Illustration by Jess Nash
In August 2019, we published our first book: I Will Not Be Erased: Our stories about growing up as people of colour. A life-affirming, moving and joyous collection of 14 essays, gal-dem’s talented writers used raw material from their teenage years to give advice to their younger selves and those growing up today.
We also launched a competition to find the next generation of young writers and encourage them to write essays to their future selves. Today, we’re publishing the three winning essays in full. In this letter, Hilan, age 15, writes a beautiful rumination on their gender identity, sexuality and parental relationships.
Was it worth it? All those nights you spent crying over not having a … y’know? Are you living the life that 15-year-old you would have only dreamed of?
Well, things must be a lot different now and you probably don’t wake up in the morning wishing that you had different shaped ears and broader shoulders and less curvy hips. Lord, when you were my age you hated needles, so I’m hoping those testosterone shots aren’t packing too much punch otherwise you’ll be sick of them already.
Did you ever have that reunion with the primary friends? Did they wonder where their loud Muslim girl-friend went? Well I hope you told them she’s long gone (and not that you’re her brother). I hope you also manned up and told Cheryl about that obvious crush you had on her all through school, but you never did really understand the concept of liking girls so you just thought you wanted to be super best friends. It was only in high school that you realised that the strong friendship you desired was much more than just a playground date.
Did you ever end up going to Pride? Mum and Dad haven’t always been the most supportive but if you can lie your way into getting them to buy a gift for your secret internet girlfriend, saying that it was for an old friend who moved to America, then you can do anything.
Speaking of Mum and Dad, they love you a lot, you know that, right? I can only hope that the stuff they said to you when you were just starting to figure things out was just their way of saying “we don’t understand this right now, but we will eventually”. Eventually has to be sooner or later, I guess. And if I could promise you their support I would – but something I can promise you is the fact that they’re learning just as much about you as you are about yourself.
And so, to Hilan, thanks for hanging in there for me bud.
– From the boy who wants to meet you more than anything