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‘Champions’ and ‘Glee’ Alum J.J. Totah Reveals She’s Transgender: ‘My Name Is Josie’

‘Champions’ Star J.J. Totah Comes Out as Transgender: ‘My Name Is Josie’
J.J. Totah and Mindy Kaling on "Champions'.Evans Vestal Ward/NBC

Champions alum Josie (formerly J.J.) Totah is ready to share with the world. At 17 and about to start college, Totah opened up in an essay in Time on Monday, August 20, revealing that she was ready to share her story: “My pronouns are she, her and hers. I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah.”

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In the essay, Totah reveals that growing up, she found herself identifying as one of the girls, not one of the boys. When she began acting, that continued. “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,” she wrote. “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.”

She didn’t make the correction at first, out of fear. However, that all changed three years ago, when Totah was 14. She was watching I am Jazz, the story of Jazz Jennings’ transition, with her mother.

“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,’” Totah wrote. “My mother, who is immensely supportive and gracious, said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ Three days later I was meeting with my pediatrician, who referred me to a specialist, who put me on a hormone blocker. From that point on, I hit the ground running.”

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The Jessie alum also added that identifying as a transgender female did not “just happen” and was not “a choice.”

“When I was 5, long before I understood what the word gender meant, I would always tell my mother that I wished I were a girl,” she noted. “Since I could speak in full sentences, I was like, ‘Give me a dress!’”

She opened up in the essay about the anxiety she felt for hiding who she was and “lying” to those who believed she was a gay boy. “I hid the girls’ clothes I really wanted to wear under sweatpants and sweatshirts. And I had an enormous fear of male puberty. Once I got on the hormone blocker, which basically stopped my testosterone, that part changed. I wasn’t waking up every day and panicking,” the former Back in the Game star wrote. “’Is there hair on my face? Is my voice getting deeper?’ Those changes are very hard, if not impossible, to reverse. And I knew that I was giving myself what I needed, that I didn’t have to be afraid of that anymore.”

‘Champions’ Star J.J. Totah Comes Out as Transgender: ‘My Name Is Josie’
J.J. Totah on Glee. Courtesy of FOX

Totah also looked back on her time on Glee in 2015, calling Lea Michele “fabulous.”

“It was fun to see her and the other girls wear dresses and put on lavish musical numbers. But it was also hard, because I wanted that to be me. It’s a feeling I’ve experienced in nearly every project I’ve worked on,” she wrote.

Now, Totah will continue her acting career but also go to college and is excited about what’s next.

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“I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy,” she wrote. “I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate — and a new world.”

Totah’s Champions costar Mindy Kaling retweeted the story with a message. “I love you, Josie. I’m so glad you’re able to speak your truth and live as your authentic self,” Kaling wrote. “You’re also so damn talented – I can’t wait to write for you again!”

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