Opinion editor's note: Star Tribune Opinion publishes a mix of national and local commentaries online and in print each day. To contribute, click here.


After a lifetime of struggling with addiction and mental issues, my older brother drank himself to death this past fall. He was 61 years old.

A few weeks ago, I learned from an old friend he had confided in her that he sometimes yearned to dress like a woman. The desire was never fulfilled. The news surprised me in an unsurprising way.

For his memorial service, I volunteered to put together a video collage of dozens of old photos which I felt captured the arc of his beautiful, albeit troubled, life. If I were asked, however, to select one photo that best reflected my brother's essence, I would have had no problem.

It would have been a picture of him in his early 20s. My brother's head is tilted backward, his eyes are softly closed, and a good friend is applying lipstick. His face exudes an inner peace and a gentle glow and, although the photograph is in black-and-white, in my mind's eye I somehow visualize his lips as being a resplendent ruby red.

Unfortunately, in the early 1980s, I, my father and an overly masculinized world did our best to ignore, discourage, stigmatize and even condemn such expressions.

It is too easy to say my brother's inability to find an outward outlet for his full self was the sole cause of his death. Alcoholism, drug abuse and bipolar disorder can make for a powerful and, often, deadly combination that can be difficult to fully decipher.

It is also true my brother could have been more courageous in showing his true self but, as I've aged, I've come to accept that not everyone is cut out to battle against the strong and prevailing headwinds of a patriarchal society.

Over time, I, my father and much — but not all — of society has become more open-minded and accepting. Still, heavy work remains to be done, and this Pride weekend I would like to add my voice to the growing choir of people who understand that everyone has varying degrees of feminine and masculine energies within themselves.

In my own case, my growing Celtic Christian faith is allowing me to openly embrace the divine feminine within myself and others. Personally, I am not called to express my more feminine energies in the form of dress, but I am working to share my full voice through poetry.

To this end, I'd like to share a short poem:

Brother, if only I could once Again

Look into your Eyes–and your Soul

Hold your Hands–and your Heart, and

Touch your Tear-stain Cheeks–and Lips

I would Say this:

I See you; the Whole You.

I Honor you; the True You.

I Love you; as You Are,—And

As You were Meant to Be; a Child of Light.

Jack Uldrich lives in Minneapolis.