Dear Santa Claus,
Do you remember when I was six years old and I wrote you two letters that year? One my mom and dad knew about and the other only you knew about? I had written you a letter on spearmint striped paper and asked you to please make me a boy.
I had a whole list of names ready too. I asked you to turn me into one overnight so that when I woke up on Christmas morning, I wouldn’t be a tomboy. Just a boy. I addressed the letter to the North Pole and made my father drive me to the post office that very afternoon to mail it. Of course, I didn’t tell him there was a second letter. I said I was sending my old babysitter a drawing because I missed her a lot.
I asked you to make me into a boy again, but of course I knew I wasn’t asking you. I was asking my parents.
We pulled around the corner to the mailbox and I rolled down the window. I remember how big the gap was between me and the slit in the mailbox. “I cannot drop this,” I remember thinking nervously.
That night, I prayed as I drifted off to sleep. God and I were close when I was young. “God, please have Santa turn me into a boy named Vishnu or Karan or something and please please please let me wake up as a boy.” I squeezed my eyes shut so tightly that tears fell down my face. I was trying to squeeze more from my prayer than God would give me. I blinked my eyes open one last time and stared at the ceiling, the darkness speckled with colors from how tightly my eyes were shut from before.
The biggest disappointment a child can receive on Christmas is not that they didn’t get the gift they wanted; it’s the realization that the person they believed in doesn’t really exist. Or even worse, the person they believed in doesn’t think you’re worthy of their time. I think that same Christmas was when I stopped believing in you. I looked at the writing on the gifts differently and instead of seeing Santa’s handwriting, I saw my dad’s. The bites in the cookie weren’t yours either, they were my mom’s. The bits of carrot on the plate weren’t because of Rudolph or Prancer, it was the vegetable peeler in the drawer by the sink. It was all so clear. Of course you weren’t real.
That next Christmas, I decided to write only one letter. I asked you to make me into a boy again, but of course I knew I wasn’t asking you. I was asking my parents. Somewhere deep down, I thought, “Well, if Santa doesn’t believe in me, maybe my parents will.” They called me their tomboy daughter, but in my head, I was their son. I figured if anyone could help me, it was my parents. They would get it. They would understand. So I licked the envelope shut, wrote the same address on the front, and handed it to my mom. There, in the palm of her hands, was my fate.
Christmas morning came and there tucked underneath my gifts from Santa was a letter. It was typed, in a desperate attempt not to give away the truth of the penmanship. I opened it and began to read. They praised me for how sweet and thoughtful and strong I was. They told me I was smarter than the boys, could hit a baseball farther than the boys, that I could read faster than the boys, why in the world would I want to be a boy? I was perfect just the way I was, as their tomboy daughter. They were so scared of their child wanting to be something they were not that they chalked it up to puberty and the media convincing me that girls were somehow more inferior to boys. I folded the letter and stuffed it back in the envelope.
My parents looked at me with tears in their eyes. I looked back at them numb, with zero emotion. I waited until that night to cry. That was the Christmas that I stopped believing in my parents.
I am real, alive, breathing, flowing, growing, and yearning. I place my faith in myself.
I never wrote to you again, Santa, that is until now. I wish you had given me a reason to believe as a kid. Losing faith is like losing your blood: there’s nothing to carry oxygen to your soul. I read somewhere that fantasy is a healthy part of a child’s development. Eventually, they learn to distinguish between fantasy and reality, leaving them with facts and evidence to support some version of the truth. What about the kind of reality that seems like a fantasy to everyone else? What about the reality that I am trans and knew I was from a young age? And what about the reality that I was denied the ability to express myself because of other people’s fear?
Faith is something I learned to stop looking for in others and find in myself. Only I could believe in the reality of me. I am real, alive, breathing, flowing, growing, and yearning. I place my faith in myself. It wasn’t a mistake for me to place my faith in you as a young child. I would never scold my inner child for believing in you. Although I was let down, you helped me build myself up. It took a long time, but eventually, I learned to have faith in my own story. I have faith in the dress that I wear to get tacos at the corner with my partner. I have faith in the shorts I wear in the gym. I have care for my past self and I have patience with who I am becoming. I know that my masculinity, femininity, and everything in between are all mine to choose, to define, and to reclaim as I need and want to. And I remind myself that my exhale into my transness is still a process; there is no rush to the finish line. There is no correct way to be, or exist, or express. My transness is mine to discover and I have faith that I will continue to choose myself over and over again.