Meet the Trans Palestinian Chef Using Food to Fight for Liberation

As Afram worked up the cook’s line, they avoided openly talking about being Palestinian. The few times they did bring up their family’s cuisine, “it was discouraged, politely,” they explain.

Eventually, he was offered the chance at menu creation. “It was the first time that I did anything Arab — I put falafel on the menu, which my wife will tell you is probably why she fell in love with me,” he says. Afram leaned into his grandmother’s recipe, passed down to his mother who taught it to him, which stirred up feelings of connection with food that had been dormant since childhood.

It had been over a decade since they were estranged from their family. Reconnecting with them took their wife Joyce picking up the phone and calling Afram’s mom herself. When she handed the phone to them and said simply, “your mom wants to speak to you,” Afram fell apart, crumbling under the compounded weight of the years that separated them. The eldest of four, they missed watching their siblings grow up, the youngest of whom was 4-years-old when Afram was kicked out. Now, they were a teenager.

“We slowly started to rebuild,” the chef says.

Afram’s healing has multiplied in ways that they could have never foreseen. In early 2020, they heard their stepson refer to friends who used they/them pronouns and were transitioning. A feeling stirred in them that they couldn’t shake. “I always knew that transgender folks exist, but I never encountered the transmasculine space,” he tells me. At the time, he was still living life as a woman, but never felt right about it. “Up to that point, I just accepted that there’s nothing that I can do about it — this is just what my life is.”

When they came to the realization that they were trans during the lockdown of 2020, old fears of rejection resurfaced. “At that point, I don’t think I really cared if they would accept it or not, I just never wanted to present anything as a burden to them,” he shares. “But they have been so supportive. I don’t think that in my wildest dreams, especially as a younger person, I could ever imagine that. And you know, I don’t think I allow them the grace for evolution either.”