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The life of a girl, turned boy

Nitzan Krimsky
Israeli mixed media artist explores gender fluidity through photos, film and story

Nitzan Krimsky, a mixed-media Israeli artist, was born a woman. But it never felt quite right. After years of identifying as a lesbian, Krimsky underwent surgery in 2012 and today is a lightly stubbled, gay man.

He is feminine, emotional and dramatic, but sees himself as athletic, strong and masculine. "It feels fantastic and exhilarating most of the time, when I allow myself to let go and enjoy life," he says. However, "it can also feel scary and overwhelming, when you think and see the world in a very different way than others."

Growing up in 1980's Jerusalem, Krimsky was a funny girl but "a sad child," he says. A real tomboy and the class clown, climbing trees and mainly playing soccer with the boys, Krimsky was "cheerful and happy outside, complex and anxious inside."

One of four children, he thought boys and girls were the same until noticing his brothers would urinate standing up. "It was the first time I understood I wasn't like my brothers." When adolescence hit, so did embarrassment and confusion. As a young woman, Krimsky began identifying as a lesbian. "I feared men, as they often pursued me or bothered me," he recalls. "Dating women protected me from what I felt was men's viciousness. They understood and comforted me."

Starting at 18, Krimsky began documenting himself, as part of a "spiritual experiment." Hundreds of self-portraits were created to explore the internal changes he felt he was going through. "It became a place that is a private sanctuary, a diary without words, an intimate place between the body, the soul, and its deepest whims and desires," he says.

A wild traveler's life followed, with nights of parties, smoking and drinking, "but an empty soul. The longer I fought being masculine, the more I tried 'educating’ myself' on how to be more feminine." Towards his late 20's, Krimsky says, he managed to once again reconnect to his true self spiritually, and resolve the perplexing issues with men. "I discovered I feel like one inside, once again. I couldn't hold it in anymore, and started telling some people around me about it." Confusing times came and passed, including a mental breakdown, before Krimsky embarked on the path of transition.

Today Krimsky is free. Free from definitions, free from categories. "If I want to speak about myself with female pronouns, I do," he says. "If I want to dress up in drag and take pictures of myself or perform, I do."

Many in the LGBT community view existing categories as limiting."This generation doesn't want to label themselves or put themselves into a box, but want to give themselves flexibility," says Genny Beeyman, director of The Stonewall LGBTQ+ resource center at UMass Amherst. "We see that the majority of LGBTQ plus identify outside of a gender and sexual binary, and are identifying as a-sexual, bi-sexual, pan-sexual, omnisexual or queer, as a fluid identity."

Krimsky understands why categories are necessary for society, but rejects them. "I see myself as a being," he says. "By introducing new definitions, we create more borders and differences."

Krimsky's story fascinated artists and filmmakers. Anne Marie Borsboom's documentary "Boi: Song of a Wanderer" was recently released in festivals and television screenings, bringing to life Krimsky's inner struggle; "the story of a girl who wanted to be boy." And a short autobiographical story Krimsky wrote transformed into a short film, once he met director Federica Gianni in a New York café where he worked.

Krimsky was the first trans person Gianni ever met, and she was fascinated by how much his transition made sense to her. Numerous meetings and conversations with Krimsky followed. "We were talking about gender and sexuality," Gianni remembers. "We were both very bugged that we were pinned down in categories, even in the gay community."The 11-minute short, called "The Friend From Tel Aviv," was one of her Columbia University film program projects, and went on to win the Directors Guild of America Student Filmmaker Award this past November.

After years of wandering, from Tokyo to New York, Krimsky has returned to Tel Aviv, where he is studying the local art-world, exhibiting his works and collaborating with other artists. His focus is photography and documentation, mainly of the trans community, to create "a visually strong channel for them to express themselves." Krimsky plans to make his own first short film next year, and is also working on a second book of self-portraits, which will depict his journey of transition. His vision includes spreading his life story in order to "educate about change and otherness, from a spiritual-artistic point of view."

Today, at 33, Nitzan Krimsky is at peace. With himself, with his body, with the world.

Shachar Peled is an i24news contributor in New York

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