? And how did she spread her feathered wings and take flight?

To end the service, two members of the local GLBT chorus sang a tune, set as a message to a child, called "Everything's Possible." "You can do what you dream", the song said, "and I wish someone had said that to me. "

Sometimes though, the price of making those dreams come true, the requirement to change and be new, is just too much. We are stuck in the birth canal, can't go forward, can't go back, so we just die.

We look at the choice to quit, to not try again, and we see ourselves reflected. How do we get trapped between our past, our pain and our future, our hope? Is there any way out that honors both our suffering and our possibilities?

Everyone in this world has a broken heart. The challenge we have is to move past it or to indulge it, to be reborn or to be dead.

Rhiannon took her pain, her anger and her rage and she gave them to us. Now, we have to choose what we want to do with that pain, to find that the point, or to speak for possibilities.


"I Am My Pain"
for Rhiannon
Callan Williams, 1997

I am my pain.

I am my pain

I am my pain

See me ooze.
See me lose.
All my life,
All my joy
'Cause they make me
Be a boy.
I am my pain

see me throb.
see me sob.
see me cry.
ask me why.
I am my pain

I live
in hell.
others can't
stand the smell
of my pain
of my rage.
in my cage.
I am my pain

Don't ask me
to change the rules.
all you bloody fools
see me trapped
in stinking pools
of my own pain

The truth
Is plain to see.
They all
Despise me.
They toss me
Down the drain.
Deep into
My stinking pain.
I am my pain

Don't tell me
I can heal.
You don't know
what I feel.
I am driven
I am my pain

Show me others,
Challenged too.
Broken bodies,
Abused, Who
discover inner wealth
Who claim
to find health.
Do it yourself!
They never were
My pain.

My pain
Is so special.
My pain
Is unique.
My pain
Is the essence
Of what
Becomes me.
I am my pain

I am my pain.
Don't you know?
Out of this
I cannot grow.
They oppress me,
Slice me down.
Use their privilege
To keep me ground
Into my pain

I can be
Will always
Escape me

I am my pain

I can be
Will always
Escape me

I am my pain