Red Carpets are the norm for season 5 America’s got talent finalist Jackie Evancho. For her sister Juilet though on Thursday night at the Lyme alliance inaugural gala it was a night of firsts. An event like this is a huge step for Juilet and that’s because Juilet is transgender.
In an exclusive sit down with People the Evancho family discussed their daughters journey. Born as a male named Jacob, Juliets mom Lisa recalls that growing up there was something different. Juilet would play with Barbies, dress up and ware makeup. In fact it was Lisa that said “maybe you’re transgender”.
Lisa also recalls staying up late into the night with her daughter Juilet doing research on transgendered children. Juilet tells of the events that night saying:I was up really late, I didn’t get any sleep because I was just so immersed in all of these different stories that people told. A lot of them resonated with me, and that was when I was like, ‘I’m transgender.’ I knew deep in me that this was not me, and I needed to make the change.”
Juilet discussed the moment she came out as transgender on her 17th birthday in May: “I came out to my family and extended family, and everyone has been so supportive, and it’s kicked off after that,” she says of sitting down with her family, including younger brother Zachary, now 13, and Rachel, now 12.
“It hasn’t been too long. But to me, it feels like it’s been forever because it’s just … I know this is me, and finally the rest of the world gets to see that.”
Juliet says her mom backed her immediately, making her feel more comfortable and helping her express her femininity, even when she was just 13.
“At the time, I had short hair … I was, just, not a pretty person,” says Juliet – who has long, flowing tresses today – with a smile. “She got me a wig, got me some clothes, and it was just a secret for a while.”
When discussing her sisters coming out story Jackie had this to say: “I actually cried because … what worried me was that she was going to get teased,” Jackie says. “She told me she was transgender, and I was actually very happy for her because she finally found herself, and she can be who she wants to be.”
Adds Jackie, with a laugh: “But at the same time, I was upset because I knew she would be a prettier girl than me, but that’s okay.” Jackie also discussed what it’s like having a sister: Now that there’s another girl in the house, there’s even more time spent fighting over the bathroom, the sisters joke.
“It’s not so much doing each other’s nails as fighting over the nail polish,” says Jackie. “We’ll do each other’s makeup, and we shop together.”
Juliet’s father Mike spoke on the processing stage about finding out about Juilet. “It’s almost like stages of mourning because I lost a son – but I gained a daughter,” says Mike, who found out Juliet was transgender around the time she was 14. “My brother put it best: ‘It’s just a skin suit. It’s about the person inside.’ It’s the same person on the inside, and that’s really all that matters.”
Adds her father: “You want happy children. The unhappiness was living as a male, knowing you’re a female inside.” Mike also had this to say about the negativity that many people within the LGBTQ community receive.
“Anybody that says, whether it’s transgender or homosexuality, is a choice? They don’t have their head screwed on tight enough,” says Mike. “It’s human nature to want to take an easy road, so why would someone choose to take the hard road knowing they’re going to face ridicule, knowing they’re not going to be accepted by everybody?”
The family hopes that Juilet’s story can be one of inspiration of making a difference but they know that’s always not the case “We let her know what was gonna happen: Some people were gonna embrace you as an inspiration; others are going to chastise you,” says Mike, who’s proud of his eldest for her bravery.
As it turns out, Juliet’s already encouraging change. This fall, she returned to public school, only this time as a female. “The school has been very impressed, and they wanted some guidance for potential future transgender students,” says Mike.
Overall, Juliet and her family will be happy exposing their very personal journey even if it just saves one life. The family is well aware that the transgender suicide rate is very high. The family concluded the interview with this, “Our hope is that by Juliet sharing her story and seeing that even a Catholic family such as ours can accept their child, that hopefully it can help at least one person learn to be able to accept who they truly are instead of going the way of suicide or trying to mask who they are on the inside with drugs and alcohol.