Former Disney star and Champions cast member J.J. Totah penned a letter published Monday in which she opened up about her life and being transgender. In the letter, Totah also revealed her new name, Josie, according to People.
Totah, 17, writes that she “[identifies] as female, specifically as a transgender female.” When speaking about her childhood, the actress said that many people just assumed she was gay, but when she entered into the entertainment industry, questions about her identity became more commonplace.
“Numerous reporters have asked me in interviews how it feels to be a young gay man. I was even introduced that way before receiving an award from an LGBTQ+ rights organization. I understand that they didn’t really know better. I almost felt like I owed it to everybody to be that gay boy. But that has never been the way I think of myself,” wrote Totah. She wrote that she didn’t really try to challenge peoples’ assumptions of her, out of fear of not being accepted.
But over the last few years, she says, she realized that keeping her true identity hidden was not a healthy way to live. She wrote in the letter that her preferred pronouns are “she, her and hers.”
Though she always felt she identified as female, she wrote that it wasn’t until Jazz Jennings, star of the popular TLC show I Am Jazz, had her confirmation surgery that she realized exactly who she was.
“As I learned more information about hormone replacement therapy, I knew that this was what I had to do. I looked over at her in the middle of the show and said, ‘This is me. I’m transgender. And I need to go through this,'” wrote Totah. She added that her parents were immediately supportive. Her mother took her to consult with doctors to get started with a hormone blocker. Though she said at the time she was faced with a tremendous amount of anxiety about her transition, and about whether the hormone blocker would stop her testosterone, she said that being referred to as Josie makes her feel like she’s finally being seen.
Totah says she feels like this is how she was born, and that identifying as transgender is not a mistake. She says the experience has helped her in her everyday life, adding that it helped her gain perspective and helped her be more accepting.
Champions creator and co-star Mindy Kaling tweeted her support of Totah on Monday, saying, “I love you Josie. I’m so glad you’re able to speak your truth and live as your authentic self.”