Today is my birthday. A small eternity ago (approximately thirty-four years) a baby named Leah was born, and people said, “It’s a girl.” It took Leah most of those years to realize that while her body looked female, she wasn’t a girl inside. She was more of a boy. He wanted to go by male pronouns, and eventually he would start taking testosterone to make his body male, and change his name to Elliot.
Hi. My name is Elliot Wake (formerly Leah Raeder), and I’m transgender.
If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, this is no surprise to you. I’ve been out and proud about being trans for a while. But today is my birthday, and my present to myself is to start my name change process. So I think it’s time to make an official announcement and publically link my old name to my new one.
I’ve formatted this blog post as a FAQ for clarity’s sake. People have had lots of questions. I’m an open book about my identity and transition, and I’ll answer some common questions here.
So, you’re a man?
Nonbinary means I don’t fit into either of the two traditional binary genders: man or woman.
Put together, this means I’m a person who does not identify as either a man or a woman, but who does identify with masculinity.
This is a lot to wrap your head around. You can simply call me a transgender person, a nonbinary person, or even a trans boy—all those terms are fine with me. I do not use the term “trans man,” however, because it has too much baggage and implication. The word “man” does not represent me, so please don’t use it.
If you’d like to understand the various facets of gender better, check out this infographic.
Update, July 2016: I’ve done a lot of self-examination, and I’m now using the term “trans man” to describe myself. Shit changes. The ways we view and define ourselves evolve. As I become more comfortable with my masculinity, I’m embracing these terms that I once shied away from. Yeah, I’m a dude. Guy. Man. I’ll own it.
Why are you transitioning?
Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a certain mental image of my physical body. That body has a flat chest, no curves, and gives an overall masculine impression. But when I look in mirrors—or when people call me “miss” or “she”—I’m reminded that my mental image does not match my physical body. This causes me stress, anxiety, panic, and self-loathing. That mismatch between my inner sense of how I should look and sound, and the reality of my body, is called gender dysphoria.
If I could choose, I would have been born in a male body. But since I’m stuck with this one, I’m taking testosterone to transition physically to male. I’ve been on T for 2.5 months, and I feel amazing. My mood and energy have soared, my anxiety has melted away, and I’m finally starting to like the person I see in the mirror.
In my books Cam Girl and the upcoming Bad Boy, I delve into how gender dysphoria feels, and how nonbinary and trans masculine people grapple with their identities. There’s a lot of my own struggle with gender in my books, so if you’re interested in more detail, check them out.
Do you talk about your physical transition?
Every day, I tweet about my transition under the hashtag #WakeUpElliot.
I’m totally open about my transition, so feel free to ask me questions on Twitter. My goal in sharing details about my life is to spread knowledge and put a human face to this big, strange, unknown thing. It’s not so strange when you see it up close, happening to someone you know.
My upcoming novel Bad Boy is also about a transgender boy, and describes the gritty details—physical, psychological, and social—of transition from female to male.
What’s up with your next book, Bad Boy?
My fourth novel, Bad Boy, will be published under the name Elliot Wake in December, 2016.
After discussing my identity and transition with my publisher, we’ve decided to push the publishing date back so we can focus on promoting this the right way. Atria Books wants to highlight the fact that this is a transgender story written by a transgender author. Having the support of my publisher is incredible—I’m honored to work with people who both respect and celebrate my identity.
Plus, I have some Super Secret News about this book that I’m fucking dying to share. SOON.
How do we refer to your old books/your birth name?
My first three novels are published under my birth name, Leah Raeder. Feel free to refer to those books with the name on the cover. If you’d like to acknowledge my new name, you can say something like, “Cam Girl, by Elliot Wake (writing as Leah Raeder).”
When you’re referring to Bad Boy or to me personally, please use Elliot Wake and male pronouns (he/him/his). For example: Elliot Wake’s new novel, Bad Boy, is his fourth book.
You’re gonna do a giveaway, aren’t you?
Am I getting too predictable in my old age? Of course I’m doing a giveaway.
Want to win copies of my first three books, signed with both my old and new names? Enter below. Open internationally.