What is gender but letters and roles? A theatrical matching game for most that excludes many. I see that my letters do not match. Now what? Socialized female, I learned my manners, how to play baseball and the finer points of basic carpentry. As a kid I cried to the “Boy is Mine” and fell in love with my best friends. I developed beautiful penmanship, breasts, and an eating disorder by the time I hit high school.  I was a flirt and I nearly broke the heart of my future best friend. How can you not be a heart breaker if you never loved yourself?

I spent my high school years hiding in an orchestra and peeked out for the first time after campari and vodka sponsored my first fuck. College pushed me and pulled me through a handful of identities. One night, too many pomegranate cocktails outed me to my girlfriend as the swishy boy I was inside.

In a way, I feel like a superhero, or at least a nesting doll. I spent years in a shell that convinced myself and others that nothing was going on beneath the surface. I was so straight and definitely did not have scores of journals questioning my sexuality. Most importantly, gender was not an issue because being self-destructive kept the surface calm. Gender dissonance shut out self-esteem because the anger of not fitting in turned inward. In high school, and for too long after, going with the crowd and hiding my soul inside my viola became the easiest way to get by. I suppose there are worse habits.

I came out as a superhero the first time I slicked back my hair and made like I was doing drag out of generosity. “Anything for charity”, I laughed. A year later, Clark Kent threw off his coat to become Eli when the binary closed in tighter. Late night chats with friends and with the universe while face-down on the floor held Eli’s hand when she asked for ‘he’. H’Eli – a strong Jewish name. That night, Elias Aaron, son of our ancestors, brother to many, nervously typed “I think I just came out to myself as transmale to the tune of [Jason Derulo’s] ‘Whatcha Say’. Cathartic, yet catchy.” The day was May 1st and it was recorded in memory as ‘the beginning’. My brother joined me that night for boy time over Great Lakes Burning River beer. I’ll never forget.

Now a dyed in the wool member of the brotherhood, my transness is found to be self-evident when I stop staring at my hips in the mirror long enough to see the growing young man with the smile in his eyes. The fairy princess, the daughter, the girlfriend, all add up to be not shameful history but formative experiences. Elias Aaron would not stand without that fairy princess. He’s just the upgrade with new added features (silicone junk included!).

Ultimately, I feel more trans than man. The mythical woman half of the binary had no space for me and the man half often seems slightly out of reach. Being trans give the finger to both halves and challenges the whole with every gendered moment of the day.

Transness for me is about breaking down walls and feeling alive. It’s about social responsibility and allegiance to the natural world. It’s one part crusade, three parts peace and a heaping cup of guts. Being trans is hot, especially when binding. Being trans is ultimately about being.

My friends, you never stop growing. For me, my gender-ignorant childhood became gender-avoidant teenage years became a gender-obsessed adulthood. The time that you take eventually must be given back; it’s not called rubato for nothing. Sometimes children grow into strong women, spiritual men, and/or enlightened individuals. The labels are only a thin layer as long as they grow into themselves. This child grew up to be called home to Kentucky, to his spirituality by the Torah, and to himself through transition.

May all of you pursue and know the love of yourself, your connection to the universe and the place your heart calls home. Go forth, native sons and daughters. The world is yours.


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