JJ Totah, who most recently starred in the NBC sitcom Champions helmed by Mindy Kaling, has come out as transgender in a thoughtful and candid essay for TIME Magazine.
Totah begins by sharing she feels she’s been “shoved into a box: ‘J.J. Totah, gay boy.’”
“When I was really young, growing up in a small town in Northern California, people would just assume I was gay,” writes Totah. “On the playground, I was the type of kid who wanted to sing with the girls, not play soccer with the boys."
"Then I found myself playing that role once I got into the entertainment industry, and people kept assuming my identity," she continues. "Numerous reporters have asked me in interviews how it feels to be a young gay man. I was even introduced that way before receiving an award from an LGBTQ+ rights organization. I understand that they didn’t really know better. I almost felt like I owed it to everybody to be that gay boy. But that has never been the way I think of myself.”
Saying she’s “ready to be free,” Totah signals the readers, “So, listen up, y’all. You can jump on or jump off. Either way this is where I’m heading.”
“My pronouns are she, her and hers,” the 17-year-old states definitively. “I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah.”
Totah shares that she remembers all the way back to the age of five wishing she were a girl. But it was seeing the docuseries I Am Jazz, about transgender activist Jazz Jennings, that made it clear who Josie really was.
Watching Jazz Jennings' story unfold, Josie says she turned to her mother and declared, “This is me. I’m transgender.”
Fortunately for Josie, her mother was immensely supportive and said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
In three days time, Josie had seen a specialist who put her on hormone blockers.
Throughout the essay, Josie shares many of the same fears most trans people do: difficulties in changing ID documents; not being allowed to use a restroom that aligns with her gender identity; concerns that living authentically as trans could limit her; and being scared that she’ll be judged or rejected.
Even with all that in the mix, she says when friends and family call her Josie, “it feels like I’m being seen.”
Josie brings the essay to a close writing about upcoming college this fall and plans to continue acting.
“I plan to play roles I haven’t had the opportunity to play,” Totah writes. “And I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy. I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate — and a new world.”
Make sure you click over to TIME and read the full essay. Well worth your time.
Mindy Kaling tweeted her support to her former teen star writing, “I love you, Josie. I’m so glad you’re able to speak your truth and live as your authentic self. You’re also so damn talented – I can’t wait to write for you again!”
I love you, Josie. I’m so glad you’re able to speak your truth and live as your authentic self. You’re also so damn talented – I can’t wait to write for you again! https://t.co/OjIoI9Wpb3
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) August 20, 2018
Here's Josie being honored earlier this year by the Human Rights Campaign with its Trailblazer Award in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Although the series was cancelled in June, check out the original trailer for the series, Champions, below.
Big congrats to Josie for living your life authentically as you are!