Dear Sister,

You are the light of my life. I love you more than you could ever know. You are a star with endless potential, a giant booger, and an absolutely delightful monster.

At 12 years old, when I overheard mom talking about you by the pool, I ran inside and hid behind the couch, crouching while chlorinated water gathered at my feet. I cried at the thought of your birth. I thought about going to college. I thought about the milestones in your life I would miss. I thought about leaving and saying goodbye to you; the fractured picture of me you’d have after seeing me only on holidays.

Now, the day has come that we don’t see each other so often. When I came back home for the first time and told you I was a boy, not knowing how you’d respond, I watched your eyes well up with tears as you looked at me and said “So I don’t have a sister anymore?”

My heart shattered when you said that. But, I smiled at you, because it is all I can do. “No, but I’m still here! Hey now! Hey now! Sister, I’m no different just because I’m your brother. I still think you’re a big booger head and I’ll still do makeup and nails with you no matter if you call me a he or not.”

Watching you smile through the tears reassembled our briefly fractured world. As long as I can make you laugh I know everything will be ok. You understand so much at such a young age.

Love,

Your big twink brother

 

Dear Brother,

I knew I could trust you forever when you cornered me that day on the boardwalk. Dad had walked ahead and it was just us and the mangroves and the sound of the water hitting the shore. You were only in seventh grade then, but you had a mission that you were determined to complete. You whipped around and pointed at me. “So are you gay or what?”
You might as well have picked me up by the ankles and shaken me for my lunch money. Despite being two years older I was taken aback. You had leveled the playing field in six words.  “Wh-oh my god. I mean, yes.” You promised not to tell.

So years later, when you watched my friends at school call me JJ for a long time, you understood. I never really had to come out to you. You’ve always been my partner in crime, and I’m your confidante.

Love,

Your little ( as in 5’6”) big brother

 

Dear Mom,

So much has changed since the last time I wrote you a letter you’ll never read. I wanted so badly for you to know me, and now here we are. Dad told me about the night he told you that I wanted to be your son. He didn’t tell me that you cried, which I take to mean that you didn’t, but this is probably wishful thinking.

For a long time this kept me silent: the thought that my existence would pain you. I’d rather suffer years of trying to squeeze myself into dresses and heels, than see you cry. Maybe that’s dramatic of me, but it’s true. I have the prom pictures to prove it.

In junior year I fought against you, and the tux you let me wear stood triumphantly in every photo. But, in senior year I didn’t have the strength. Although, I think it was worth it. I needed you to understand that I cared about what you thought. I didn’t mourn the few hours I spent foggy-eyed in empty restrooms if it meant that we could understand each other just a little more. After that I cut my hair short again, and rather than fighting to look in the men’s section, you pointed me towards it before I could say a word.

You seemed to finally understand that there was no changing me. Maybe the way I walked in that dress made that clear to you, but you weren’t the only one that had to process things. I remember the day I realized that the solidarity we had as the women of the house was important to you, just like being a sister was important to Aleksandra. I hope that you know that you will always be my best friend.

Love,

Your son

 

Dear Ania,

You’ve been with me for so long. Longer than I realize. I still grapple with you, we tango together as you teach me to pick up the pieces of our life that you once took care of. In high school when I went home every day and banged my head against walls, wondering why god made me this way, you opened our eyes every morning. You kept drawing even when every pen felt impossibly heavy, and cried out when I tried to suffocate myself in silence, refusing to let me reduce myself to nothing. You were so strong. You held on, so that I could feel the tile beneath my feet and the warm sun on my skin and my little sister’s arms around me when she runs to me for a hug. Thank you for that.

In three days I turn 19 years old. It feels impossible. Recently I looked in the mirror and cried for the first time in a long time. Not so long ago, I had grown my hair out, trying so hard for so long to be content with myself. I thought if it didn’t work out at least when I showed up battered and bruised they’d understand that I fought tooth and nail to be a girl. I thought I’d be old or dead by the time I came out to my parents. Now I’m out to both of them and they love me all the same. I’ll start testosterone soon. I’ll have a shitty mustache, and a receding hairline, and a voice I won’t struggle to recognize in recordings. Soon, in all of its impossibility, I will see myself in the mirror for the first time.

People think that transitioning is some violent rejection of the original self. Like, you are a vessel I had to kill to escape, but you’re my guardian angel. My whole life looked like a brick wall, but you held me tightly as I clawed my way over it, and now the horizon stretches on as far as I can see. I had to make peace with you until your job was done. You’ll never really leave me, but retirement will feel so nice.

Thank you endlessly,

Jasper

Jasper Johnson’s personal essay “Letters From the Boy I’ve Become: My Transgender Confessions” won third prize in the Seventh Annual School of Visual Arts Writing Program Contest. He is an eighteen-year old Animation major at SVA from West Palm Beach, Florida, who hopes to one day become a storyboard and comic book author. Jasper performed “Letters From the Boy I’ve Become: My Transgender Confessions” at the SVA Theater on 23rd street on March 22nd, 2019 as part of Kaleidoscope, an annual word and multimedia variety show curated by Davida Singer and Isabelle Deconinck.