STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — If you had told Nate Shalev 15 years ago that in 2022 they’d come back to Staten Island to their parent’s Bulls Head home for a barbecue and be addressed by name as “Nate,” their wife would be referred to as their “wife” and their family would use “they/them” pronouns, Shalev wouldn’t have believed it.
Assigned female gender at birth, Shalev, 32, was considered a “Tomboy” growing up in Bulls Head. Playing softball while attending Susan E. Wagner High School’s prestigious Scholar’s Program, Shalev still felt they didn’t quite fit in. For this reason, Shalev sought other recreational activities off Staten Island where they truly felt accepted.
At age 17, Shalev came out as queer.
“It was very much a rough, very rough time,” recalled Shalev. While earning a degree at Barnard College in Manhattan, they were able to explore gender “and what that meant.”
“At this time I was exposed to different ways of ‘being in the world,’ and just continued to figure out what felt right. So I cut my hair, and that felt right. I met somebody who used they/them pronouns when I was at a queer summer camp. And then I said, Oh, maybe I can do this too? Maybe this will feel right to me. So then I started to use they/them pronouns, and that felt right,” they said.