What It Means To Be A Gyrle

YEARS AFTER MEETING HER AS A BOY named Robert, photographer Jennifer Loeber reconnected with Lorelei, now a middle-aged woman undergoing her “second puberty.”

Lorelei met Jennifer in the summer of 1986.

Both were campers in their mid-teens at the Unitarian-Universalist Rowe Camp in western Massachusetts, a place that Lorelei describes as “a fascinating and wonderful mix of old hippies, young punks and assorted other independent thinkers and radical weirdos.” Lorelei, then Robert, had a crush on Jennifer Loeber, a “cool punk girl” from New York City, and when the two reconnected some 30 years later, Jennifer began to take photographs of Lorelei, a transwoman who was just starting go through what she calls her “second puberty.”

The story below—a mix of images from Jennifer’s adolescence in the 1980s interspersed with photographs of Lorelei—documents the duo’s friendship. The text comes from Lorelei, providing multiple perspectives on how we come of age.

Jennifer, before a recital, age 6.
Robert (Lorelei), junior prom, 1990.

“I was an extremely awkward, incredibly geeky, already very tall boy (who was really a girl) from Cape Cod. I liked Doctor Who, English tea, Max Headroom.”

Lorelei, snag in her stocking, 2012.
Jennifer, age 14.
Lorelei, 2012.
Lorelei, two-time pageant winner, 2012.
Jennifer, yearbook photo, age 13.
Lorelei after a close shave, 2012.
Lorelei, changing seasons, 2012.

“I am a transgender woman.

I am a woman now and, technically speaking, without getting bogged down in a whole lot of semantics, I was a woman then too, though I was still many years from accepting that and actively doing something about it.”

Lorelei, 2013.
Lorelei, Spring break in the Florida sun, 2013.

“In my mind, my own self-image, is the picture of Jennifer and some of the other girls I knew and admired back then.

And in the weird way that transgender transition can go, it is often these older influences that have the biggest impression: Girls I desperately wanted to be like; wishing every day that I could be one of those awkward teenage girls instead of the awkward teenage boy I was pretending to be.”

Jennifer with her mother at Disneyland, age 14.
Lorelei, Halloween with her former partner, left, and father, 2014.
Lorelei at Salvation Army, 2014.
Jennifer, age 11.
Lorelei, 2014.
Lorelei live on stage, 2014.

“It was interesting to learn, when we reconnected years later, that Jennifer, though not quite as “aware” of me as I was of her, felt just as awkward in her own way and in her own skin as I did myself. We were awkward teenagers all together figuring out who we were, finding out we were not alone.”

Lorelei, 2014.
Jennifer, age 17
Lorelei shopping in Brooklyn, 2014.

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