21 year-old, African American, pansexual, trans man Elliot ÔNikoÕ LÕeaux with his 21 year-old girlfriend white, pansexual, trans woman, Peyton Michelle in New Orleans. Elliot is a columnist, activist, poet and Òvisionary.Ó Peyton is the Board Secretary of Louisiana Trans Advocates. Photography by Robin Hammond, pitures@robinhammond.co.uk. Editor: Mallory Benedict, Mallory.Benedict@natgeo.com, +1 202.791.1282. 15 March 2019

Elliot & Peyton /

“My youth was not the best time of my life. Growing up in rural Louisiana is unlike everything in the world – beauty beyond what I can describe.

But the culture surrounding me was much different.

I was never quite seemed to fit in – people definitely made sure to tell me that I didn’t.

There was this one defining moment in grade School that made me realize the sheer cruelty one can receive for resisting societal expectations.

That I had known a while. When I decided that it was best that we make up, she outed me to the entire school.

I was relentlessly harassed for months. Those were the first days that I’d ever truly wanted to die. At 13, 14, I felt like every day I lived was a nightmare.

But I persisted

I got help.

An I was okay.

Freshman year I had confidence that I was unmatched! I celebrated my identity, I felt like I was who I was supposed to be.

Then , near the beginning of my sophmone year, Harri died.

He was once one of my closest friends – high school career paths gave us different curriculums – I seldom saw him.

I had never experienced loss like that. Not that close – not someone so young.

I started to curse life. Damn humanity. What was the point in it anyhow? 18 it was so chaotic, nothing was worth caring about.  My cynism continued until my senior year,

My growing understanding of politics hadn’t helped me hope – but it made me want to fix things.

I had something to care about.

In 2015 at 17, I had gone from experiencing apathy to empathy, A fire was lit in me.

That was also the year I got involved with Louisiana Trans Advocates   I was asked to speak at Trans Day of Remembrance that year. Now, I had always enjoyed writing and though I was okay at it, but showing it to people? Speaking in front of a crowd? I wouldn’t have even dreamt of it – I was terrified.

I Delivered a beautiful speech that night. From that point on, I understood that I had something worth saying.

Unfortunately, when my senior year came to an end, years of bottled up memories and emotions hit me full force. This, combined with emerging symptoms of bipolar disorder and issues with self medication created the perfect storm to land me in the mental hospital for a week.

I spent the summer before my freshman year in out patients therapy. This was an intense 6-8 week program that consisted of group therapy 5 days a week, 8 hours or so a day.

It was much needed.

From that point on, I knew I needed to take care of myself – my body, mind & spirit. Though I’ve struggled, and there are still days that get me down, I take pleasure in enduring. I am not afraid to live anymore –  I am ready to thrive.

In the times that I needed take care myself, I took a step back from my work at LTA.

Things are better than ever.

I’ve become an outspoken writer and poet –  every week turning out column for the school paper and some Tuesdays or Saturdays finding myself becoming someone’s featured poet or speaking at some open mic. I’ve been invoked with LTA like never before, and it lead me to meet my beautiful girlfriend Peyton.

We’ve known each other for years and grew closer than either of us believed we would – we even lived 15 minutes from each other and never knew it.

This year I started the Trans People of color Empowerment committee within LTA, and Peyton has began learning policy work. Since I’m falling in love with journalism (but I love my English major more) I’ve been learning more about media work. Being a full time student, juggling three jobs, I was definitely worried if I would be able to ensure this project success. Between reaching out to folks, traveling, organizing meetings and introductions – I had my doubts. But I am end my 20th year accomplishing what I always dreamed of –  13 year old Elliot would be proud, Happy birthday to me.

Elliot Wade

 

 

CYPRESS

By Elliot Wade

 

A weed ain’t supposed to grow sprouting towards sunlight through the cracks of the cycle of poverty + socioeconomic status,

Rooted in love, mama watered him with ink

Bloomed into his colors, flushed red and green.

 

He’s all grown and boy di that weed stink

Always an odd-ball, a drifter on the outskirts of society,

They don’t want his sticky – sweet sickly sweet smell in they noses

Well. He was tired of uptight gardens and posers

 

But he’s so beautiful he’s gotta go on the Garden

Roses don’t get that sidewalk cracks got ‘em hardend

His block was regulated, excavated

He refused to be uprooted, stayed elevate

He sees the side eyes, know the roses can’t take it.

 

And sometimes you really think that a Rose could know

Mama had to scrape change for miracle

Mama wanted her baby to be as beautiful as a Rose,

Gaia knows she hated how her own petals grow

 

Those roots. All those roots

Grew from broken backs and worn down boots

Weighed down in paper, bound like books

 

He falls in live on the vine

Where every timeline and universe intervine

They are from the cosmos, birthed from starlight.

A long journey, coffee and o long flight

 

So I grow – I gro tall

Molded form the seeds past

I don’t think I’ll stay small

Perhaps I grew to fast.

 

Perhaps he grew too fast.”

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