Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I Am J: Interviewing J

Today I am honored to have Cris Beam, author of the upcoming I Am J, on my blog! Her book truly touched my heart, and taught me so much more about the inner battle that transgender teens face. It was an amazing read.

To those of you who may not have heard of this book before, I'll also be reviewing it this coming Thursday! Until then you can find book info at the bottom of the page.

Let's take a look at J, the main character, and learn a bit more.


1) Welcome J, and thanks for stopping by. What word do you think best describes you?

Parallax! It’s this really cool word that means something that changes depending on how you look at it, depending on where you’re standing.

2) Photography is your passion, correct? How did you get started in photography? 

It’s kind of stupid, but I was at my cousin’s wedding in Puerto Rico. She had all these disposable cameras on all the tables; we were supposed to be taking pictures of the party, but me and my other cousin who was like ten years old stole one and staged these different photographs of a pretend murder. We spilled wine on a tablecloth to look like blood, showed an empty shoe with a knife in it, stuff like that. That was when I realized you could use pictures to tell any kind of story you wanted. The bride wanted one kind of story, but we could manipulate the images to tell a different story, something more sinister, and I liked that. I think the bride cousin got my pictures developed with all the rest of the instant cameras on the table, and I don’t know what she thought; she never talked to me again. 

3) Melissa plays a big role in the story of your life, but there are so many others as well. Who did you feel was most important in your journey? 

It’s hard to pick who was most important, because everybody helped make me who I am, and who I’m still becoming. I mean, Chanelle and Zak helped me most directly with my transition and that was really important, but Melissa also was there in her own way. And she helped me stay connected to my old life, and my anger, which was kind of a fuel, you know? 

4) If you had to choose one item to leave behind as a marker of your life, which item would you choose? 

My sleeping bag! I already got rid of that smelly old thing, and I was so glad the day I threw it away. For me, it marks the time I didn’t have a home, and I felt like I didn’t have a home for, like, forever, even though I was living with Melissa. One day soon I’ll have a better marker, like a photograph I’ve taken, or something I’m really proud of that represents me, but for now, that sleeping bag marks the period in my life when I went through my biggest change. And now I kind of want to let that go and move on.

5) After everything that you've been through, is there anything that you regret? Anything that you would choose to do differently? 

Regrets? Do you have all week? I regret so much. I regret being an asshole to a lot of people. I was a dick to Melissa when she was trying her best not to be selfish, and trying to understand me and everything. And I regret not transitioning earlier. I mean I had to do it when I was ready, but looking back, I think I could have handled it like when I was a sophomore. I’ve met people who did it that young, and I think it would have been easier. And I regret not trusting my instincts more with my dad, and being afraid. I could have reached out to him instead of waiting for him to come to me. Then all that mess wouldn’t have happened, and maybe we wouldn’t be trying to bridge so much awkward crap now. I don’t know though. Hindsight’s 20-20, right?

6) Lastly, I was wondering if you have a message for the young people out there who are fighting the same inward battle that you did. What advice would you give them? 

Yeah, don’t run away unless you know you have somewhere to go. It’s harder than you think, or at least it was for me. And trust yourself. Only you know what’s true about your own gender, even if it doesn’t match anybody else’s expectations or language. Even if it doesn’t have a language yet! You’ll find the words that fit, and then the actions—or the actions and then the words. The order doesn’t matter so much. It’s more about the faith.


"Hola, Jeni."

J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore.

J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost.

An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.


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