Life is precious. While we all talk the talk and spout those words, few of us walk the walk and appreciate how real they are.
Last weekend, I received a three word text from a friend; Liv is dead. I gasped and felt my heart drop to the floor. At that moment, the details didn’t even matter. What did matter was that Liv was twenty-two, a kind soul, a talented artist and a life partner to Michaela, a young woman I have known since she was ten years old, the daughter of a dear friend of mine. Theirs was a love that most people will never experience and the maturity with which they shared their lives far exceeded most marriages I have known. All he did was hop on his bike (with a helmet) heading home to hang out with his girlfriend when a truck turned into the campus of one of the five colleges in the area, hit and killed him. Just like that. No warning. No satisfactory explanation. No do-overs. Life is precious.
Liv was born Olivia. He was, truthfully, the first transgender person that I had ever known beyond the few that had gone very public with their transitions. Even then, my knowledge of him was primarily through Michaela’s mom who, truth be told, initially needed some time to adjust to the (not actually all that unconventional) unconventional relationship. In short order, she came to love Liv for all the same reasons that her daughter did and his gender identification straight up did not matter.
I recall when Michaela first began to date Liv thinking, “hmmm…dating a transgender person” with no judgment (well, maybe a little) but, admittedly, a curiosity and wonder. I had certainly heard of transgender (truth: some people have not) but never truthfully gave it much thought as it was not a situation that I ever anticipated finding myself in. As my concerns (for lack of a better word) about Jess and her unusual-for-a-boy behaviors continued to increase, so, too, did my interest in Liv and, more to the point, Liv and Michaela’s relationship.
As a parent, you only want your children to be healthy and happy (successful and rich are just bonuses). Throw any wrench into the mix and the first fear is: Will they have a good life? Well, I am here to tell you that Liv was enjoying not just a good life, but a wonderful one.
In the days since his death, I have spent a fair amount of time with Michaela. She has told me that Liv defined himself as gender-queer. And, interestingly, she spoke of the reality that, while acceptance and understanding for the transgender community is growing, evolving and improving, there is “no space” for gender-queer. She spoke those words with an undercurrent of anger and disappointment. Liv was leading a happy, loving and successful life, but was still, in many respects, misunderstood.
At nearly six feet tall with a beautiful smile and spirit, Liv had his breasts removed about a year and a half ago. It made him more comfortable in his own skin. He loved to bear his chest on the beach, even if that “beach” was the lawn outside the home that he and Michaela shared. He kept the rest of the parts he was born with. He was gender-queer and he was happy. So, too, was Michaela. And now, the life that he had so fearlessly approached was gone in a horrible, tragic instant.
Michaela, herself a tall, beautiful, creative, accepting and loving young woman has shown incredible grace in these dark days and, with the same strength and commitment that she poured into their relationship, has soldiered through. The shock has not worn off. Her rabid support of all things Liv is indicative of their love. In fact, when the first press released referred to him by his birth name, Olivia, Michaela found, amid her deep distress, the strength to contact the editor and correct the error. She allowed that it was an “error”, but made damn sure that it was corrected. Nothing would sully Liv’s memory.
Life is precious. Embrace the wonderful things in life and live like there is no tomorrow. A devastating event like this should remind us all to walk the walk.