First Transgender Prom Queen Opens Up About Transitioning Before It Was Trendy

In 2010, Corey Rae of New Jersey made history by becoming the country’s first transgender prom queen. Now, six years later, she’s determined to once again become a force of change for the transgender community. And on Monday she gave herself a great start — by sharing a deeply personal story of identity on her newly launched blog.

“Yesterday was basically my coming out to the world, and I feel very free, and like a huge weight that I didn’t even think I would feel has been lifted off my shoulders,” Rae tells Yahoo Beauty about the post, “Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself,” in which she discusses being a transgender woman — a fact many people in her life had not previously known.

“In my wildest imagination I never dreamt I could become the person I had always wanted to be,” she wrote in her brave post. “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.”

Instead, Rae explains, she has been “stealth” about being transgender because she wanted so badly to be perceived as a “normal” girl — and has been to those who have met her since she graduated from high school. She began her transition as a high school junior, the same year she became prom queen. At 19, Rae had sexual reassignment surgery and during her time as a college student in Long Island, she was largely closeted about having been male, except when she did a semester abroad in Amsterdam.

But more recently, she explains, she’s wanted to be seen as her true and complete self.

“Although I do ‘come out’ more often now, I still have difficulty connecting with the trans-world because I forget that I am transgender,” she wrote in her blog post. “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.”

About coming out, she explained, “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. … 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.” She continued, “I want to be a sex symbol, but I want to be taken seriously, and I want the world the listen. So how do you do that? It’s really not so easy.” Her new blog is a start.

Yahoo Beauty spoke with Rae about being transgender “before it was cool” and about what inspires her to be her true self.

How do you deal with the push-pull of wanting to be perceived as a “normal girl” and also wanting that comfort of being a part of the LGBT community?

That’s always going to be, I think, my uphill battle. I have always thought of myself as a girl, so I don’t remember that I’m transgender until someone else [says something]. That will always be a working journey of mine, to come to terms with it. I am a very feminine girly girl, and I think that what happened with me wanting to no longer be stealth was that the media was discussing what transgender was — finally, years after I’ve fully transitioned. I told a friend, and we immediately became closer, and that to me meant a lot — like, wow, this person just sees me as Corey. Then I wondered, how would I want someone [in my life] who didn’t accept me, anyway? So I started to go by that. It’s more difficult to deal with men than friends, because it has to do with their ego.

How has dating been for you?

It’s been amazing, actually. Almost every guy I’ve told has been extremely accepting of it. Some don’t believe me. I’ve had people be, like, let me see your scars. But I think because they see me in person and can feel me out and read my energy, they’re OK with it.

A photo posted by Corey Rae (@imcoreyrae) on Dec 11, 2015 at 2:19pm PST

How has the new transgender media visibility affected you personally?

It’s been amazing. I’m happy that trans is “trendy,” because the idea of a third gender has been around forever — but because of how our society works and the desire to be a “normal” person, we have put anything other than male or female out of the box. So now that people like Caitlyn Jenner are here to advocate, it has definitely affected my life because people know about it. When they do find out [about me], they’re not like, “What is that?” When I was 12 years old and I found the word “transgender,” I immediately was like, “That is it. That’s me. But I couldn’t believe it was real.” There was no example of it; there was no one talking about it. Now people have somewhat of an understanding of it, so that’s a huge help.

Do you have some beauty tips for transgender women and people in general? What helps you feel beautiful?

I always say that all a girl needs is mascara and ChapStick. All I wear for makeup is Maybelline mascara and Burt’s Bees pomegranate lip balm, and a very good tip is to put Aquaphor on top of that. I put it on every night. I wash my face every night, no matter what — something that became a routine when I started hormones, and the changes made my skin and hair very oily. I don’t have the biggest interest in makeup because I know I’d get obsessed with it and never leave the house. I definitely experimented more in college (I think just because all the girls were wearing makeup — I went to college on Long Island — and I wanted to be one of the girls). But everyone’s beautiful. I think there’s something to be said for natural beauty. I just want everyone to be comfortable.

Can you talk about how having supportive peers and a supportive mom (pictured above) has helped you on your journey?

In high school, people were really cool about it. I mean, there was a lot of behind-my-back talk. … I would get a lot of not-OK [online] messages, some threats, but nothing big enough to tear me down or stop me from wanting to live as myself. So I was very fortunate to live in a town where people were educated enough to respect me. At 2 years old I was in dresses and heels and playing with Barbies. … My mom let me do my thing, and this was the ’90s, so I’m sure she heard a lot of “What’s wrong with you?” My kindergarten teacher wouldn’t let me play dress-up, and [my mother] was like, “I don’t want to ever hear you tell my child what he can do in his spare time.” When I was 12 I said, “Mom, I want to be a girl.” She turned around and said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes.” So we sat for three hours and cried and talked. She’s the best person ever. She’s a licensed beautician, and she also has a jewelry and skincare line and a business, Transgender Consulting and Styling. Many families have reached out to her, and she’s been helping them get comfortable with being uncomfortable. But there was never a time where I felt I couldn’t come out to my mom. She’s the best person ever.

You can read Rae’s entire blog post here.

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