Dear World,

For as long as I can remember, I felt angry, trapped and out of place.


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My parents forced me to wear makeup and dresses. They’re first-generation immigrants, born in the Dominican campo, which is kind of like the countryside. They started from nothing when they arrived, even sleeping on a floor in Queens. But they beat the odds and built vibrant lives here: a healthy family, a nice home, a six-figure income – the American Dream, right? None of that changes where they came from, and there wasn’t a word for someone like me in the homeland. They couldn’t possibly understand what was happening inside of me. Nobody did, least of all me.

I figured it out at 16. I was on a bus with a mix of kids and my assigned seat-mate was trans. He gave me a word for what was happening inside of me and it felt like a total release. I left for college at 18, cut my hair, bought a new wardrobe, and started working out religiously to build a more masculine look. Now I’m getting through the paperwork and soon I’ll officially be “Melvin.”

My mom has fully come around. She’s, like, perfect about it. She calls me by my pronoun and she even helped me choose my name in a way that connects back to our Dominican heritage. My dad, on the other hand, he’s still trying. We talk every day but he’s admitted to feeling uncomfortable with me. I’m still his little Melanie. I have to believe that if I give him time, he’ll eventually come to understand me. Maybe this story will help.

There was another bus ride, just a few weeks ago.

I was riding home and listening to my “Sunday Candy” playlist – it’s a bunch of relaxing R&B. I sometimes wear a binder to help flatten my chest, but on this particular night my sweater was a little too tight and I didn’t pass as well. Suddenly, I realized someone was saying something to me. By the time I took my headphones off, he was in a rage.

“You faggot! You’re going to hell! You’re gonna die! God will never love you!” He went on and on. “I’ll punch you in the face if you look at me again, you faggot!”

I retreated to the back of the bus and put my headphones back on. Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River” came on and I ticked the volume all the way up. I shook my legs and tried to control my heartbeat. I just breathed to the rhythm of that song. I didn’t look up until we reached my apartment. I felt trapped again.

The world keeps trying to tell me I’ve got it wrong – the second-grade classmates who said my skin was too light to be Hispanic, the friends who were confused by my behavior, the professors who refused to use my pronoun and instead referred to me as “that,” the awkward silence when I first asked my dad to call me Melvin.

There’s a place in this world for Melanie. Is there a place for me?

Sincerely,

Do I Matter?






P.S.

One, two
Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style, someday
My dream maker, heartbreaker
Wherever you're going
I’m going the same

Two drifters off to see the world
It's such a crazy world, you'll see
(What I see, who I become)
We're all chasing after our end
Chasing after our ends

Life's just around the bend, my friend
Moon river and me

Lyrics by Johnny Mercer, as performed by Frank Ocean


I posted my letter on a family group chat with a bunch of aunts, uncles and cousins. I dont think my dad read it. Or if he did he didnt comment on it. And it’s okay! I’m happy to be part of an amazing project.






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