Dear future Tommy,
It’s 100°F today in September and I’m writing to you on the pink U-shaped sectional that takes over our living room in Brooklyn. I got this couch after posting about it on Instagram, which used to be a social-media platform. I can’t imagine it still exists in 2042.
Blossom, our great Dane, and Fiona, our pit bull, are sleeping on their side of the couch.
I close my eyes and try to picture you at 50: I see an expansive stage inside of a theater – perhaps Broadway or the West End – and you’re exclaiming in a fierce femme voice:
“Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty! Make thick my blood…”
I laugh at this image of me as Lady Macbeth. Of course I’m playing this part – she’s witchy and deranged, with ruthless ambition and a recklessness that I know so well. My performance is vibrant and the audience is riveted. I’m flying up there.
Away from work – on stage and in films, acting, writing, directing – I imagine our home life will be reasonably straightforward. I see us with friends and family, biological and chosen, children nearing adulthood and a pack of dogs that will never be Fiona or Blossom but will come close. It seems we have fared well.
Writing this letter now, I feel I’ve already won at life just by making it to 31. That sounds bleaker than it is. I had a challenging time growing up and making sense of myself, as many trans folx do, and an incredibly addictive personality that’s not been easy to work with. Today, though, I can say I have a community of people who love, support, value, respect and validate me. I have found a lot of affirmation in telling stories to millions of people.
As a kid, I’d wear my blanket as a wig and run around in circles until I got dizzy enough to get out of my body, desperate to escape the discomfort of gender dysphoria and intrusive thoughts (which I later learned were symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression). By age 12, I traded that tool for drugs and alcohol to relieve my discomfort and escape reality.
I like this idea of life as a hallway: you can keep opening doors and having these experiences, but then you can always get back in the hallway and walk”
At 21, I checked myself into rehab, leaving a week early for yoga-teacher training because I needed to do something with my time and body so that I didn’t drink and use. I thought I would have this spiritual journey, marry rich, and never worry again. I ended up hating it, the yoga training bit, but… I got my certificate. I finished the course. And it dawned on me that I’d run away from most things in my life; not come to a completion; failed to graduate beyond the first and second attempts. So, getting this stupid certificate from a Soho yoga studio was incredibly validating. It made me feel like there are doors that you can open, do your work, and then close. I like this idea of life as a hallway: you can keep opening doors and having these experiences, but then you can always get back in the hallway and walk.
I have just handed in the manuscript for my first book, and last week, I finished editing my debut feature film, I Wish You All the Best. Now, I’m planning to bring these works to the world, and that’s a different set of fears, but I know I can see it to fruition.
So, I have directed, written, produced, acted, and I am a decade sober. Not bad. This summer, I also launched Curran – a safe space on the internet for queer and trans people and our allies to come together; where our voices are respected, valued, and artists are paid for their work, offering a platform to talent in ways that other spaces might not. It’s exhausting to exist in industries that don’t give this value or respect. We’re constantly fighting to have our voices heard and validated, and having to convince people that we’re worthy. My hope is that Curran will be an antidote to what we deal with as storytellers in other infrastructures.
Ultimately, though, I’m not going to be finishing Curran. It’s a much larger idea than I could take responsibility for. In the future, it will be doing its own thing – a household name, even; a platform by us, for all. I hope that cis straight people engage with it, that our excellent storytelling and products reach a larger audience than the LGBTQ+ community. I hope for a less divisive way of living overall; that everyone can feel autonomous and independent in their space without making other people smaller.
I also hope, future Tommy, that we are a person who is patient and able to slow down, who can set boundaries with ease, who knows how to say ‘no’; a person who’s able to communicate her needs and desires without going to bed that night in a panic that she might have attacked somebody.
I’d like for us to have published many books and to be a film director who has done good work – work that we’re incredibly proud of and some I’m sure we’re embarrassed by. We won’t hold ourselves to a gold standard of every single endeavor and we will keep growing, prospering and moving fearlessly into the future. We will have what I’ve always wanted: a complex, very human experience.