Jackie Evancho is a proud supporter of her transgender sister Juliet Evancho and the struggle for transgender equality, it would be fantastic if we could have a world and a society of equal opportunities for all regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation, and where this is embodied in human rights, which is accepted and respected by all.
(Text from TeenVouge)
How one girl came out as transgender to her family — and the entire world.
You don’t have to sacrifice who you are in order to be loved and accepted.
Gender Dysphoria is a heated topic lately, but I’ve been living this “hot topic” since I was quite young. My name is Juliet Evancho — but I was born Jacob.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, for as long as I can remember I’ve always been into what would be classified as ‘girly’ things. I played dress up with my sister Jackie, loved Barbies, and occasionally we’d raid my mom’s makeup kits together. My parents noticed that I had zero interest in the typical “boy” toys and activities and began to question things. I can even remember getting very upset one Christmas when Jackie got a Barbie dollhouse and I got a remote-controlled truck. I can remember talking to my mom about my feelings. I told her I don’t think I’m gay — there's more to it than that. I feel like I really am a girl. At the time, I had never heard of the word "transgender." My mom pointed out the term and I began researching it. This led to a conversation with my doctor, as we wondered if this was normal behavior. My parents and I discussed it with him and he told us, “He isn’t insisting you call him Mary, so I don’t think he's transgender. He'll probably grow out of it.”
After this non-diagnosis, our family continued on with our lives, and I continued to suppress those feelings. I played little league baseball and joined cub scouts, but deep down I knew I wasn’t just experimenting or exploring my feminine side. By the time I was 11, I took those internal thoughts and verbalized them to myself as I looked in the mirror. I said, “I am a girl trapped in a boy’s body.”
Around this same time, my sister Jackie made her debut on America’s Got Talent, and became an overnight star. I began to worry because not only did I feel “different," but Jackie’s newfound fame put our entire family under a microscope. This made things even more difficult for me. Now, I not only worried about what my family thought of me, but I also worried about some trashy magazine trying to make a spectacle out of me if they found out, and it hurting my family. Personally, however, I saw this self-discovery as positive thing, whether it fit the norm or not.
After a year, I decided to make a change and stated growing out my hair. My sister meanwhile, was busy recording her second album, Songs from the Silver Screen.
Because I too enjoyed singing — and am pretty good — I was asked to record a duet with her. The track was 'I See the Light' from the movie Tangled. I obviously sang the male part, which in my eyes was a huge step backwards.
Everyone who listened to that song heard a boy, but I knew I was a girl.
The turning point for me was when we recorded a PBS television special to accompany the album. My hair growing efforts had left my mane in a rather awkward phase, and the makeup artist decided to give me a trim. Did I look like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo? Yes. But was that the best representation of who I really was? Yes. I did my best not to cry.
After that show aired I slowly started to tell the people closest to me about my suspected gender-dysphoria. My mom was the first person I told, although she already suspected it. She simply smiled at me, told me she loved me, and said she’d always be there for me. I then told my sister Jackie. She too was not at all surprised and was very supportive and happy that I found my true self, but at the same time she was terrified about the potential ridicule I’d face for the rest of my life. Finally, I told my dad. My dad took it the hardest, and I couldn’t blame him, even if it hurt me a lot. He tried to hide it, but I could tell. He was, after all, losing his oldest son. Not just his, but the son that had his name as a middle name. My youngest siblings Zach and Rachel were a little too young to fully understand, but I told them, too. Not even my best friends knew the real me. Everyone just assumed I was a feminine gay boy.
All of these circumstances — feeling like an outsider, not fitting neatly into society, and cutting my hair — caused me to slip into a depression. I constantly wondered, "Why me?" Having a close relationship with my family, we decided it would be best for me to seek professional help. For the next 2 years I went to a therapist to help me with my depression, and to uncover the truth of what and who I am. Basically, my therapist just confirmed what I already knew: I am a transgender woman.
For a while I did what I’d always done, play dress up around the house with a wig, some clothes, and a pair of fake breasts my mother bought to help me feel more like the person I was on the inside. It wasn’t enough; I was still only free to be me within the walls of my house. The rest of the world still knew me as Jacob, a boy. Every time I looked in the mirror, a girl looked back, just wanting the rest of the world to see her too.
Jump forward a couple of years of still publicly living my lie to everyone except my immediate family. After talking it over with my parents and therapists, we decided that the best time to reveal my true self to the public would be my 17th birthday. We gathered all of my extended family at a pool party and I told them, "Guys, I'm transgender."
There was a brief, really awkward silence and I thought for a split moment that I had just ruined my relationship with most of my family, but those thoughts were soon interrupted by an uproar of applause and cheers from everyone. Everyone told me they loved me just as much as when I was Jacob. I realized pretty quickly just how lucky I am to have such a supportive family.
A few days after that, I began to go out in public as a girl, and I couldn’t care less what anyone thought of me. I realized through therapy and by just maturing that I could no longer live my life worried about what others thought. I had to live my life for me. It may sound selfish, but the fact of the matter is that the suicide rate among the transgender community, especially the teen transgender community, is astronomically high and I was not going to contribute to that statistic.
I have such a supportive family — even my dad came around eventually telling me, “Jacob, you’re still my child whether you’re a boy or a girl and I will always love and support you. It will take me a while to get used to calling you by another name and I’ll slip occasionally but I’ll get there and help you in any way I can.”
My sister Jackie even dedicated her version of 'All of the Stars' to me and told my story through the video that accompanied the song.
This hasn’t been an easy road, and I sometimes still ask myself “Why me?” I’ve seen many hateful things online regarding the transgender community from people who hide behind a computer screen, and say things like, “God doesn’t make mistakes,” quoting Bible verses that condemn my transition, and they say I’m doing this for attention.
I know God made me this way and guided me through this process. He also gave me a large platform to share my story so that I can show others who have similar stories and struggles that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to sacrifice who you are in order to be loved and accepted. On my 17th birthday my life finally began.
In august 2017, TLC TV showed a TV reality speciel 'Growing Up Evancho'. The Evanchos are a typical American family with some seriously not-so-typical circumstances. Home life isn't any less hectic, with Jackie's older sister, Juliet, navigating her dream of becoming a model as a transgendered woman. As Juliet grows as an LGBTQ activist and Jackie's pop stardom rises, this family faces some major drama you won't want to miss. You can see the TLC TV speciel here.