Eva Reign Thomas is a 21-year-old senior studying design at the University of Missouri, and is a campus ambassador for GLAAD. She shared her transition story with AwesomenessTV in hopes of raising awareness about the realities of trans lives.
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By Eva Reign Thomas, as told to Cara E. Sprunk
When I was little, every day before school I would watch my mom put on her makeup, and I always thought that it was the most amazing thing ever. To me, my mom was the most beautiful thing ever — she still is. One day I thought to myself, “I’m going to go ahead and do what she does.”
I was three or four. I hopped up on the bathroom counter, and I sat in front of the mirror. I grabbed her lipstick, I grabbed her mascara, and I put it on. I even kissed the mirror with my horribly painted lips.
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I strutted out of the bathroom, and I walked into the kitchen. The first thing I heard was my mother scream. Then my brother was like, “Oh my god.” And then my father stormed in, and he started yelling. Then, everyone grabbed me and started wiping the makeup off of me and saying things like, “This is what girls do,” and “I don’t know what possessed you to do this.”
That was one of the first times I really was just not sure exactly what gender was or how I fit into it. It was just a really violent thing. It was weird to go from this moment of having fun and everything being fine, then suddenly everyone attacking me. I felt so good before everyone’s reaction.
This didn’t stop me. There are many other moments where I played around with gender — like when I would put on my mom’s shoes every day. Or I would put a dress on or put on my granny’s wig. Even though I was policed, I still never stopped showing signs of just wanting to express my feminine side. But I definitely felt like I was doing something wrong, and I usually tried to do it in secret.
I came out as gay at the age of 14, seven years ago. However, the day that I came out to myself as gay, I kind of took it another step and was like, “No, actually I’m a girl.” Then I instantly just felt all this dread. I was like, “Actually, okay, you can’t do that. I literally cannot say that. I am in this very rich, white suburb.” And at least as far as I could tell, there weren’t any other trans people around me.
At the time, it seemed like everybody was fine with someone being assigned male at birth who acted very effeminately and who liked guys. I felt like that was the most that I could do, and it felt very safe there, for a long time.
Even now I think back and things were easier in a sense, because when you’re queer but you still are cisgender, there is a lot of privilege there. There is a lot that you don’t necessarily have to think about — you don’t have to think about going on hormones. You don’t have to think about having surgery — about literally changing your whole wardrobe.
As far as coming out, once I became okay with having this attraction towards men, I didn’t really much need to hide it. My parents definitely had a feeling that I liked guys, and my mom told me multiple times that if I was gay that she would be totally fine with it. So I thought this shouldn’t be much of an issue, although it really was. It was honestly years before my family was cool with it. It was literally years.
My given middle name was after my uncle, who was gay and died of HIV about five months before I was born. That was really hard for my father to go through. It was hard for everyone to go through, because they say that he was the most loved out of all of my father’s siblings. So once I said I was gay, my father just lost it, and he was saying all these things, just really out of fear. I try not to think too much about it.
Over the summer, I posted a picture with the gay pride flag, and it was up for like a month before anything was said about it. But one day, my brother called me and said, “Listen, you shouldn’t show this to the whole world. You don’t want everyone to know about this.”
I was just thinking to myself, “It’s not a secret; it was never a secret, and you shouldn’t be making me feel ashamed of who I am.”
In that same vein, I was sitting there and going, “You know, if you guys don’t like me being gay, you are in for something new in just about a month when I come out as trans.”
I haven’t formally told my father or brother that I am a trans woman. I told my mom a couple of times before she was okay with it. When I first told her that I was a trans woman, she said, “Oh, this is usually something that people feel at a young age and there are signs and these things don’t just go away.” I thought, “Um, well that same thing applies to me.”
I told her the story about the makeup. I told her that there were different moments throughout my life where I said, “I’m a girl — this is why.”
She’d say, “You know, I think you’re just letting people around you fill you with all these thoughts,” or “Listen, I’m very happy that you are involved with things that pertain to queer and trans issues, but I don’t want you taking this too far.”
I wrote her a letter in July of this year and basically said I can’t spend the rest of my life trying to please you or anybody else — I have to just put myself first. Once I sent that letter, it was a very emotional reaction, but after a couple of weeks she was like, “Okay, you are doing this, and I’m going to be here for you.”
We’re actually at a pretty good place right now. When she told her sister, our cousins, and other women in her life about me, she said, “This is Eva, she is really happy. She is doing fine. Don’t you all think that she’s really pretty?”
When she said that I was like, “Oh my gosh, you said ‘she.’ You used my name, and you said that I’m pretty — that’s amazing!” I mean, things aren’t perfect, but just thinking about how far we’ve come in less than six months — I think that’s amazing.
I am so much more confident since I came out as trans, but there are definitely days where I’m like, “Life was so much easier when I was just gay.”
And I even have some passing privilege: I’m pretty skinny. I’m 5’1’’ — so people can’t really tell. The first time that I was really presenting differently was in Chicago in August. I was visiting my sister, and my sister did my hair. I was walking around alone, and nobody saw me as trans. I even had men trying to pick me up.
My biggest fear has to do with the fact that the average life expectancy for trans women is 35. I want to live longer than that. I want to live a long, happy, healthy life, just like anybody else. I don’t want to live my life in fear — granted, I do.
I’m very cautious about where I am, what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with. I really don’t go out much. I definitely would like to, but, I mean, I’m in the middle of Missouri — this isn’t really the place to be. If I do go out, I make sure that it’s a night that’s pretty busy where there will be a lot of people.
I want to move to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, or Miami — just somewhere big. Somewhere where I know has a large population of trans people. I’m hoping that I can just meet other girls like me. I have a lot of friends who are always in my corner, but I can’t really talk to them about trans things, because that’s not what they’re going through.
Even with people who are trans masculine and white, we are on totally opposite ends. I can talk to them about more like general trans things, but there is just a lot that I have to go through to split the intersection of being a woman, being black, and being trans.
I feel alone at times, and that’s a hard thing to navigate, so I’m definitely looking forward to when I can move away and can find other people who are walking the same walk, and we can figure things out together.