A decent amount of attention was put on Juliet Evancho's absence from her sister Jackie Evancho's national anthem performance during Donald Trump's presidential inauguration in January. Did the transgender 18-year-old skip the historic occasion in protest of Trump and his Republican administration's stance on LGBTQ rights? Was she not invited? Not quite.
During that January weekend, Juliet Evancho was in Philadelphia undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
"Everyone on social media was like, 'She doesn't support her sister because she's singing for Trump,'" Juliet Evancho told People in the magazine's new issue. "But we were together with each other in spirit."
The lengthy interview with both the Evancho sisters covers Juliet Evancho growing up, struggling with being born a boy and finally transitioning. When they would play make-believe, she would pretend she was a girl, she remembers. Slowly, her and her family began to understand what was going on. Eventually, with her parents help, Juliet Evancho began dressing as a girl at home, wearing a wig.
"It was like, 'I'm here to support you no matter what. Whatever you are, I will believe you, support you, whatever you need,'" said Jackie Evancho. "I'd kind of already known that she was different -- just different as in not completely comfortable with herself, not the full extent of who she is..... I cried because I was worried for her, because I know how ugly the world can be."
But, like many others', even with the help of her family, Juliet Evancho's transition was not easy. She said she has been bullied and their school district even barred her and other transgender students from using the bathrooms of their gender identity. Juliet Evancho and two other students sued their school district in response and last month a judge granted a preliminary injunction in their favor.
While Jackie Evancho has tried to stay out of politics and has remained steadfast that her performance at Trump's inauguration was only "about the honor" to sing for her country, lately this neutral position has been harder to maintain. When the president reminded Obama-era protections for transgender people in February, she was compelled to speak up as an advocate for trans rights and even requested a meeting with Trump to discuss the issue.
"At that point, something had changed that was going to affect a cause that I believe in," said the singer. "It was going to affect my sister, who I truly love, and people that I know. It was just natural instinct. I had to do something about it."
After Juliet Evancho underwent sex reassignment surgery and breast augmentation in January, she says she finally gets to be herself.
"When I realized was being transgender was, when I was able to identify with that, I was like, 'I want to be myself.' Even when I dreamed when I was little, I was always a girl," she said. "It's a dream come true. Before, there were times where I would literally just break down in tears because I thought, 'I'm going to be 23 years old, and I'm not going to be myself. I'm going to miss my glory days being myself.' My parents asked me if I wanted to get the surgery and scheduled it, and when I realized that it was going to happen … I'm an emotional person, so I broke down in tears again. Now, when I look in the mirror, it's just me: I don't have to worry about 'this doesn't look right' or 'this doesn't match.' I'm finally me. If I'm looking in the mirror, if I'm taking a shower, everything is just finally complete."