Middle school is behind you, the whole sky in front. This week you saw the total solar eclipse. Paper eclipse glasses in hand, you trekked out over the gravel road to the golf course with the rest of your neighborhood. The crumpled, defeated grass provided no cushioning as you beheld the sun’s greatest accomplishment: being overshadowed. You saw the obvious power of the sun, its lifetime of ferocity and eagerness, be overtaken by the humble moon. The rock revealed the limits of the flaming life-giver. Even though it's safe with your glasses, you squinted the entire time, wearing out your fierce facial muscles. Your shoes tap away at the earth, wondering why it would let the natural order of the universe be disturbed. Creation has been steeped in a darkness purer than any light you could fuse together. The air relaxes into the eclipse with its grassy evening smell.
This week Eva came out as trans. She is more trans than you will ever be. It should’ve been obvious since pre-school. Is there even proof that you were trans back in pre-school? You have been cosmically overtaken.
Leaving you for better,
Eighth Grade Graduate
Dear Out and Proud,
Welcome to your last year of middle school! We would first like to address the error you may have found in our previous letter. That letter contained the phrase “as what you ask” when what was really meant was “as what you demand.” We hope this clarity helps resolve any confusion.
We know you already showed up to a few meetings, but here is your formal invitation to be a part of PRIDE club and learn to profess queerness. You say you’re in science club as well? You’ll need to drop that. How well can you draw? It’s important to your queer image. Let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to be the only one at PRIDE club who doesn’t draw. Sitting at the big table, kicking the floor and taking small sips of lukewarm water because you don’t have anything else to do, that’s not for us. We are the ones who store our life in our pens. We draw all the wonderful representations of ourselves that cannot exist anywhere else.
You should talk about being queer more. It would really ramp up support for us.
Many thanks and hope to see you soon,
Oldest One at PRIDE Club
That’s just great, you know? You’ve finally chosen the pronouns that are right for you. “They/them.” Remember how you giggled when you first whispered those words to yourself in your bedroom, when only you and God would have been able to hear? Since then, you’ve asked everyone else to use those pronouns.
We hope that it feels good to have everyone refer to you as what you ask. We hope, as well, that it feels honoring that everyone awkwardly pauses before talking about you, afraid to get it wrong, afraid of your incessant corrections, afraid of you. There is only wrongness when you are involved. The wrong tone, the wrong words, the wrong intent.
Someday, maybe you’ll decide to go back to “he/him,” where everyone was sure you belonged.
Middle School Years
Your heart has somehow led you to the freedom of a him-loving-him crush. Nobody knows it, but you are living proudly. So proudly, in fact, that you don’t even need to show anyone any overt signals that you are gay. You should just keep looking down to the floor. That’s how you defy your heteronormative society.
Kyle’s really cute. Are you supposed to like him for more than his body? No, of course not! This is how gay relationships work. They work on distance, on fantasies. You’ll never actually get to talk to him, get to know him, get to tell him how you feel. You do, however, get to dream of him, dream of telling him. Just, make sure those fantasies are truly gay enough for this crush. The wedding in your mind shouldn’t involve a dress; get it out of there.
It’s probably time you finally looked into the infinite mirror of identity. We’ve heard your “goos” and “gahs” turn into “gays” and “GBLTs.” Ms. O’Keefe will never welcome you into the group you don’t know you’re in, but you can escape to that free place still.
She looked so happy in her picture, didn’t she? And it wasn’t even such a big deal! “Who’s that?” you ventured, pointing because your mouth had no shape to identify the person in the photograph. “That’s my wife and I,” Ms. O’Keefe informed, and then probably switched the conversation to the subject matter. Still, the magnetically framed picture stuck to the desk wound its way through the compass of your brain, letting you know which way could be north.
Here for you,
Fourth Grade Guardian Angel
We hope this letter finds you well in your hypermasculine life. Unfortunately, there is no party. In fact, we are here to invite you to stop by your first-grade classroom early this morning. Ms. T wants to chat with you and your mom in your classroom, where the usually vibrant colors are dimmed to gray in the disciplinary darkness. Your teacher might try to convince you that you should stop what you’re doing, throw around words like “bullying” or “fear,” but those words aren’t for you.
You’ll probably be very confused about what exactly you’re in trouble for. Sure, you have been a pimple on the face of the class, generally aggravating along with your companions, but the teacher will only reference you as the victim. You aren’t the victim here, you aren’t being pressured or threatened or manipulated, you are in control. You don’t need to think too hard on how to proceed; boys never do.
It’s great that you have the powers of various jungle animals, in your imagination. We are also so proud that you learned how to talk to Dennis like a man! You threaten him with the end of your friendship, and he threatens you with injury so bad you’d need a “prosthesis”. You know, it wasn’t so great that you taught him that word. Save the punches for your own arsenal; don’t give him any.
There will be no cake in your meeting.
8 Years Old
Dear Bathroom Rebel,
Congratulations! You see, there has been a terrible tragedy. The toilet seat in our pre-school bathroom sadly broke off, and now you can use the toilet properly! As you may realize, this means that you can no longer pee while sitting down. But, since you’re a man, that shouldn’t be an issue. You can just pee while standing up on your shaky man’s legs.
Your initiation will begin today! How exciting! You don’t need to be embarrassed. All we’re going to do is put you in the center of the pure white bathroom, get everyone else to line the walls, ask everyone how excited they are to see you go to the bathroom, cheer, parade them out, and of course cheer again as you open the door to your new manly life. We know you’ll love the hiss of your very own stream hitting anywhere on the toilet bowl you can imagine.
Lunch will be provided, with plenty of fluids.
Too Young to Know
I hope I’m ready for you. I hope I’ll have enough space to have academic achievements and a queer life, but I hope that a queer life isn’t something I need to schedule and commit time to. I hope I get to be queer while walking down a hallway. Just walking. My shoes scuffing the floor, my outfit at least a bit thought out, my jaws and my eyes and my shoulders unclenched. As I read the posters of scientific studies and the flyers for this week’s bingo club, not needing anyone else to be in the hallway, I hope I can feel queer. I hope that I can wonder at my own queerness with awe.
I hope I’m ready for me. I hope I finally get to have a romance, maybe an awkward rejection or two. I hope I get to get to see what sex is like. I hope I can ease my way into being a baby queer, coming out of my chrysalis as a more beautiful caterpillar. (I hope I don’t expect a butterfly. I hope I don’t hold myself to unrealistic expectations.) I hope I get to dye my hair without asking my parents.
I know my story. I hope I’m right.
Legal Adult Noah Elbaum
Noah Elbaum is a senior in high school who writes to make themself heard and provides A/V support at school to make others heard. Nothing short of a comedic genius, Noah writes for both English class and their school’s premier satirical publication, The Artichoke. Noah can be found running all over the place doing a million different things, but they always somehow have time to chat. Noah is excited to be in their senior year and embody all the lessons they’ve learned in high school.