Hi. My name is Elliot, and I’m transgender.

Today is my birthday. A small eternity ago (approximately thirty-four years) a baby named Leah was born, and people said, “It’s a girl.” It took Leah most of those years to realize that while her body looked female, she wasn’t a girl inside. She was more of a boy. He wanted to go by male pronouns, and eventually he would start taking testosterone to make his body male, and change his name to Elliot.

Hi. My name is Elliot Wake (formerly Leah Raeder), and I’m transgender.

Birthday present for myself tomorrow. Let's do this. #transgender #trans #ftm #transition

A photo posted by Elliot Finley Wake (@elliotzero) on

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, this is no surprise to you. I’ve been out and proud about being trans for a while. But today is my birthday, and my present to myself is to start my name change process. So I think it’s time to make an official announcement and publically link my old name to my new one.

I’ve formatted this blog post as a FAQ for clarity’s sake. People have had lots of questions. I’m an open book about my identity and transition, and I’ll answer some common questions here.

So, you’re a man?

No. I’m a nonbinary, trans masculine person. These terms may be new to you, so let’s break them down.

Nonbinary means I don’t fit into either of the two traditional binary genders: man or woman.

Trans masculine means I’m trans (I don’t ID with the gender assigned to me at birth) and I identify most strongly with masculinity.

Put together, this means I’m a person who does not identify as either a man or a woman, but who does identify with masculinity.

This is a lot to wrap your head around. You can simply call me a transgender person, a nonbinary person, or even a trans boy—all those terms are fine with me. I do not use the term “trans man,” however, because it has too much baggage and implication. The word “man” does not represent me, so please don’t use it.

If you’d like to understand the various facets of gender better, check out this infographic.

Update, July 2016: I’ve done a lot of self-examination, and I’m now using the term “trans man” to describe myself. Shit changes. The ways we view and define ourselves evolve. As I become more comfortable with my masculinity, I’m embracing these terms that I once shied away from. Yeah, I’m a dude. Guy. Man. I’ll own it.

Why are you transitioning?

McDonald's branch manager or trans boy on his way to court: you decide. #WakeUpElliot

A photo posted by Elliot Finley Wake (@elliotzero) on

Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a certain mental image of my physical body. That body has a flat chest, no curves, and gives an overall masculine impression. But when I look in mirrors—or when people call me “miss” or “she”—I’m reminded that my mental image does not match my physical body. This causes me stress, anxiety, panic, and self-loathing. That mismatch between my inner sense of how I should look and sound, and the reality of my body, is called gender dysphoria.

If I could choose, I would have been born in a male body. But since I’m stuck with this one, I’m taking testosterone to transition physically to male. I’ve been on T for 2.5 months, and I feel amazing. My mood and energy have soared, my anxiety has melted away, and I’m finally starting to like the person I see in the mirror.

In my books Cam Girl and the upcoming Bad Boy, I delve into how gender dysphoria feels, and how nonbinary and trans masculine people grapple with their identities. There’s a lot of my own struggle with gender in my books, so if you’re interested in more detail, check them out.

Do you talk about your physical transition?

All right, T. Make me a boy.

A photo posted by Elliot Finley Wake (@elliotzero) on

Every day, I tweet about my transition under the hashtag #WakeUpElliot.

I’m totally open about my transition, so feel free to ask me questions on Twitter. My goal in sharing details about my life is to spread knowledge and put a human face to this big, strange, unknown thing. It’s not so strange when you see it up close, happening to someone you know.

My upcoming novel Bad Boy is also about a transgender boy, and describes the gritty details—physical, psychological, and social—of transition from female to male.

What’s up with your next book, Bad Boy?

My fourth novel, Bad Boy, will be published under the name Elliot Wake in December, 2016.

After discussing my identity and transition with my publisher, we’ve decided to push the publishing date back so we can focus on promoting this the right way. Atria Books wants to highlight the fact that this is a transgender story written by a transgender author. Having the support of my publisher is incredible—I’m honored to work with people who both respect and celebrate my identity.

Plus, I have some Super Secret News about this book that I’m fucking dying to share. SOON.

How do we refer to your old books/your birth name?

My first three novels are published under my birth name, Leah Raeder. Feel free to refer to those books with the name on the cover. If you’d like to acknowledge my new name, you can say something like, “Cam Girl, by Elliot Wake (writing as Leah Raeder).”

When you’re referring to Bad Boy or to me personally, please use Elliot Wake and male pronouns (he/him/his). For example: Elliot Wake’s new novel, Bad Boy, is his fourth book.

You’re gonna do a giveaway, aren’t you?

Am I getting too predictable in my old age? Of course I’m doing a giveaway.

Want to win copies of my first three books, signed with both my old and new names? Enter below. Open internationally.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

107 Responses to Hi. My name is Elliot, and I’m transgender.

  1. I love your books, no matter your name, sex, or anything else you want to throw my way! I can’t wait for Bad Boy to come out! Congrats on your official name change!

  2. Congratulations on the name change, Elliot! I’ve been following your new and old account for a while now because my friends Aly and Natalie can’t stop gushing over your books, and I just really admire what you’re doing and the fact that you talk about it so much. Kudos. I can’t wait to get my hands on Bad Boy — I love the sound of a story about a transgender written by a transgender, but in that messed up style that is so typically yours (which I know about even if I haven’t read your books yet!).

  3. I’m really looking forward to Bad Boy – I love your writing and commend you on bringing awareness through your work. Congrats on your name change and happy birthday, Elliot ❤️

  4. Happy birthday Elliot and congrats!! Your publishers sound so incredible… it’s quite refreshing. Thanks for sharing your story with us and for hosting this contest. Best of luck to everyone ;)

  5. Happy birthday, Elliot! Your books are absolutely incredible with compelling stories, beautiful, raw writing, and great character development–I can’t wait for BAD BOY. :)

  6. Happy birthday! I am looking forward to reading Bad Boy. I have a number of friends and relatives who are a part of the LGBT community and a story such as yours will make for an enlightening read. I will definitely be sharing it with many people ☺

  7. first and foremost: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAL! Wishing you a fantastic day!
    second: I love how incredibly honest you are and I am beyond honored to have read your stories! Thank you for that — seriously. You are brilliant. <3

  8. I looooveeee your books!! I’m a brazilian fab and I wish they could be published here!! Is there any chance? Can’t wait to read your next book!! Tks for the chance!! You’re an amazing author!!

  9. Happy Birthday! I’ve been following your story on Twitter. I am so happy for you! I love your writing and can’t wait to read Bad Boy. I look forward to reading it to better understand the world of a trams person. Keep doing what you do.

  10. Happy Birthday & big congrats on the lovely name change! Have a fantastic day – I love following your tweets and IG!

  11. I enjoyed Cam Girl so I’m definitely interested to see what Bad Boy holds. I think your open and honest approach is to be applauded.

  12. Happy birthday! I’m really happy you got to officially come out on your main website finally. It really, really means so much that one of my favorite authors came out as transgender too, and I’m shy about social media, but have been following along with what you post to instagram and Twitter from a distance. Meanwhile raving about your books and the fact you came out and are writing a book about a trans protagonist to the librarian and my trans support group lol. I’m looking forward to it so much that for our group’s Trans Day of Visibility “Transgender Literature Recs” flyer I made I stuck it in the Young Adult fiction section, with the publication date… (It helps it’s very hard to find any books by trans authors to fill things up.)

    I hope as things move forward you’re able to write and publish more books about trans characters that aren’t your typical, run-of-the-mill pitiful-sob-story-for-the-cis-audience. We really desperately need more.

    • Nathaniel, thank you so much for this. It put a big damn smile on my face. And you bet–I plan on writing many more trans characters, and they definitely won’t be the made-for-cis-approval types.

  13. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Just taking some time to process that you’re aries, and I’m not actually surprised (that might seem creepy? I love your twitter). I’ve read all your books, really liked Unteachable, but I really fell in love with your writing and narrative style in Black Iris. I liked how it was a shamelessly toxic story while shedding a realistic light on certain matters. But then I read Cam Girl, and now it’s my favorite book (or one of. I could never determine /one/ favorite book) : I stayed up all night reading it, I loved the art references, but mostly it changed the way I saw gender. I’m familiar with ideas of queer-gendered people, and I accepted that it existed, but I didn’t really understand, how you could distance yourself from notions of binary gender, etc. As a French person, when you talked about the influence of latin languages on gender notions, it really opened my eyes. Reading Cam Girl was a bit life-changing for me, and for me those are the best books. So I have really high expectations for Bad Boy—and quite confident that I’ll love it. Reading about your ‘evolution’ (could I call it that?) on twitter was amazing, and I’m going to say it, I feel proud of you, and I like your threads of opinions (often on gender/fiction yay). Keep spreading ideas through fiction, I can’t wait to read Bad Boy, and thank you for hosting this giveaway.

    • Thank you so much, Alice. I’m glad that bit about gendered language in Cam Girl stuck with you. It’s wild how deeply embedded the idea of binary gender is in everything: language, culture, even the ways we think about ourselves. So hard to break free from that.

      I hope you enjoy Bad Boy, too.

  14. Happy birthday! I love you for being YOU and you’re such an inspiration! I’ve heard nothing but great things about your books and am so excited to pick up Bad Boy when it releases!

  15. Happy birthday! I am very excited for and proud of you for pursuing your name change and being so open about your transition. I can’t wait to find out what the secret exciting news is about Bad Boy.

  16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Elliott! I am very excited to read Bad Boy, because of you! Your words always speak volumes, to me. Thank you for the chance!

  17. Happy birthday Elliot! And congrats on making the name change official and announcing it publicly! You’re doing a wonderful thing here and I couldn’t be happier for you!
    I’m a bit disappointed to hear that Bad Boy won’t come out until December, as I’m highly anticipating it, but it makes sense and it sounds like it all will be for the better. Yay for having a supportive publisher!
    Keep being amazing <3

  18. Happy birthday, my favorite dapper unicorn! CAM GIRL helped me realize I am exploring my own gender identity, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I am still “seen” and valid even if I am still unpacking everything in small steps. Your tweets on transitioning cover so many nuances and give me food for thought. Love you! Looking forward to Bad Boy. :33

  19. Happy Birthday, and I wish you continued happiness in the journey to be the real you. I have seen your tweets, so this “news” isn’t new to me, but I support you just like I did the first time I read about it. And I’m so happy your publisher is supportive as well.

    Of course I’m excited for Bad Boy! I’m intrigued to read a transgender story from a transgender author’s viewpoint; I haven’t read anything remotely similar. Thanks!

  20. I remember couple(?) years ago when I read your first book Unteachable, I was blown away by the way it made me feel. I’m not sure if I can even explain what exactly it was but your books are something… REAL, they make me question everything. With that I can say I’m looking forward to reading Bad Boy and see how much your writing can affect me once again.
    Happy Birthday, Elliot!!! :)


    I am so excited for Bad Boy and mildly devastated we have to wait until December, BUT that gives me AMPLE TIME to read all your other books, I’ve already got Cam Girl and Unteachable and Black Iris are winging their way to me AS I TYPE. Bad Boy sounds like all kinds of awesome, and I love that it’s going to have Elliot Wake on the cover, and I love what it’s going to be about, because your Twitter has really opened my eyes to everything you’re going through/have gone through, and Bad Boy can only enhance that.

  22. Happy Birthday, Elliot! I think this is all awesome! I love that you’re so open and take the time to explain all the meanings of these things. I don’t know any transgender people, so this was actually really informative for me. Being true to yourself is a beautiful thing <3 I've read (and loved) Untraceable and Black Iris, I still need to read Cam Girl, but I'm sure I'll afore that as well. I'm super excited for Bad Boy! I think it's important to have books with this subject matter out in the world! Whether it touches another person struggling with these issues, or just gives people like me a better understanding of fellow humans just trying to find their way in this crazy world. Continue being awesome, Elliot and I'll continue being a devoted fan girl!! *Hugs*

  23. Happy Birthday! I love that you chose Finley for your middle name since that is my grand-daughter’s name too. Best of luck to you and looking forward to many more of your wonderful books!

  24. Firstly, happy birthday, Elliot! High five, fellow Aries. Secondly, I cannot wait for Bad Boy in December. With Elliot Wake on the cover! It’s gonna be amazing.

    I love you and your books! I fully support you. I’m so glad that you’ve chosen to share your transition on Twitter. I’m grateful to be able to have a better understanding of what you’re going through. Thank you.

    Lastly, I’d do crazy things for those signed books. Really. <3

  25. Happy Happy Birthday, Elliot! In more ways than one! It’s a big day coming out trans and I am so happy for you & your decision and that your publisher is standing behind you! Woohoo for that! Times sure have changed, thankfully!

    I am super excited for Bad Boy, I will admit being queer that I don’t read as much queer fiction as I would like, and this book makes me really happy!

  26. Congratulations on the present to yourself and happy birthday! So glad to read this post, to know you’re doing well, and to hear Atria is supporting you! Your mind, voice, and heart inspire young and old as well as binary and nonbinary. You are a blessing in a world that definitely needs lessons in love and acceptance.

  27. Happy birthday! And yayyyy!

    I’ve loved all your books, especially CG, and can’t wait for BB – I think it’ll speak to me the way CG did.

    Your journey is…I don’t have the words. Inspiring? Not because being a trans person is automatically inspiring (haha, look at Caitlyn Jenner) but because, well, you’ve helped me realise certain things about MYSELF. So thank you. A lot.

    Good luck with all your birthday’s to come!


  28. I’ve been sitting in the sidelines reading about your experience and I must say I’m so happy you’re here! It’s amazing to see your #WakeUpElliot post and understand a lot more about you, about the comunity and open my eyes to a whole world I didn’t know it existed. Can’t wait to read Bad Boy, to get more exciting news about your projects and how you get happier and happier with yourself.

  29. Hey Happy Birthday, hope you’ve had a fantastic day. I only started following you a few weeks back and your tweets help me a lot, as having only recently discovered I’m trans*. I admit I haven’t read any of your books but I definitely want to!!

  30. Congrats! I’ve been following your journey since the beginning. I’m glad you’re happy with yourself! Or at least on the way! Can’t wait for Bad Boy. :)

  31. Happy Birthday, Elliot! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your experiences with all of us. I have learned so much since I started following you on the various social media sites and I feel lucky to be able to follow you as you transition. I have read and loved all of your books and I am so excited about Bad Boy’s release later this year. Sending much love your way. :)

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