On the day after their forty-first birthday, Adel Tincelin began their transition. In the four decades prior, living in the gender they were assigned at birth, Adel gave birth to and raised a daughter, Charlie, and led a full yet lacking life. Through their transition, they have to rediscover relationships, language, society, masculinity, femininity, and joy. We Only Live Twice is the diary documenting the first three years of their transition and their journey to reach gender euphoria.
February 26, 2014
Yesterday, I celebrated my last birthday as a girl. What a riot! Wild laughter every twenty minutes, going on repeating what we didn’t know how to repeat.
March 5, 2014
All my life, I forced myself to translate myself into adequate terms—adequate to others, I mean. I tried diverse labels: masculine, punk, hetera, androgynous, raver, lesbian, bi. Today, there is so little left, so jumbled. No other way to cope and walk through the storm than inhabiting the Hulk within.
March 17, 2014
Aude Adel Au-delà, I think that I can say that Adel is born. Taking his place, little by little.
April 10, 2014
Coline talks to me about “transness” and suddenly I understand that at some given moment the headlong rush is going to end, that a durable state is going to establish itself—through progressions and changes. I mainly understand that there is no end to this path. There is being, living in transness. And I think that I like the idea, I like the movement. I like putting things into motion: finally!
May 2, 2014
Now I understand why all my friends, for one reason or another, have a foot in the identity rift.
Now I understand why I have always had two ways of writing, two calligraphies.
Now I understand why I photographed walled-up buildings for four years: it’s as if the walls were starting to speak.
May 7, 2014
There is “elle” in Adel—I didn’t even think of that! Words still catch me off guard and toy with me.
June 16, 2014
I suddenly enter a community. It envelops me, advises me, speaks to me, jokes with me, opposes me. Never had that before. People with whom it is enough to just be, knowing that what brings us together is understood without a word. I am not alone, I am many. There are other trans folx and xey are beautiful and handsome. Beautiful and handsome like none before. Beautiful and handsome like what I am becoming. Beautiful and handsome—beautisome—like the future.
July 14, 2016
I started my transition two years ago. Hooray me! A year and a half of hormones and an operation later, I have a feeling that the revolution is behind me. Far behind is the insane effort, the rush to life, survival pushing me forward into the emptiness of who I will be, the face I will have, the clothes I will wear, the energy I will exert. The old me strangely gets so far away, makes itself impalpable, far off, foggy, as if I never lived as a girl. I still feel echoes. Tunics over leggings and Doc Martens—those long-worn uniforms, second skins that established who I was. My body still has pangs of pregnancy, ones from breastfeeding. But of all these feelings, none manifest themselves as necessarily feminine, as if a total rewrite reprogram reboot of the past was being performed, coming to modify the color and lines of code.
I am shocked that someone can send me to a girl’s past; I shock myself, seeing myself as feminine sometimes. Not that there is only masculine in me. Far from that. I established a temporary percentage of 40% feminine and 60% masculine—equilibrium on the horizon. I eventually found out queerness and all that it conveys of the end of categories.
TransFagDyke, rather than girl/boy, hetero/homo.
March 30, 2017
You think yourself cozily set up in your gender, you call it your sex. You attach yourself to this first-received qualifier like some magic password; you comply to it. Without taking yourself into account, whatsoever! I seem to be suddenly taking on an incisive tone, an accusatory tone, but not at all! It is so inscribed in you, this gender qualifier, that you don’t realize it at all. You don’t see that it is a qualifier, a judgment, an evaluation, a proposition, that it could be a totally different story, that it only depends on you for all of it or for some of it to go differently.
You look at me out of the corner of your eye. Still. You cannot help yourself. You would like your stare to be discreet. No doubt you even secretly hope that it won’t go where it is heading; but you can’t help it: chest scan, crotch scan, what is underneath those jeans and black sweater? Tits or no? Dick or no?
You are looking for your answers in the wrong place, sweetie, you think of a cock, a breast, a vagina, and bam there’s your answer. Well-done, well-rounded, well-drawn, fully organic—all natural. You haven’t yet understood that these physical attributes are only just that: physical attributes. And they have nothing to say other than my eventual desire for you. I am a trans boy with a vulva—on testosterone. Your scans are useless.
April 14, 2017
I want everything to settle. Given the choice, I choose and I unwind: Adel Aude Aurel, gender M. There will always be time to be queer. I can be Adel Aude Aurel, M and queer. The fairer the foundations, the fairer the fight. I was never more feminist than when I first knew that I was not a girl.
April 17, 2017
I left you abruptly, cisworld. I left you before even knowing about your existence. I didn’t plan on jumping from cisworld to transworld one day to the next. The distance away from you is what allowed me to understand what you were and how you worked.
I am talking to you out of love, with goodwill at least. I lived through your internal ignorance, your blindness, your mistaken reassurances, your dysfunctions and your wrongly protective privileges. You hold on to your cistem, to your house, to your categories as deviant as they are structural. I lived through the vigor with which you could systematically annihilate the heart of what I was, careful not to disrupt your hideout’s foundations. You did it with love, enthusiasm, and coercion. Most of all, you did it with the evidence and inevitability of the force of things—and of nature. And what can we do if we are not prepared, fit, practiced, faced with the argument of the essence of things, of the nature of the penis, the determination of the vulva?
You really got me, cisworld. I really believed in you. Against my own will, I took you in and accepted you. I took the little cramped box that you intended for me. I set myself up in there, and like a Chinese princess forced into her miniature shoes, I grew and contorted myself until I came close to deformity, suffocation, psychic annihilation.
I was a good student! I did my best. I spent a long time in your fold. Earnestly. Earnestly through you I mean: at the cost of high treason against myself. But that, that is my business now. I settled the score, cleared the debts. I think. Since I don’t hide that it was hard to accept that I could betray myself as fully and radically for more or less thirty-three years. The pill was hard to swallow. Without newfound joy, maybe I wouldn’t have even managed.
I did hold a grudge against myself. I thought I had lost my time, lost myself, been spoiled, spoiled myself! But life was stronger. The transworld was so beautiful, so vast! There was so much to explore! I no longer had any time to lose. I dove in headfirst. I am like a pinball!
I am writing to myself remorseless; I am writing to you free of aggression. As much as I see the limits, the borders that you powerfully preserve with guardians, I understand the reasons, the fears, the dismay.
I am writing to myself from beneath the rift that separated me from myself, I am writing to myself where transmissions can get through, where we can send signals, build bridges, offer our helping hands. I write to the cisgender girl that I had thought to be, who I lived as, my hurt self, my part summoned to be dominant, my visually-impaired being.
I am writing to myself with all the trouble that I feel relating myself to this person, now that I see, that I discovered where the missing piece was, that I saw the rift get filled in, the existential void dissipating into a fullness that I still can’t believe.
I am writing to you, to you, who might be cis, might be trans, might be a girl, might be a boy, or none of that at all. We are writing to each other, we share with one another, we discuss the places that open up horizons, places that allow our shells to fall away, that allow the commonality of our beings to unfurl. Cisworld or transworld, really, never mind. The door that the transworld opens into the cisworld is what matters: the breach. Not what makes the boat sink; rather what makes internal walls disappear as if enchanted, the self-prisons. Cisworld + transworld = unfolding territories, extensions of domains and fields, non-identity expansion. I see: bricks falling one after another in an endless domino, an origami unfolding from two dimensions to three, a boat that goes on without ever reaching the world’s waterfall, the Andromeda galaxy meeting the Milky Way.
I am becoming lyrical. I am becoming lyrical because of the bricks, the origami, and the Andromeda galaxy. I am lyrical through the bricks, the origami, Andromeda. Before, it was hardcore techno and punk. Lana Del Rey, Conchita Wurst and Phoenix came later, when the layers of me could begin to withstand emotions, hear itself crying, laughing, and singing, when the body could go out without the pure and protective energy of 140 bpm and enjoy poetic and glittery impulses. We can regret that.
To get to Fishbach and Robyn, I had to listen to my body, to listen to the internal noise of the world caving in, the sound of the collapsing dividing walls, one taking down the next, weakening the third. And each time this progressive caving in takes place, it allows an opening in my body: successive emancipation of limbs and organs, the liver leading to the stomach leading to the diaphragm leading to the lungs cornering the clavicle door of the door. We’re here. Great discoveries of internal organic worlds.
(I’m talking to my organs: thank you for respecting the time and the necessary silence for all this back and forth.)
I don’t know if I am being clear. I only know that I am clearer and clearer. I was all scrambled before; my words were all mixed up. I wasn’t there to channel them, position them, make them abundant. I am not even talking about writing. My hand wasn’t connected to my head or my body. Words scraped bit by bit, half-dead.
All this to say that I don’t know if you see where I am going with this: the opening of worlds is what I’m interested in. That is what I want to share with you. To talk to you about what’s going on, about what died and what is alive. Transness, that is my launch pad, my own path, my passage through the looking glass. There are lots of others. I am interested in which universes these passages lead us to. What tomorrow brings when we step into the breaches, we travel to a new dimension, we reconquer and rehabilitate our worlds in new ways.
I mean that within me, there are at least Aude, Adel, and Aurel. And that these three are already spreading out an exponential universe compared to the world in which Aude was able to tell herself/myself until recently. And as such, somewhere, from here on out, all is possible.
From On n’a que deux vies, Journal d’un Transboy. © 2021 by Cambourakis. By arrangement with the publisher. Translation © 2022 by Evan McGorray. All rights reserved.