The Evolution of Eli

On Aug. 24, 1989, my husband and I were blessed with the birth of identical twin girls… or so we believed at the time. From the age of 4, Liz was determined to dress, look, and act differently than Diane. For many years, we thought she simply wanted to differentiate herself from her sister because most people could not tell them apart. As Halloweens came and went, Diane dressed as various iterations of Disney princesses, while Liz chose to be the zombie du jour. Diane enjoyed gifts of clothing and jewelry, while Liz, on the other hand, was thrilled with a tool belt and a sword. So often with her hair cut short, baseball cap on backwards, Liz was mistaken for being a boy, and nothing could make her happier.

This pattern continued through high school and her years at Penn State. When Liz came out as gay, we were surprised, but looking back at her personality, it felt consistent with whom she was. We supported her fully, and encouraged her to engage with the PSU LGBT Student Resource Center to find a community for herself. We thought this might be a “phase” in her sexual development. Ironically, we were right, because her lesbian identity was temporary.

We were so honored when Liz chose to name us as her “significant others” during her Lavender graduation.

While she lived a lesbian lifestyle for a few years, it took a visit by Chaz Bono during Penn State’s observance of National Coming Out Week to help Liz finally figure out who she was. Chaz talked about his journey as a transgender man. This was an illuminating moment for Liz. Liz told us that she felt he was describing her life. Suddenly, everything took on a new perspective. It wasn’t easy, at first, to understand. We began to read books and articles about transgender people. The relationship between my husband and Liz had always been strained. Suddenly, that evaporated when Liz became Eli the barriers came tumbling down. Eli no longer had a wall of defense he had to maintain. Their relationship became much closer.

While in graduate school, Eli posted a succinct announcement on his FB page. “My name is now Eli – I am transgender – and if you don’t understand this, please message me. And, thanks to my friends and family for all of their love and support.” Eli received over 100 likes and no negative comments and numerous words of support as a result of his post.” We were so touched by the outpouring of understanding and support that was expressed to Eli.

After receiving a Master’s Degree, Eli and his girlfriend, Morgan, moved to Virginia to start their careers. Morgan has been by Eli’s side as his partner through the entire process of Eli’s becoming a transgender man. She embodies true commitment. It was at that time that Eli changed his name and formalized his legal status as a man.

We’ve come to realize that sexual preference and gender identity are not the same. Morgan has loved Eli through his transition from Liz to Eli, and so have we. It’s the person who matters. That doesn’t change with a change in gender. As my sister told my 85 years old mother, Eli is still the same kind, generous and funny person as he was as Liz. And, the love we feel for him and the admiration of his courage has only grown.

For those who would like to learn more about transgender people, here are some resources:

Persad Center www.persadcenter.org
National Transgender Law Center www.
National Center for Transgender Equality www.
TRANS – a documentary movie