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For Second Act, a New Identity

America is built on the idea that its citizens can become whatever, and whomever, they want to be. That proposition can lead to staggering transformations -- especially when gender identity is involved. For friends Chris Elardo and August Faustino, it has brought liberation.

Faustino and Elardo say the transition from being a woman to being a man is not an easy one. But as it becomes more and more complete, they say, the awkwardness slips away. For both of them, the change fulfilled a need they've felt since childhood.

"Passing" for a man and exploring a new identity, they say, represents the end of years of desire and denial. But as in many transformations, the process is a gradual one of evolution, not a thunderclap of change. And challenges remain.

"Sometimes I pass," says Elardo, and "sometimes I don't."

The two friends discussed issues of acceptance and identity at a StoryCorps mobile booth in Los Angeles.

StoryCorps is the oral history project traveling the country collecting stories of everyday America. The interviews are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. And excerpts are played on Morning Edition each Friday.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.