In Eli Clare’s Exile & Pride, he discussed many deep and emotional topics. In between all of the heaviness, there was also happiness. One of the moments he discussed at the end of the book was his experience with gender. He describes getting a caricature done by a woman at a carnival and then his mom having a conversation with the artist a few days later. Speaking about their conversation and his reaction to it he writes, “Finally after much confusion, she asked, ‘Didn’t I draw your son?’ I remember the complete joy I felt when my mother came home with this story. I looked again at the portrait, thinking, ‘right here, right now, I am a boy.’ It made me smile secretly for weeks, reach down into my pockets to squeeze a stone tight in each fist. I felt as if I were looking in a mirror and finally seeing myself, rather than some distorted fun-house image” (Clare 146). Even after finishing this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about this quote. It is such an important scene because it’s one of the first times Clare felt seen for who he truly is.
This quote and the feeling of being seen for the first time reminded me of another book I read. In the book Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas, the main character Yadriel is a trans boy trying to prove to his magical Latinx family that he is a real boy. Throughout the book Yadriel gets misgendered many times by his family members who don’t understand him and his gender. This causes Yadriel a great deal of sadness because all he wants is to be accepted by his family. However, by the end of the book he is able to prove himself to his father and Yadriel experiences a moment of being seen for the first time just like Clare did. In this scene in Cemetery Boys, Yadriel’s dad is giving a speech and tells him “You will be a great brujo, and a great man, and we honor the sacrifice you made…You are here because you have already proven you are exactly what you were meant to be” (Thomas 340). Just like the part in Eli Clare’s book, this scene made me tear up. The amount of pain both Clare and Yadriel had to go through in their lives, not only for their transness but for other things as well, is heartbreaking, but having moments of acceptance like these make it just a little bit better.
To be seen for who you truly are is a wonderful thing and it’s so important for people like Eli Clare to share their positive experiences along with the negative because that way others in the trans community can have a beacon of hope. This is why it’s also important for books featuring trans main characters like Yadriel to be published and become part of mainstream media. Representation, now more than ever, is vital so that people in the trans community can see characters similar to them and so that non-trans or people can become more accepting so that there is less hatred and discrimination in the world.
Here’s a link for more info about Cemetery Boys and the author: https://www.aiden-thomas.com/