Dearest Future Reader of “Trunky,”
I recognize that not everyone would care to write about their experience in rehab, or, conversely, that everyone has written about their time in rehab. A couple things come to mind: first, that this last experience of spending 21 days in RJ Blakely getting detoxed off heroin, sundry other opiates, and benzodiazepines took my shame from me.
Being an addict isn’t shameful—I didn’t choose it, except perhaps in some karmic sense—I got stuck with a very strong genetic flavor that happened to detonate a negative feed-back loop with my gender dysmorphia. In a lethal little game of toss, I began using drugs because I was miserable. This created a longing beyond reason, which in turn made every other need opaque. I am most determinedly out about being a drug addict in recovery, because it is a most maligned and misunderstood phenomenon, even in this late day, and more importantly because there is hope. I am mostly a kind, if caustic, person sober, but like most of us addicts, a thoroughly selfish, self-centered, deranged psychopath when using. It’s become clear, after having had some real recovered time, that the disease makes me behave in ways I would not normally. But I had to have a long time in recovery to know that, to undo the decades of using that had distorted my mind, addicted my body, and suffocated my soul.
Secondly, being transgender gives me an interesting lens through which to view the arcane clockwork of institutional gender. We’re so ridiculously vulnerable in detox, cinematically so! Masculinity relies on an effortful vigilance. This creates a crazy kind of gender lab, where all of us, not just the transguy, are face-to-face with all that work, the creation of a “self” under duress, the duress of “being a man.” The pressure, from which I have been somewhat exempt, influenced the way my peers in Butner became drug addicts or drunks, and what parts of their soul they sold first and what parts last can tell you all you need to know about a man.
Because, as it was reiterated to me in Blakely many times, addiction is a disease of shame. I’d actually say it’s an opportunistic disease that seizes the darkest pieces of a person and builds something horrible from them, like a devilish twist on Freud. Shame is also the technology through which addictions can deliver themselves, and from which addicts can be delivered.
OR, IF YOU PREFER:
Sam Peterson is an artist/writer/performer whose document ThaManSam.blogspot.com led him to be published in Kate Bornstein’s and S Bear Bergman’s seminal redux, “Gender Outlaws—The Next Generation.” Following that, he and director Joseph Megel created a one-person memoir about transition with testosterone called “F to M to Octopus,” which was featured in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Process Series, won “best independent script” and a grant from the Provost LGBTQ Committee. Octopus did a brief workshop at 3Legged Dog performance space in Manhattan in 2013, and is currently resting for revision, while Peterson works for a living.
Sam has had a variegated career, opening for Suicide, the Bush Tetras, and X at DC’s 9:30 Club in the 80’s, tattooing and performing queer blood-brother rituals at Julie Tolentino’s Clit Club, Dagger, and Tattooed Love Child in the NYC 90’s (also performing with “Marianne Faithless” at the Pyramid), and settling into sobriety and politics in the aughts in Austin, producing drag shows with Rachel Shannon and Mocha Jean Herrup titled variously “Dragmaster 2000” and “DragCapades/ Monster Pansy,” teaching feminist porn and touring with Liz Belile’s Gynomite, performing at Highways in LA, losing it all to drugs and alcohol, transitioning, all the time loving a higher consciousness and sea creatures and here he is now, surfacing in delightful Durham, NC. He lives within a network of amazing and kind travelers on this strange temporal plane, praying for mercy and peace and light. And chromatophores.
His memoir, Trunky (transgender junky): A Memoir of Institutionalization and Southern Hospitality, can be purchased through Transgress Press (preferred) and Amazon.