“I knew pretty much all my life that I was different,” Broadway actress and drag queen Peppermint tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
However, it took her a while to figure out who she truly was. “As I grew up and went to high school, I knew that I was queer,” she says, “but the only thing that I could connect that to for other people was that I was gay. Of course, I didn’t have a language for expressing myself as trans.”
But every Halloween and “every chance I got,” Peppermint says, she dressed in drag. After performing onstage for the first time in drag, she was “bit by the performing bug.”
She also searched for people she could relate to. As she put it: “I was kind of on the hunt for my people.” She found them in the New York City club scene. Peppermint would go to school during the day and then couldn’t wait to get in drag and go to the clubs at night.
However, she says it wasn’t until she experienced a tough breakup, followed by “a little bit of a breakdown,” that she realized who she really was. “I was at my lowest point ever,” she shares. “And then I had to kind of sort through and say, ‘OK, what needs changing?’ That’s when I was really able to crystallize, ‘Oh, I know what this is. I’m a woman. Now I’m going to have to figure out how to sort through that.’”
At first, she shared her feelings of wanting to transition with the least risky and most understanding people she knew. “And then people in my family were some of the last to know,” she says. “They had a harder time kind of letting go of who they thought I was.”
Peppermint then started her medical transition to becoming female. “I was able to start taking those steps toward happiness and realizing myself as a trans woman,” she says.
With her love of performing and talent, she eventually made it on RuPaul’s Drag Race. While she wasn’t nervous about doing drag on TV, “exposing who I really am was what I was terrified of,” she says. When Peppermint came out as trans to the people on the show, she braced herself for negative reactions but was pleasantly surprised. “Everyone that I thought was going to be a bitchy queen was just a kind, loving, open person,” she says.
After Drag Race, Peppermint was cast as the Oracle in Broadway’s Head Over Heels, which runs through Jan. 6.
“[It] is the first time that they’ve cast an openly trans woman in a principal role in a musical,” she says. “Head Over Heels is very open and accepting and celebratory of different types of existences, different identities, and different bodies.”
She also notes that there are more organizations now to help trans people than when she was first transitioning. Two organizations in particular stand out to her: TS Roadmap, which Peppermint says is helpful for people seeking guidance and to hear other trans people’s experiences, and the National Center for Trans Equality, which she says is a great hub for resources, whether people are looking for health care or doctors or are searching for how to legally change their name.
Peppermint also understands the importance of representation and what her role in the Broadway show means. “Our world is much better off; I think my life is much better off knowing that there are folks who are coming up to me at the stage door and saying that they’re so happy and proud to see someone that they resonate with,” she says, “whether it’s the character I play or me as a trans woman.”
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