Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself
Confidence is key, that’s my life motto. Everything happens for a reason, my mantra. I am a firm believer that everything works itself out in one way or another for reasons we may not realize until years down the road. If I, of all people, can believe that, then it has to be true. I often have to remind myself, and those around me of the good that can come out of a bad situation. I live a very colorful life filled with wild nights out and casual celebrity interactions. No matter how small or large the group may be I love to entertain. My favorite activities are people watching and flirting. When you put those with a provocative, brutally blunt personality you get me.
People tell me I am destined to be a famous personality of sorts. Everyone always asks me, “What do you want to do with your life?” When my sociology professor asked me this question senior year of college I responded: “Do you want to hear the dream, or the reality?” and he replied “Well, shouldn’t they be the same thing?” This led to the first conversation I had with someone who completely understood my star-power potential. It was the catalyst for me to begin chasing my dreams of being in the spotlight as my true self. When I entered college I thought I wanted to be the real life Samantha Jones (from Sex and the City) or Shauna (from Entourage, a reference for the boys). I studied Public Relations with an entertainment/celebrity concentration, which I was good at, but had no passion for. In the back of my mind I knew that a communications major would help me in the long run if I ever decided to make my career fantasies into a reality.
No matter how far away I feel from my dreams, I often forget that I have already come so far. In my wildest imagination I never dreamt I could become the person I had always wanted to be. From the 5th grade to the 10th grade I went to bed every night and prayed I’d wake up a girl. And on the morning after my 19th birthday, I did.
My name is Corey Rae, and I’m a 23 year-old transgender woman. I’ve never actually said that out loud to anyone. Within the playground that I called college people were always suspicious, convinced, etc. but no one had ever heard it directly from me. The first time I “came out” to anyone after my transition was during my study abroad experience. I came out to my closest friend, Turner, via my research paper on the comparison of the transgender experience in the U.S. vs. The Netherlands. We had to peer edit someone's paper and because I hadn't told anyone about my past, I asked my professor to assign her as my editor. Two years later she is helping me to edit this blog and is one of my best, most treasured, friends. When I do tell people, it happens naturally. It’s rare, but it does happen. I’ve never felt like I needed or had to tell someone, it’s more so that I want to share my whole self with that person.
Although I do “come out” more often now, I still have difficulty connecting with the trans-world because I forget that I am transgender. My mom, my therapist, and even my friends often forget that I am transgender. I’ve felt like a girl for my entire life. I’ve never doubted it once (unless you count the .5 seconds I asked myself if I was gay in the 6th grade and then was like “no I know that’s not me”). When I was growing up, I had no idea that transgender was a thing, or even a possibility. I felt alone in the fact that I didn’t know what my feelings about myself meant, but I knew I wasn’t gay. Here I was praying every night for something that would never happen, and thinking I’d live the rest of my life wanting to be a girl. I truly felt like and wanted to be a biological girl since before I could remember. I asked my mom for a Cinderella dress when I was two years old and the rest is history. Throughout my childhood Barbie’s, makeup, manicures, heels, and my favorite red floral dress were my regular after school routine. So, when it was time for me to transition it happened naturally and wasn’t a shock to anyone who really knew me. I have always been effortlessly effeminate; it's what comes naturally to me. Since the day I graduated high school I have been treated like a “normal” girl.
During my transition I quickly realized that I could be anyone I wanted. By the end of my junior year of high school (only seven months after starting my transition) I became the world’s first transgender Prom Queen (May 2010, if your heart desires an investigation). After I won, a literal dream come true, I realized that if I wanted something badly enough, I would find a way to make it happen no matter what. When I went off to college I thought “I could become Queen of college.” It was then that I discovered that school, dating, and life in general was a game, and I was going to put all of my efforts into winning. To start, I had to conquer all of social life. I wanted everyone to know who I was, and it worked. I was definitely a “Hofstra Celebrity,” a person that if their name is dropped in conversation or seen around campus every person would know exactly who they are. I am no wall flower, and being so widely known in college made it a tad difficult to keep my secret hidden. I survived my freshman year without any clothing malfunctions, uncomfortable naked bathroom encounters, or hook ups gone wrong. I came back my sophomore year completely transitioned, but my hormone changes led to crazy drama with my friends and wild/ semi-regrettable one night stands. By the end of my sophomore year I was ready for a break.
At the beginning of my junior year I decided to escape Hofstra for second semester and study abroad in Amsterdam. When I arrived in late January I had no idea what to expect. This was the first group of people I had met post-surgery, and I felt no need to overcompensate for my insecurities of being “outed” any longer. I acted as me; completely genuine, brutally blunt, overly flirtatious, and saying crazy things just to hear how people would react and rebuttal (or awkwardly not). In the four and a half months that I was in Amsterdam my life changed for the better. I became at peace with myself, with who I am and why I was born the way I was. I learned from all 42 of the people on my program whether they knew it or not. Before studying abroad I was malicious, judgmental, rude, and to be completely honest, a total bitch (most likely stemming from my own hidden insecurities coupled with going through a second round of puberty with all of my hormone therapy). I was subconsciously, perpetually angry at the world and with myself. Sure, I should've been the happiest person in the world; already having sexual reassignment surgery (I got a vagina) with no major complications, having a supportive and loving family, and being able to study in Europe. I had no other obstacles that would prevent me from living a “normal” life but alas, I was not happy. Over time I was able to learn from each individual on our trip, stopping myself from judging by appearances. People I now consider some of my closest friends I would've never given a chance if the old me had met them. Our group was anything but the typical study abroad posse. We were all so different yet got along so well and truly fell in love with one another. It’s a certain type of person who decides to go and study abroad in a place as extraordinary as Amsterdam.
By the end of my semester abroad my friends expressed to me how much they'd seen me grow and change over the course of our program, something I hadn’t even noticed until pointed out to me. I finally felt appreciated and loved for being 100% genuinely myself. My abroad friends saw me for the person that I am, not the persona I put on prior to the trip. While in Amsterdam I was evolving into a better person. I didn’t want to be mean anymore, but I still wanted to keep my edge, my strength, my visibility, and a hint of my intimidation factor. I like to say that I left Hofstra as Regina George and came back as Serena van der Woodsen.
Before I started college I decided to be stealth (not tell anyone I was transgender) so I could be treated and live as a “normal” woman in society. I planned to not tell anyone besides choice friends, coworkers, and lovers. I figured because transgender was still such an anomaly that this would be best for living an easy and smooth life (or as easy and smooth as possible given my situation). I had countless sessions with my therapist (going to a gender/sex therapist is a requirement for surgery, not that I’m embarrassed of therapy, it’s amazing, seriously everyone should go to therapy). Anyway, I had countless sessions with my therapist discussing how/when would I tell my partner that I was transgender. I realized during my senior year of college that I no longer wanted to hookup with or date a guy who wouldn't be okay with me being transgender from the start, or even have friends who aren’t okay with it. During the summer after I graduated I sporadically began to tell first dates and it has gone surprisingly well. Now I am looking forward to finding an incredible partner who loves me for who I am in my entirety.
I want to be a sex symbol, but I want to be taken seriously, and I want the world to listen. So, how do you do that? It’s really not so easy. I knew that being myself was my best talent and I do love to entertain those around me. I reveled in the idea of becoming the next Chelsea Handler. I already knew I wanted to write books on my experience in dating and sex in the eyes of a male-to-female (MTF) transgender person. I figured that writing a book should come after being widely popular, so, modeling? I had done a few quasi-professional photo shoots and although I looked amazing, I realized unless I am Kate Moss there is no way I’d become a supermodel at my height of 5’5 and ¾’s. During a brief attempt at making a name for myself in New York City nightlife I started to work as a hostess at one of the most exclusive NYC clubs, The Box. The owner, Simon Hammerstein, became a close friend of mine and we would bounce ideas for future projects off of one another. He gave me a lot of tough love, and encouraged me to do what I was passionate about as long as it helped other people.
When I was little and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up I would say “be a fashion designer.” With Simon’s encouragement I decided to work on a fashion line for the transgender community, something I am extremely passionate about. The line will be designed for pre-operative trans people, helping them to feel more comfortable, because getting dressed every morning knowing you’re in the wrong body is painful beyond words. But this line will also cater to any man or woman (trans or not) who wants to feel better in the clothes that they wear.
The transgender movement is quickly gaining visibility all over the world, and I wasn’t ready for it. I thought it would be at least another five to ten years before the trans movement started to reach the mainstream media. But, it's here and it's happening and (although I hate that “trans is trendy”,) it is great. When I was going through my transition, I didn’t have anyone to look up to besides myself (and my mom, but mostly myself). For me, there was no trans celebrity or icon to see that everything works out in the end. When I realized that there was such a thing as being transgender, there was no way for me to find out more information. Technology has progressed so quickly; when I was in high school Google was hardly the tool it is today; you couldn’t even type the word “transgender” into a document without it having a red underline. Now with social media having the world in the palm of its hand, trans-people like Amanda Lepore, Laverne Cox, Caitlin Jenner, and Chaz Bono have made the reality of transgender life visible, and have opened up the conversation for our community. Unfortunately, there aren’t many transgender individuals that can relate to the younger generations, yet. I fill a niche right there - in that generation gap. I’m young, know what struggling feels like and that makes me pretty relatable. On top of that I have a personality like no other; I'm fun, educated, and I know that my soul was put into this body for a reason.
I always questioned, "Why me, why me, this isn’t fair, I wish I was born a girl." Although I’m sure my life would be much less complicated, over time I have come more to term with the cards I’ve been dealt. I have to believe that I was meant to be a pioneer for the transgender community and help to change the mindset of the world. Of course I didn’t realize any of this until almost two years post-surgery, but it became more clear to me once I came back from Europe. I am at peace with being transgender, it makes me who I am and makes me so much more of a well-rounded individual. I am here in this life because I am strong enough to endure the hardships of growing up trapped in the wrong body, go through a very public transition in a small and very stuck-up town, power through the most painful surgery possible, recover, flourish, and bring a concept to the world that few have yet to grasp.
I want to help change the way people think about and treat transgender people. I want to change the school systems, specifically how we discuss sexuality and gender, because it’s an extremely important topic and without proper education many people are ignorant (seriously, so ignorant). Transgender individuals, or anyone with gender fluid identities, are the most courageous people in the world. Not only is the fear to come out to their family, friends, and loved ones hard enough, but the misunderstanding outside world isn’t a treat either. Many transgender people don’t have access to healthcare, which provides the proper hormonal treatments from the required doctors, psychologists, and surgeons necessary to complete one’s transition. Even if they have access to the proper health care, can they afford it? My mom had to make substantial and long-term financial sacrifices for my happiness, but it was possible. This is not the case for everyone. Legally changing your name and gender isn’t the easiest process either, and it is the only part of my transition I have yet to complete. I’ve recently heard about the transgender bathroom laws that are being passed in some states and it is so disrespectful and inhumane to deny people their correct bathroom. In my opinion, there should just be gender-neutral bathrooms everywhere. This is a prime example of how much work our society has ahead of us, and why we so badly need public transgender figures.
To help advocate for the transgender community, not only do I want to work with human rights organizations to spread trans-acceptance, but I want to be a face of the transgender movement to open up conversations on gender fluidity. Most of all I want to inspire confidence. I want to be the first trans-woman to grace the cover of every major magazine to show trans-youth, or any trans person, that they can achieve all of their dreams and wildest fantasies. Plaster me across billboards, put me in commercials, and advertisements the like. The haters can call me names, take their anger out on me, I don’t care. After all I have been through (and the worst of the stories haven’t even been posted yet) I can handle it. I want to be an example for this community of people. I want to build an empire for the LGBT community so that we all can feel comfortable at all times.
The most important thing I want people to take away from this blog post and the path I’m committed to paving is that I wasn't born a boy, I was born transgender.
So, when everyone is reading and hearing about this blog and thinks, “Who does this girl think she is?” well, it’s really a simple answer, I’m Corey Rae.
Written by Corey Rae --- Edited by Emily Turner