“You’re transitioning from one body to another. From one gender to another. But it’s more than that. I’ve always been the same up in my head. Deep inside I’ve always been the same person. But my body - it was just different. And I wanted to make corrections. I wanted to change myself so I felt more comfortable. And I felt more comfortable in a woman’s body. And that’s who I truly was. I wanted to bring out my inside and reveal it on the outside.” - Jamie Vallas
Earlier this year, 21 year-old Jamie Vallas underwent sexual reassignment surgery. Happy and healthy, Jamie is now speaking out about her transgender journey - and how her family has made all the difference. Jamie, and her father Dean, were recently interviewed on The Golden Mean podcast. Edited excerpts from our conversation:
Jamie: I used to listen to a lot of female singing artists. Like Celine Dion, or Hannah Montana. All this stuff that most little boys wouldn’t listen to. And I would lip sync the words and pretend like I was singing them. I used to dress up all the time. I used to borrow my sister’s ballet clothes, and I used to dance around to that music with those dresses on. I used to put towels and shirts over my head and pretend I had long hair. Or put t-shirts on to pretend they were dresses. I went all out!
And I also played with my sister’s Barbie dolls. I used to be made fun of around my neighborhood. They used to call me Barbie boy. It was really degrading at the time because I didn’t think what I was doing was wrong. I mean, this is me and I was expressing myself. And I thought I was not doing anything wrong, but I guess I was an oddity to other people.
I was so feminine. I was overly feminine and I didn’t like my body. And I thought, gay men are comfortable in their own bodies. I wasn’t. And I found the term transgender, and it just changed my point of view and my way of thinking. And I was like, that’s me.
I came out to (my Dad) in 7th grade and I thought, immediately, I was gonna be in trouble, or something. I was young. I didn’t fully understand it, as I was telling him, because, I had not even known what the term transgender was. And, we just had like hours of conversation about like, how, that’s okay.
He had no idea what it was, actually. He wasn’t quite sure of the term. I wasn’t quite sure of the term. But it sounded like me. And he did everything he could just to research it.
He’s my rock...They (Dean and Jamie’s mother, Renee) have been non-stop supportive of me. They’re protective of me but in a good way. I’m blessed and I didn’t expect to be given this much of an opportunity. They’ve been nothing but supportive of me and I can’t thank them enough.
Dean: You have to protect, right? Your number one priority as a parent is keep your kids safe. I was raised in a moderate household, which means you have the Golden Rule of putting yourself in another person’s place. Trying to understand the other person’s perspective. So you always do that.
Until you are actually involved in those communities - until you meet someone in the LGBTQ community and see what their families are going through, well, then you make decisions out of ignorance. Instead of (making) some enlightened decision.
Jamie: You’re transitioning from one body to another. From one gender to another. But it’s more than that. I’ve always been the same up in my head. Deep inside I’ve always been the same person. But my body, it was just different. And I wanted to make corrections. I wanted to change myself so I felt more comfortable. And I felt more comfortable in a woman’s body. And that’s who I truly was. I wanted to bring out my inside and reveal it on the outside. It’s almost like self expression. I have the mind of a woman, but I had the body of a boy. And it wasn’t right. It wasn’t who I was. And I felt like I wasn’t able to truly express myself, because I saw myself as this person - as this beautiful individual. Beautiful inside and out, as a woman. And everyone else saw a beautiful individual inside, but they were looking at a boy. I (used to) look in the mirror and see a beautiful girl, but every time I’d get out of the shower and look in the mirror, I’d see a beautiful girl, but, then, I wasn’t happy with the way I looked. I’d look down, or I’d look at myself closely and I was just uncomfortable.
Dean: She is all in. Think of how difficult it is for her to make this decision to go down this path. How many of us would do something like that and put ourselves at risk, not just physically, but, frienships. Leaving yourself open to being bullied, harrassed, victimized, discriminated against. Rejected by friends, classmates, maybe society. She’s more my hero than I am hers. To me she is not a transgender, she is 100% woman. She’s a woman.
Jamie: All my life, I’ve wanted to be a woman. All my life. I’ve wanted to live a normal life where I could just go to work. Come home. Maybe have a husband in the future. Just not worry about how everyone else perceives me or just not being different or standing out. But then I realized, I like standing out - but in a good way. I see how other people don’t have what I have - I have a lot of support but a lot of other people don’t have that.
I want to be able to share my story and create a voice to show others that you can have this and that it’s not wrong to support something like this. I’m still the same person. Yeah I was born Luke Andrew Vallas. And I was born the same person always. Yeah, as a kid I was playing with Barbie’s. And now, yeah, I look like a woman and I am a woman. And I’ve always been a woman. But I’ve always been the same Luke Andrew Vallas inside. Just my name and my legal papers and my body was different. But now that I’ve finally made corrections to all that, I am who I am and it’s still me inside. I haven’t gone anywhere. I’m just happy. And I’m expressing myself, who I truly am.
Don’t let other people bring you down. You are who you are. You’re your own person. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t take what someone says and blame yourself and think, “oh, this is who I am because this person said that.” No. You don’t need to be yourself through other people. You don’t need other people’s validation to be yourself and to be happy and to be you. You should always do your best to be yourself. Regardless of what other people try to say about you. Don’t be afraid to be who you are just because other people don’t like you. That’s their issue, not yours. You did nothing wrong. It’s okay to be happy.