“I’m Both Erik and Erika”

The family of Erika Kolosov from Bat Yam refused to accept her when she came out at 15. After being thrown out of her home several times and banished from it at 18, she moved to Tel Aviv and began to connect to her identity. Now, aged 20, she lives both as Erik and Erika and loves himself more than ever: “I got depressed and wanted to commit suicide, but now I got back the joy of life.”

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My name is Erik. Or Erika, whatever you want. I am neither transgender, nor gay or genderqueer. I don’t allow myself to be defined. Just Eric/a. No definitions, no rules, just clean and simple.

I remember the days when Mom came home having bought me clothes. Every time I opened the bag, I’d see the menswear, say ‘thank you,’ kiss her on the cheek, and put the bag in the back of my closet, waiting for next year – so that they would get smaller on me and I could donate them to someone who would actually wear them.

Life as a teenager was hell, but to live as a teenager who likes boys, makeup and women’s clothing was even more hell. I always felt that I was marked as a strange bird. At age 6 I was playing with Barbies and playing hopscotch with the girls in the class, and then I went to play football with the boys and couldn’t see anything strange about it. I didn’t know that when I grew up, people would label what is right for boys and what is right for girls. That pink is for girls and blue is for boys, that there are “male” and “female” names.

I came out of the closet at 15. Not that I really felt the need to come out, because come on, who didn’t know? So let’s call it “set the record straight”. So when I set the record straight with my parents, they didn’t accept me. My dad threw comments on conversion therapy and my mother didn’t get out of bed for several days. My brother turned against me, but he never really cared about me. I was in detention, I was only allowed to go to school, and everywhere else I wanted to go, I would have to send an accurate location every half hour to my mother, to be sure, God forbid, that I’m not going to Tel-Aviv, because there is when you get “homoism”. Parents, Go figure.

I will never forget what they did to me. I had to shave my head because “[my hair]looks feminine and it’s a disgrace to the family.” That day I realized how weak I was without my hair and how hard it was for me to live with definitions and laws. That was the time I got depressed and wanted to commit suicide, just hang myself and disappear from this world. At school the boys were cursing and hitting me. There was violence at home. I felt like a rag. God knows how I didn’t try to end my life in that dark era. The only thing that kept me from taking pills and going away for eternity was my aunt, the only one in my family who accepted me as I was and always asked me to move in with her. They say that everyone has a guardian angel in this world, so perhaps she was my angel.

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They threw me out dozens of times. Luckily I had Shaked, my best friend, who invited me to be with him and supported me from the moment we met. I wanted so much to leave home, but I felt alone and weak and that I could’t cope with the world. Just a 16-year-old boy who had done nothing yet. I would go out in short shorts and the looks on the street would kill me. I felt that people were undressing me with their eyes and criticizing me without a word. So renting an apartment? It wasn’t an option.

At 18, I was kicked out of the house for good. It’s allowed legally, so why not take advantage of it? What else could they do? I was a rebellious child. I would not allow myself to be trampled. I lived in an apartment in Bat Yam, worked at a supermarket and went into depression again. I felt that the world was against me, that my parents hated me no matter how I tried to please them; they wouldn’t want me only because I chose to love myself in my own way, and not in the way that society wants me to be. Despite the depression, I tried to look happy and show the world that you can love and that being different is not an incurable disease.

A year later I moved to Tel Aviv. I wrapped myself with good friends, friends who recognized the power and uniqueness in me, friends who became the family I always wanted, who accepted me with my nonsense and madness. I went through a process of self-acceptance and began to break out. I recognized my other side – Erica. I started to wear makeup. Entering clothing stores I didn’t understand why there are “Men” and “Women” departments; after all,everything is fabric. Who decided that only women can wear high heels? Who said that skinny Jeans are less masculine? I always buy what’s nice and convenient for me, what I feel completes me inside and gives me the feeling that I’m a star. I paint my nails with gel polish and walk the streets wearing dresses, I feel strong and powerful and that there’s nothing to fear.I feel that I’m the big boss who decides for myself what is right and wrong for me.

I stopped to consider the opinions of others and I started to listen to my heart. To deal with me and my desires. I started working as a performer at the gay party line “Pug” and as a waiter at Miss Kaplan, which became my second home. I understood that walking on high heels on the street is not as horrible as murdering people. The joy of life got back to me and finally I was able to smile at the world and feel that the world smiles back at me. I feel like I fought not only for myself, but also for the boy or the girl who is in the closet. I know what it’s like to feel transparent in everyday life. Do not let anyone get you down, go with your head up high and always remember that you have a princess crown on your head. Be hungry to conquer the world and break all the rules. Color the world in rainbow colors, no matter how hard it is to not give up. I urge all of you, go with your truth, be you, in your special way. Enjoy the little moments, don’t be afraid to give yourself self-expression. Go your own way as long as it does not harm anyone. Spread love and kindness because the change begins with us. Just like RuPaul says: “If you don’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”