Life Lessons From Your Brother

I Want You To Know These Things

You used to call Optimus Prime “Dangerous Prime”.
It was always so amusing to listen to you correct us every time we said Optimus Prime,
Until one day you realised that you were wrong,
And switched over faster than anyone else ever will.
To Mom, that is, your eldest aunt, she felt that it was proof that you were smart.
To me, it was proof that children have the world’s most open minds.
You were like- five years old.

You used to learn slower.
At four years old your sentences barely formed,
At five your words still garbled halfway.
Everyone said you were slow but nobody thought that they should do something about it.
Don’t blame them- They didn’t know how.
So my mom and I would bring you over to our house, promise you swimming lessons and fun,
As long as you finished your homework.
We used to help you with homework.

I write this as if these times are behind us.
As if these things are in the past
As I write this, you are four going on five,
You are so young and small and precious,
I remember that when I asked you if you ever wanted to grow up,
You told me ‘no’, at the age of four years old,
And continued drinking from that juicebox.

I dream of imparting lessons to you, things that school may never teach you.
Your dad may worry about the things I want to teach you,
In fact he may be horrified at the thought of me, this weird trans gay man telling you about the world.
But I want to tell you things.

This poem is a letter to you in case I never do,
In case life is more cruel than I could ever anticipate,
This poem is yours forever, Ray.

These are life lessons.
Number one, Ray, if a girl talks to you, talk to her normally. You don’t have to put on a show.
Number two, Ray, if a boy makes your heart race faster than a girl ever will, talk to him normally. You don’t have to put on a show.
Number three, boys can like boys and girls can like girls, no matter what anyone else says.

Number four, Ray, your brother is transgender, that means he used to think he was a girl but he really isn’t.
And nothing is wrong with that.
If one day you tell me you feel like you might be a girl, remind me to tell you that I love you, and that you’re not any less just because you don’t fit into a checkbox.
Five, your grades don’t define you.
Six, but you need your grades to do the things you like so please make sure your grades are okay.
Seven, if you are bullied and afraid to make a stand- Come to me. I know exactly what you feel.

Eight, don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do. Only you can decide for yourself what you can or cannot do.
Nine, believe in yourself.
Ten, but don’t get cocky.

Eleven, all of these are collections of things I’ve learnt over the years
Twelve, Ray, you are important. You are insignificant to the world’s 7 billion population but you are significant to the people who know you, even briefly. You matter to the people around you.

Thirteen, Ray, there will be times where things are hard.
Where people will try to force you into a box and try to tell you who you are
The most terrifying thing you can do, Ray, is to believe them.

Fourteen, friendship is important, but don’t feel like you’re obligated to spend time with people when you don’t want to.
Fifteen, pick a combination of subjects that you like. Don’t give in to people who try to make you take subjects that you know you can’t cope with.
Sixteen, dreams do come true. Believe that.

Seventeen, when the time comes, forge your own path and follow it. You don’t have to have everything figured out by now.

As I write this, I’m seventeen years old. I only have seventeen lessons for you because every year I live through, I learn many things that will condense into one lesson.
Ray, you will go through the same things I have.
The world is harsh, cold, and cruel,
But there are good things in it too.

Ray, these are life lessons that no one else will teach you.
That no one taught me.
I want you to know that one day when you’re seventeen and you feel like you’d be eighteen too soon,
And you don’t really know what you’re doing or where you’re going or what to do,

I am twelve years ahead.
And always here to help.

Love, your brother Alex.

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