Encountering Inheritance in Vivek Shraya’s I want to kill myself

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review


My mother told me that I would end up like my uncles—“This is your destiny.”

Years later, I discovered both of my uncles had killed themselves before I was born.
Can the desire to die be inherited?

—Vivek Shraya, I want to kill myself

To inherit, broadly defined, means that which is passed along. In one sense, it is whatever we receive from someone familiar (or someone who is at least meant to be familiar, anyway). And along with this familiarity comes close associations, abiding memory trails, a type of metonymic progression to a particular moment in this present time: I inherited this. “This” is what I am left with, so what do I make of it now? “This” is a confluence of received parts, wanted and unwanted, left behind both intentionality and by chance. Or circumstance. Presently, we meet its trace residues, that may exist ephemerally, nonmaterial, or in a solid form. Confronting the weight of its meanings and history, its contradictions and unnamabilities, we may wonder, what do I do with “this,” now? We are all heirs to things that aren't ever fully ours. But somehow, also, they become ours as we make sense of them, retroactively, reinscribing them into the folds of self.
Original languageCanadian English
Pages (from-to)668–674
JournalTransgender Studies Quarterly
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • transgender
  • suicide
  • mental health
  • psychoanalysis
  • inheritance
  • art
  • artists


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