Suicide, self harm.
What’s in a screen name? I’ve had mine for over a decade. Certainly more people know me as “S.T.” than “Morgan”, perhaps even more than my deadname. It has given me pause on the few occasions when someone has referred to me as S.T. in real life, but I’ve grown attached to it. I’ve written many, many, many times about my thoughts on internet personas, the freedom of expression it can promote as well as the wedge it can drive between your online and real world personality. Post transition, I feel there’s less of a gulf between S.T. and meatspace me, because in a way S.T. was an anonymised compromise during the years of questioning my identity. I haven’t ditched because I still in some way enjoy that separation, and while I’m not intending to become some Thomas Pynchon-esque recluse, I don’t really want my personal life to be considered alongside the fiction I write.
But it’s an initialism. So the obvious question is, what does it stand for? Does it stand for something? As a joke on Twitter, I said I’d reveal what the letter S stood for when I reached a certain number of followers. But as that number got closer and closer, I thought about it more- why is it something I’m so cagey about? The mystery is fun, I suppose- this is your last chance to dip and maintain that kayfabe- but even friends who have asked me point blank about it I have refused to answer. Not because it’s merely cringeworthy.
It’s because the truth hurts.
Ten years ago I very much wanted to die. My attempts to make sense of my sexuality had been accepted more easily than I had assumed, but my gender identity was dismissed as fetishistic by family and medical professionals. I was diagnosed with depression and social anxiety and left to my devices. I heard voices in empty corridors, felt sure that the world was out to get me, that the best I could expect for my future as a broken person would be to become a shut-in, a NEET, or to not exist at all.
I wasn’t very good at killing myself, thankfully. The medications and other drugs I attempted to overdose on resulted in hospital visits, but no lasting damage. I frequented alt.suicide.holiday, learned the lingo about “catching the bus” and read about how to make your own exit bag, but I didn’t get any further than that. I could never manage more than scratches with kitchen knives, and though jumping seemed the easiest option, that didn’t get any further than leaning over top floor bannisters and wondering if it was tall enough. So I did then what I still do now- attempt to work through my issues through writing.
Diversion is an unfinished Visual Novel I attempted to write in those last years of high school. Like many English language VN’s written by people lacking in experience, it attempted to deconstruct a genre I barely understood. In the fiction of the story, the game was not just a game, but an interface designed by Fate to allow a player to try and change the outcome of one miserable shut-ins life. Most of the choices were false ones, because the ending would always be the same- as a result of your meddling and attempting to play this character’s life like a dating sim, you anger the forces of Fate and cause the world to be rewritten. All very “clever”. But the character I spent most time on was the girl who lived next door.
This avatar of suffering, who would have her face torn open with a bear trap at narratives end, was me. Or rather, me at a distance, a cross of what I wanted to be and the rot I felt existed inside me. A dour goth who wore the same striped kneesocks I hid under my bed, wanting to be saved by anything or anyone. I was under many layers of denial, so I can’t be sure how conscious I was that we were the same. But even despite the game never releasing, I continued to use S.T. as my online moniker, to name characters with those initials. My recent story, PASTEL WEREWOLF was an attempt to reinterpret my terrible magical girl Nanowrimo project from the same period, which is why it also includes a character called Skyler Tremont. That that character is the same one from SCUM WORLD effectively means that S.T. lives again, and her face is my avatar across almost all social media.
Why have I stuck with it, especially when it reminds me of something so painful? In part, its inertia- I can’t think of a better screen name, or at least one that doesn’t feel unfitting. Another reason is that as someone who now is in a more comfortable place in terms of gender identity,I am more acutely aware of the value of persona, roles… so I’m happy to continue to have this as something I can hold onto, a self that has existed before I transitioned, but will continue to exist long into the future. And finally- it doesn’t stand for suicide-tan anymore. It has stood for so many things that the initialism itself has more meaning than any of its permutations. And I’m happy to keep it that way.
I’m sorry that wasn’t a fun answer. I don’t know if I’ll keep this article online, if it is even as cathartic as I hoped it would be.
But I’m still going to be S.T.,
as much as I am Morgan,
and as much as I was a person with another name, too.