Activist, model and writer Corey Rae took the stage at the 2019 Makers conference on Friday afternoon to talk with GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis about Rae’s life as a transgender woman — and what it took for her to come out.
The 25-year-old from New Jersey revealed to an audience of hundreds that she had first identified as transgender at 12 years old, when she came across the term in People magazine. And although she started a slow transition during high school, among peers who were accepting and even voted for her for prom queen, Rae said she was “stealth” for five years after graduating.
“I lived in secret,” she explained. “I didn’t disclose to anyone that I had transitioned or had been transgender. I did not have my sexual reassignment surgery until the end of my freshman year of college. So I lived my entire freshman year with the genitalia that I did not identify with.”
Even after having surgery — on the day after her 19th birthday — Rae continued to live a “cisgender lifestyle,” through dating and partying in college, and one year beyond. She maintained this lifestyle until the shooting took place at Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, targeting the LGBTQ community.
“I had enough. I didn’t like where I saw the movement going for trans women, I didn’t like how we were being perceived and treated. So I said, I need to use my voice and start helping people see us in a different light,” she said.
Ever since, Rae has been not only assimilating herself into the community but using her platform to elevate the stories of LGBTQ people — including her own, in a major way.
“My friend from high school, his name’s Harry Tarre, he came to me three years ago before I came out on the blog post and said, ‘I have an idea. Our town is so bizarre and so unconventional, but yet totally cookie-cutter from the outside,'” Rae recalled to Ellis. “‘I really want to do a show with a strong trans lead, and I want to talk about your story.'”
The screenplay, called Queen, made it to the Black List, where the most promising unmade screenplays are collected. Rae hopes that the recognition will catapult not only the potential film but the representation of LGBTQ people.
“I think it is really important that we do start to turn our focus toward LGBTQ people, and that’s non-binary, non-conforming, transgender or however you identify — we need that representation in films. And for Queen to be one of the 10 movies listed is an honor.”
For those struggling to get their own stories out there, however, Rae offered herself as a resource.
“I am always there for anyone,” she said. “I am here if no one else is.”
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