“It literally almost killed me to give the world what they wanted,” says Megan Smith, 38, of Athens, Ohio. After a suicide attempt in 2016, Smith decided to come out as trans for the first time at the age of 36. Her parents stopped speaking to her after that.
“What I like is broke-down places, spaces of decay, places that are abandoned by the rest of society,” says Smith of her favorite photography location in The Plains, Ohio. Smith is an artist and transgender activist who struggles with depression and suicidal ideation, as well as severe pack pain from a spinal injury that requires surgery.
Smith sifts through the box of items she kept from before her transition two years ago. She holds on to these few because they have sentimental value.
“This is a very dysphoric part of the day",” Smith reflects. “Being forced to shave every day makes me feel like a guy in a dress.”
Smith builds a world on Minecraft at home in Athens, while her cousin Alissa Agresta, who lives upstairs in the same building, watches. Agresta is the only family member who still speaks with Smith. In order to deal with her depression and suicidal ideation, Smith plays video games. “There are ways to distract yourself, like Minecraft,” she says, adding “I can distract myself for 18 or 20 hours a day.”
Smith takes a combination of hormones, anti-depressants and pain medications on a daily basis.
Smith, unable to carry groceries due to her spinal injury, pushes a shopping cart to her car. She lives in Section 8 housing in Athens, Ohio, and survives on Social Security Income.
Smith describes sleeping as the best part of her life. “The only thing I’m not tired of is sleep. In fact, losing myself in dreams and my imagination and my own mind, it’s the only place nothing can touch me.” To escape the world, Smith would sleep forever if she could, saying, “If there was a safe way to put myself in a coma, I would have done that years ago.”
Smith waits in the Holiday Inn Express the night before her spinal surgery. “I have to accept that I’m going to spend my life alone, without a partner,” Smith says. Before coming out as trans, Smith was married.
Smith enjoys cosplay the night before her long-awaited spinal surgery at the Holiday Inn Express pool in Columbus, Ohio.
Smith sleeps in a recovery room at Riverside Hospital in Columbus after successful spinal surgery on Dec. 12, 2018. “I just hope I can regain what’s left of my life.”
Smith attends a drumming workshop at Athens Photo Project on April 10, 2019, nearly four months after her surgery. “When you’re feeling some kind of hurt and pain inside, playing music or writing poetry or stories, it lets the emotion out,” Smith said, adding “especially music because it can tune into your soul.”
Smith expressed that recovering from her spinal surgery has finally allowed to her to focus on the other issues plaguing her. “I’ve dealt with the physical pain, now I have to deal with the psychological and emotional pain.”
“My goal is to get to the point where I’m just Megan the woman, not Megan the trans woman. But right now that’s a very distant dream,” Smith says at home in Athens with her cat, Mewtwo.
Excerpt from the Poem “Born Again / Phoenix Rising” written by Megan Smith in 2012.