#62: Author, speaker and transgender advocate, Jeremy Wallace shares his candid story of transitioning - Jenn T. Grace—Book Publisher, Speaker, and Author Skip to the content

#62: Author, speaker and transgender advocate, Jeremy Wallace shares his candid story of transitioning

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AUDIO TITLE: Episode #62 – Jeremy Wallace Interview

Jenn T Grace:

So yeah, so let’s just dive right in and let me ask you the first question which is if you could just share with the listeners of this podcast just a little bit about your story. So if you want to talk about what your path looked like that led you to the place you are today, talk a little bit about your professional past, your personal past. Really just kind of what makes you the Jeremy Wallace that we know today.

Jeremy Wallace:

Okay, wonderful. Well I am almost 44 years old, and I can say that about three years ago was the first time that I experienced what it was like to be truly happy. And that was because I had been pretty much immersed into my transition from female to male. And so growing up in the seventies I didn’t know anything about transgender issues, I never had heard the word before, I just was a miserable kid all the time. There was pockets of, you know, smiles and good times, but for the most part I would say this dark cloud just followed me everywhere. I couldn’t figure out why I never felt normal, I never felt like I fit in my skin, and just as I got older and more mature and a little more life under my belt, I started to realize that what was happening was the reason why I was miserable is because when I would look in the mirror, I always expected to see something different looking back at me. So I would pick myself apart, and I couldn’t- and it started to unravel and realized that the stuff I was feeling- and I always felt like I was a little boy when I was growing up. That that’s who I really am. And I decided then at 37 to actually really dive into this with just all faith; just basically jump into an empty pool and hope there’s water kind of experience. And that’s what I did. So at 37 I made the life-changing, the life-affirming decision to transition. And I would say that it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s really- that’s really awesome. And I know that you have written a book, and I think a lot of my listeners know that I do work with a lot of authors or people who are professional speakers, or their desire is to become a professional speaker. And you were kind enough to send me your book, and I personally was just blown away by the quality. So I do know a lot of people who have written books, and not to discount anyone’s quality of anyone’s book, but even your book compared to mine, like just the quality just is completely superior, it’s just awesome. So can you just share I guess a little bit about that process of how you came to wanting to actually put your story in writing so others can learn from it?

Jeremy Wallace:

Sure. And first of all, thank you for that compliment, that was very, very sweet. I would say that I- when I first transitioned, in fact I remember even this almost verbatim coming out of my mouth. There’s no way I’m going to be a poster child for this. And well, as all things in life, things change. So not that I consider myself a poster child but I am choosing to be highly visible. How that came about was once I settled into my own skin, I would tell people about certain things that happened while I was transitioning. Funny things that would happen. And as I told the stories people were actually real intrigued and I found that by me telling stories, that that broke through that kind of uncomfortableness between when people were like, “Ooh, I’m not really sure what- what you’re going through. I don’t think I’ve ever met somebody who’s transgender. This seems a little weird.” But as I would tell stories and they realized that you know, I do things and I experience things just like they would, I am no different. And with a little bit of humor they actually then kind of started to relax and that was a really big breakthrough. I then had someone tell me, “You know these stories, you should write this down.” And I’m thinking, ‘Who would want to actually hear this story?’ But it just kept kind of ringing in the back of my mind like, well maybe I should. And then someone, actually a friend said, “You know I think if you tell these stories, that might be a really nice thing for someone who is thinking about going through this as well. That maybe they won’t feel as alone as you said you had felt.” And that was the thing that kind of clicked for me. So as I started to write it took me one calendar year from the first word written to actually having books in hand; I just committed to this and that’s been my whole goal. Is that I’m at a place where I’m happy, I am secure with who I am, and I’m ready to take that leap of faith again that I can tell my story candidly, all the good, bad and ugly, in hopes that maybe someone else won’t feel alone. Someone else won’t feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m crazy.’ I’m hoping that I can tell the story so someone else doesn’t have to. Because it’s being visible and telling your story is not for everyone. Some people could lose their job, their family, whatever. Whatever the risk might be too great. But I have an amazing network of support and I know I’m not going to lose anybody, and so I’m ready to take that step and speak out and be visible and educate others so that someone doesn’t have to.

Jenn T Grace:

I feel like that is so incredibly important. I guess from your perspective, do you see that there is just a lack of visibility around the trans community on a national, or I guess even global level? Do you just see that there’s just very few people as role models for others to kind of look up to?

Jeremy Wallace:

I do. But what’s interesting is I’m seeing such a shift and a change just recently. Obviously with Bruce Jenner coming out as a transgender woman, I think that’s a very positive step for the transgender community because he is so well known and especially for a very- what was perceived as a very macho manly persona. I think that it is incredible for the transgender community, however you know that can’t ride just on his shoulders. There is a lack of visibility I think because of fear. That was the reason why it took me so long, you know I was 37 when I first started transitioning, and that’s I think the common thread that I hear most often is everyone is so fearful that right now the world doesn’t- is not a safe place for everyone to be visible, to speak up, to make this change. I think that’s going to get better for sure, but I think as more and more people like myself stand up, tell the story, and own it and are confident about it, and say, “This is who I am. Love me or leave me, no big deal.” That’s when we’re going to see a shift that is going to be safer and more people are going to actually finally have a chance to be happy.

Jenn T Grace:

I would definitely agree with pretty much all of what you were just saying. Do you- do you think that it really is a matter of having more people like yourself that are visible versus like we now have Bruce Jenner. And a lot of the listeners I have are allies to the community. So they actually might be confused by the fact that you still refer to Bruce as a ‘he’ even though he came out as a transgender woman. And I know for me, watching that interview was just- it was great because it’s on prime time, he’s talking with Diane Sawyer who’s just such a well-respected journalist. And I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Well why hasn’t the pronoun changed?” And my answer- and I’ll be curious to hear what yours is. But my answer is that he did not specifically say to call him anything different in that interview. Like he said that he was coming out as trans but he did not actually correct anyone and say, “I now want to be referred to as she.” I’m guessing what’s going to happen is that when the new show begins to air, and I don’t remember what channel it’s on, I think it’s on like Bravo or E! or something like that. I assume that then the messaging around the proper pronoun will come out, but do you see anything different other than what I’ve seem to have noticed?

Jeremy Wallace:

I’m really glad that you brought that up, because even when I was talking about that and I said ‘he’ I realized that I probably should have clarified that. In the interview he specifically said for right now to still use the pronouns ‘he,’ ‘him,’ and ‘his.’ I’ve got to tell you I understand why he did that, because that interview that he did with Diane Sawyer was like a first coming out to announce his intention to transition, and to say to the world, “I am this- I am a woman.” However we don’t have a name, and from what I was watching, it was just a verbal coming out, but there is- he alluded to that there’s going to be an actual coming out of kind of an unveiling of her and that he wanted to have the pronouns match when he looks like her. I understand that because I remember when I first transitioned and came out it was difficult because I had basically just made that commitment verbally out loud to people, and said, “Hey this is- I’m going to use this name now, go by ‘he’ but I didn’t look any different and it really was difficult for everyone else to transition around me, because they kept messing up the pronouns because I didn’t look any different. Not to say that when he unveils her that he will look drastically different, but it’s possible. So I think that’s why he- and it’s speculation on my part, why he did that. But I will add that personally I kind of felt like it confused people more about being transgender than I had kind of hoped for that interview to do. Again it’s such a personal issue, but for me I just remember that even though I didn’t look any different, I stuck to my guns and I jumped in, and I did it. I’m really hoping that all of this isn’t more build up just because of a TV show.

Jenn T Grace:

I hope so as well.

Jeremy Wallace:

Yeah.

Jenn T Grace:

I’ve had a handful of conversations with people about it, and I actually had a Twitter- not Twitter, a Facebook conversation kind of blow up on my own personal page, not even on my business page. When- and my comment was simple of you know, ‘You should be watching Diane Sawyer right now.’ I kept it really vague and it wasn’t even my intention really to say anything vague. But the somebody that I’m connected to who I previously thought was an ally to the community said some really hurtful things. Like really just kind of damaging and I was really proud to see a good amount of people that I am friends with kind of rally around the fact that this is Bruce’s journey and she is not the one to decide what he can and can’t say. And her point was something to the effect of, ‘Well it’s so convenient that he’s coming out and has a show that’s going along with this.’ And in my opinion, honestly, good for him. If he can make a show out of this that educates a lot of people, then by all means. And I don’t- and it’s not like he would come out- he wouldn’t be doing this just for publicity I guess is what my point is trying to be. That people aren’t just going to randomly decide that they’re going to transition just so they can get a reality show. Like that would just be ridiculous. So I feel like, you know it’s his journey and to a certain degree we have to allow him to come out and transition as he feels appropriate, just like for what you were saying, like you had- you had to do it on your terms and your time. And everyone is different, I don’t think there’s any one same coming out story, even moreso any one common transitioning story. And I think that it’s just a matter of kind of trying to be open and receptive to he’s not an expert, just because he’s part of the community doesn’t now necessarily make him an expert on the community, but he is in a very high profile public light so people are going to hold him- or people within the community are going to hold him to like really high standards is kind of how I’m seeing it.

Jeremy Wallace:

I completely agree. And even after I said that and that’s what I was thinking, however if I was already famous and had the opportunity for such a large platform to tell my story, I would do it. And I think there isn’t anyone amongst the transgender community who’s willing to be visible who wouldn’t actually if they had that chance just dropped in their lap wouldn’t take it.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah-

Jeremy Wallace:

Honestly it’s no different than you know, I’ve chosen my book is my platform that I stand on. And for Bruce, it happens to be this TV show. I think a lot of good is going to come of it and what I’m hoping is that some of the confusion again about the pronouns and why there was kind of a gap in his transition in terms of what the public sees, will be explained. And it probably will be.

Jenn T Grace:

I can’t imagine it won’t be, and I think the community at large would be up in arms if it wasn’t. So I feel like to a certain degree like it’s inevitable that it will be explained. But I agree, I think that- you know I have a couple of clients who are trans, and if I can get anyone of them to a public platform the size that Bruce has, that would be amazing. I say everyone should be pimping themselves out- like if you have a message and you feel strongly about that message, and you can make money by spreading that message that is something that is for the greater good, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think that that’s just kind of like Business 101 where we do things to make money and better the community. So he just happens to have a much larger platform than most the rest of us do. But that doesn’t make it any more- any less appropriate for him to leverage that status; I say more power to him to be honest.

Jeremy Wallace:

I agree. And honestly as I was watching that special, I kept thinking about, ‘Gosh here I was thinking that my transition and my coming out was so huge,’ it was in my circles. I can’t imagine- I honestly cannot imagine having to go through this transition in the public eye. It’s remarkable honestly, I have so much respect for Bruce.

Jenn T Grace:

I do as well because it’s been pretty apparent for awhile now that something was changing, and I think that it’s really- I can’t imagine that was an easy interview to have. Like that is some serious high pressure stuff knowing that everybody is watching this. There’s no- I feel like the Kardashians, which I feel like is somewhat part of what is wrong with our country, but I will leave those opinions for another show. Just so many people watched that stupid show, so there’s such a huge platform of people that I don’t think that they would be educated any other way. So it’s almost a blessing that he is associated with the Kardashians which is such a crazy statement.

Jeremy Wallace:

But I agree with it. I honestly agree with that statement.

Jenn T Grace:

It’s nuts. So I guess my next question- I’m trying to figure out what a good natural transition from here is because you know we’re talking about this really timely topic and by the time this interview is actually airing it’s probably going to be right around the time where that show is starting to air as well. So this will be even I guess more timely. So I know that in your book, and I guess this is another question about the book, is again it’s so high quality which is just amazing. But inside you have a full color insert in the center of the book that really just kind of chronicles your transition from early child to present day. How exposing was that for you to decide to include that in your book? Because I feel like just having that tangible visible way to see someone transition is so important as an educational tool for people to actually kind of wrap their heads around what it’s like to transition. Because I feel like all too often you have people on- in the public eye like Laverne Cox or Janet Mock who are both absolutely gorgeous trans women. But yet we don’t really see a whole lot of the prior to who they are now. Like their before state. And I feel like they are just such high profile celebrities and they’re always looking gorgeous, always have tons of makeup on. So you see the public persona but you don’t really see any of the behind the scenes. So I feel like that’s where as the low men on the totem pole, people like you and I, where people see everything. Whether we intend it or not, because we’re not polished and prim and proper at all times. So that I think for you, my guess would be it would be a little more exposing because you didn’t have to do that. You chose to do that. So did you have a particular reason for why, or did you just feel compelled to do it? Like what was the- I guess your mindset around doing it that way?

Jeremy Wallace:

I think the biggest motivator was the fact that even when I’m reading- I would read a lot of books about transgender people and issues, and I kept reading these books and I’m like, ‘I’m like everyone else and I’m curious.’ And that’s just a fact of life. I get that. And I’m telling all these stories, and some of them are funny, and I realize like I have a picture of that moment, or something around that story, and I’m like, ‘Wouldn’t that be better to have someone read the story but also actually have- instead of trying to create their own image in their mind, I’ll give it to them. And as I started to pick through all kinds of pictures, most of these pictures I had not looked at in so many years, and I’m glad I didn’t throw them away. I was tempted to many times to just have- erase my past. But I kept them and as I started to dig through and write this book, it was really amazing for myself to go back and almost relive these experiences again, and see the looks on my faces and I thought it was a very therapeutic process, and as I started to dig I kept thinking, ‘Well this one’s kind of- I want to put this in there, I want to put it in there.’ Next thing I know I’ve got four pages of pictures, and I thought, ‘Well I’m going to leave them all in.’ And some of them, you know, it was embarrassing to have when I had my beard transplant done, to- I mean that’s very kind of exposing itself because you look terrible. But it is so profound for me and important to me, and people always ask me, “Well did it hurt? What did it look like?” And I’m like, “Well here you go.”

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. I think it’s just- I personally think it’s fantastic and I have a client, Tony Ferraiolo who has a documentary called ‘A Self Made Man,’ and when this airs which will be the beginning of July, his documentary was airing on PBS in June around kind of Pride Month. But I am so- I feel so grateful to know him, but I also am so pleased that his documentary actually was able to weave in footage from him prior to his transition. Because I feel like it just makes you seem more human. Like and I don’t know what- a more appropriate way to say that, but it just humanizes people to be able to kind of see their struggles. And I think that a lot of people kind of like that, being able to watch somebody in one stage and see them kind of flourishing and emerging as something different but really still exactly the same, if that even makes sense, I feel like I’m not even making sense at the moment.

Jeremy Wallace:

That does make sense though. I was just talking with someone yesterday about my journey and she’s a photographer doing a different project and we were talking about looking at someone’s eyes and she took a picture of just my eyes and I’ve had many people say that where they’ll see pictures from before, and meet me now, and they’re like, “Gosh I never would have known,” is the first thing they say. And then they’re like, “But then- but I can see- I can still see you there.” You know in both instances. And at first I used to be like, “Oh no I don’t want anyone to ever see the old me.” But then I was like, “But that’s still me.” And it’s important, it is how I became Jeremy. I needed all of that experience, I needed all of those pictures that you see. It’s just an evolution and I just kind of evolved a little bit differently than other people. But I’m still the same person. I think a better version, and I’ve just learned to actually enjoy all aspects of my life now.

Jenn T Grace:

And when somebody says to you, “I would have never known.” Is that while we know that they’re coming from a place of good intention, is that something that you find to be offensive, or how do you typically feel when somebody says that. Or are there any other kind of triggering expressions that while they may not mean any harm by them, they’re actually a little bit hurtful. Is there anything that you can think of?

Jeremy Wallace:

Well I get that all the time. People will be like, “Really? I didn’t know. I never would have known.” And my reaction is usually- it depends on the person. If it’s a really close friend that I have known only post-transition, if we’re close enough I may say, “Hey well you know obviously that’s the point. I mean I don’t want to walk around with a billboard like, ‘You know I bet you used to be a girl.’ You know I don’t want that experience for sure. However but it’s also a teachable moment. So like I understand that that’s what you mean, but I think people are missing the point. I have yet to come up with something better to say, because I get it, I really do get it and I am probably not like the normal person where I give a lot of leeway. I think it’s because I’ve chosen to be very visible that I know I’m going to get a brunt of a lot of the dumbest questions ever, and it just comes with territory. So I take it as a teachable moment, I try not to get angry about it, and just say, “Hey just so you know, maybe next time if you meet someone, maybe don’t even say that at all. You can think it, I can’t tell you what to think. But you know just be a little more mindful that just realize that now the person is- that’s who you- you are meeting someone authentically, that’s who they are, just leave it at that.”

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. And I don’t know- and I’ve had this conversation with people before. But I feel like there is something hardwired in the brain that makes it actually difficult for people to kind of just switch their perception of something to something the opposite in a very short order. So for example if I met you ten years ago and I met you as your former self, and then I was with you through the transition or if we went distant for a few years and then you kind of re-emerged and all of a sudden here you are as Jeremy. In my mind I don’t know why, but I can just completely just flip that switch. So yes I was saying ‘she’ before, now I have to say ‘he.’ In my mind like it’s really easy for me just to kind of flip the switch, it’s like okay ‘he.’ So when I meet trans people on a regular basis, whatever people introduce themselves as to me, even if their- maybe their voice or the style of their clothing, or the way they’re presenting themselves may not necessarily match exactly what you would expect; for me it’s very easy to just go with whatever somebody has told me is their preference. However I have noticed that the vast majority of people have a very hard time, and they struggle with being able to kind of flip that switch and just go with what somebody’s saying because there’s some kind of like internal- it’s like an unconscious bias almost. It’s not something that they’re trying to do on purpose where they’re saying- you know they’re saying, ‘She, she, she, she, she,’ even though no one has ever introduced themselves as such. Have you noticed that or experienced that at all? Because I just feel like it happens so often in even social circles, even in just kind of casual conversations that I have. And it’s like well I don’t understand why you can’t just acknowledge that this person introduced themselves as ‘he’ and respect that for face value. Do you have that happen?

Jeremy Wallace:

I do have that happen. And I don’t understand it either, honestly. I’ve had people who have met me now and you know if you go to my website or anything else and see me, you wouldn’t know. And then when they find out, then I’ve had people then all of a sudden after a year of knowing them, slip and call me ‘she.’

Jenn T Grace:

That would drive me crazy.

Jeremy Wallace:

And those are the moments I don’t let slip by. Because I always want to know why? What was it- what switched in your brain to refer to me as something- someone that you’ve never met before?

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Jeremy Wallace:

And a lot of it is then they’re embarrassed, but I think what it comes down to is they’re uncomfortable, and now that they know something about me, that shifts their perception on who I am. I don’t like when it happens but it does happen. And then my back story becomes the forefront, and that’s now what’s stuck in their mind. It’s kind of like saying you know, “Hey don’t look at somebody with that something on their face.” And what do you do? It’s all you stare at.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, it’s a good way of framing it. Yeah, it’s interesting and my audience, I do have a good mix of people who are part of the community, but I also have a large following of allies who listen to this show because they want to just kind of learn how to better themselves in terms of how to communicate or how to market to the LGBT community. So I’m sure- I’m hoping already just from the little bit that we’ve been talking that there’s just so many I think good key takeaways already. But I guess from your personal experience as someone who’s part of the community, as someone who is a consumer of other goods and services; is there anything that you see people kind of fall into- like into a trap where you see from a distance that they have good intentions but they just kind of come about it all wrong in terms of whether they’re trying to market to the community, whether it’s some type of language that they’re saying that’s inappropriate but they don’t really know it’s inappropriate. But is there any I guess if you could give an ally one tip, is there one particular thing that kind of just pops in your mind that you’re like, “Ugh, I wish all allies just knew this.” Is there something there that you have?

Jeremy Wallace:

Oh boy to narrow it down to one? That’s difficult.

Jenn T Grace:

That’s hilarious.

Jeremy Wallace:

You know but I think the first thing that popped into my head was I think I see it so commonly is that people, they try so hard, but they over-try, and they trip themselves up. And what I mean by that is once they find out that I’m transgender, and all of a sudden it’s like, “Oh well you know I’ve very supportive, I’m this, I’m that.” They’re trying to justify something, and I’m not sure what that is. And I usually just tell people, “You know, just relax. You met me before and we were friends or we had a good rapport at work. I’m going to give you some time to reflect on that, but nothing is going to change, it’s just going to get better because I want you to know that the reason I told you is because you know I wanted our relationship in business or personal to go a little bit deeper and I wanted to share something about myself, and be more truthful and open with you.” And I would say that if everyone can just be mindful and just respect that, and just step back and digest it, and it’s not a big deal. Don’t over-try, if you make mistakes just say, “Oh I’m sorry, I’m trying.” Don’t keep going, don’t trip over your words, don’t make it worse, don’t dig the hole deeper.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Jeremy Wallace:

And just be honest, and ask- it’s okay to ask questions as long as the questions are very respectful and they’re questions that you yourself would want to be asked by a stranger.

Jenn T Grace:

I love that advice, because I say something to that exact effect in if not one- I know it’s in one of my books, if not both. And I think- and it’s great to have, like being able to hear it directly from someone because I know earlier on you were saying something about just kind of the curiosity factor. And I know for me when I meet lesbians who have children, I’m just as curious as to who or how they came to be having children. And I know people are curious of the same when they meet my wife and our children. But to that point you just made, it’s one of those things like would you want this questions asked to you? Would you want to openly invite that- sometimes criticism? Because Lord knows people have opinions and they’re not afraid to share them usually. So in that I guess situation where the advice would be to just kind of own it, right? I feel like stop digging the hole, don’t get six feet under, like just stop, chill out and kind of reset yourself. So if somebody were to say- or I guess, let me try to figure out how to phrase the question. If somebody is talking with you and they don’t know what pronoun to use. You as a trans person, how- what level of offense would you take, if any, of somebody just kind of saying, “You know I’m sorry, I just want to-” and I’m using you as an example, but just generally speaking. You know, “I’m sorry, I don’t really know what I should or shouldn’t say. But you know what would you prefer that I call you?” Is that something that you would be open to hearing and respect, or is that something that you would find to be offensive?

Jeremy Wallace:

I actually would be thrilled if somebody asked. And I think that most people in the transgender community would be happy as well. Because what that says to me is you want to get it right. You want to know me, who I truly am, and you’re not afraid to say, “Hey, I just don’t know.” To me that’s a very honest and wonderful way to approach somebody. I’ve just kind of gotten into the habit I think because the community that I’m in is you know, a lot of times if I want to know someone else’s preferred gender pronouns, and I’m not sure how they’ll take it, I will introduce myself and I will offer that up as a way of I’m just setting the tone for this conversation, so don’t take it personal just because I can’t figure you out. And I will say, “Hey I’m Jeremy, just so you know I prefer ‘he, him and his.'” And you can see the relief on other people’s faces, like if they don’t know I’m trans they at least say, “Oh my gosh this is an ally who gets it.” And I’ve found it’s a very interesting way to kind of go through this so I’m not the one going out asking other people, I’m offering it up.

Jenn T Grace:

That- I feel like that is beautiful because I had a hunch that you were going to respond as I thought. Because this is what I advise others to do when they are in that uncomfortable situation, they don’t really know what to do. I always just say, “Just be honest, just be your authentic self and if you don’t know, just ask the question because people are going to respect you more for having asked the question than make an assumption and get it wrong.” But I think that- and I did not guess what you were going to say about you kind of opening that conversation by just saying, “I prefer ‘he, him, his.'” So would you advise that same kind of- I don’t want to say strategy because that sounds too marketing. But would you advise that same type of approach to just your typical ally to the community; not somebody who’s part- not somebody who’s L, G or B, but just somebody who might be a straight person who is at an event and they have that- they have that concern and they’re not really sure how to handle it? Because I think what you just described kind of diffuses the entire intensity of a potential situation.

Jeremy Wallace:

I would absolutely offer that up as a great way to approach any community, honestly. Because when I’ve gone to different workshops and conventions and such that are around the LGBT community, it’s now kind of more commonplace that I’ve noticed on my nametags that it will have your name and your preferred gender pronouns.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Jeremy Wallace:

And you know we’re talking- I went to this thing in Washington D.C. and there was probably 700 people there, all with that. I guarantee that there were straight allies in that room. And what I appreciated is when they first came in, when they first got their nametag- their name badge I’m imagining that they’re like, “Why is that on there?” Probably thinking, ‘Can’t you tell?’

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah.

Jeremy Wallace:

And that’s the moment that I’m hoping that people register that. Like you have people- you have to understand outside of the transgender community, being cisgender, there’s a privilege to when you want into a room, you’re not misgendered typically. And all this is, is bringing that so that right off the gate you know you almost kind of bridge that where you’re letting me have a little bit of that privilege, and it feels wonderful. It feels far worse to be misgendered than to be asked what I want to be called by.

Jenn T Grace:

So can you- I think that’s just beautifully stated, by the way. Can you- especially talking about the privilege. Like people really- like that really is a privilege when you think about it. Can you describe what cisgender might be? Because I have a hunch that some listening might not know what that actually means.

Jeremy Wallace:

Sure. Cisgender- and honestly this is a term that only the last couple of years have I ever even heard. So cisgender basically just means that you- you identify your gender identity matches up to the gender that you were assigned at birth. So basically anybody who is not transgender.

Jenn T Grace:

That is probably the simplest way I’ve heard it said, that’s beautiful, yes. Because I’ve heard it quite a bit, and I actually- I wrote about this in my first book. I remember the first day I was asked, or the first time I was asked what that means, and I was completely caught off guard. I had no clue. I’m like, ‘What am I missing? How do I-‘ and it was on an application for a volunteer position. And I had to actually look it up, but I said, “You know what, I honestly don’t know.” Because they’re like, “Oh you’re the professional lesbian, you’ll know this.” And this was actually before I actually claimed the full professional lesbian title, so this was probably I would say at least five years ago. And when I looked it up I’m like, “Oh that makes perfect sense,” but it sounds so clinical, you know? It’s one of those words I feel like not a lot of people know. So why don’t we I guess let’s talk about your motivation, and inspiration. Because as we’re talking just kind of like basic interactions that you’re having with people, there are days that I am certain are just emotionally or physically exhausting to you. Is there some specific thing or just kind of some belief that you have that just kind of keeps you motivated and kind of heading in your true north?

Jeremy Wallace:

There is, and you’re right. There are days where being visible and being someone else’s teachable moment is exhausting. But then there are those moments where just recently I received an email through my website, and it was actually another- a trans guy in a group that I belong to that I hadn’t actually ever talked to. But he emailed me to say that he really appreciated that I was in the group, and that you know he’s been having a very difficult time, very early in transition he doesn’t feel trans enough in this group which I thought was interesting. And just reached out to say that you know, thanked me for being visible and speaking up because it made him feel like it was going to get better. And those are the moments where then everything comes together and my original focus is crystal clear, and that’s who I wrote this book for. Was the people that are suffering, and the people that need help. And that’s what keeps me focused, and it’s just a wonderful thing that it usually happens when I’ve had a very exhausting, difficult day or week, then all of a sudden it has these little moments where somebody will reach out to me and ask for help or just say, “Hey I just want to let you know, hey I’m thinking of transitioning too. What do you think?” And that’s huge to reach out to a stranger and actually either say those words via email, but you’re still saying those words.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah. I feel like in that regard we definitely have the similarities. I was at an event recently, I was doing a book signing, and it wasn’t a huge amount of people, but to me it’s really I’m all about the quality of people who are in the room and if I can touch or make an impact on that one person who might be struggling somehow, then I feel like it’s such a win. And recently at this event I had this woman come up to me who had mentioned that she saw an article that was in the local Hartford Courant here in Connecticut and she had cut it out and actually hung it on the cubicle wall at work to kind of reference as like I’m LGBT in this workplace, that I don’t necessarily feel as open and as included as I could be. And she actually has my article hanging as like a source of inspiration for her, which I think is so humbling and just so- like you really don’t know what kind of impact you’re making on people, and I’m sure like now I feel like your book came out not too long ago, and you’re like really at the beginning of this journey. And it is going to kind of boom. But there are so many people that you’re already making an impact on that you have no idea. Like it’s just amazing that there’s only a select few people who actually reach out and say, “Hey you’ve done this for me.” Or, “Hey you’ve- I saw what you did and that’s really had a profound impact on my life.” It’s just such a- I think such a rewarding feeling, so when you do have those days where maybe it’s like a fifteen hour day and you have not stopped the entire day, and you’re just exhausted, hearing those small stories of how you’ve helped somebody in some way, I feel like is what makes it all worth it, the entire thing.

Jeremy Wallace:

I completely agree. And it’s amazing where you’re exhausted when you hear that news, but all of a sudden it’s just like a jolt of adrenaline, and you have all this energy back.

Jenn T Grace:

Mm hmmm, yeah it’s pretty amazing. It’s just- it’s so- and I think it’s rewarding too because I’m sure if you haven’t felt this way yet, you will. But there are some days that you’re like, ‘I feel like I’m talking to just the universe and like I’m yelling out but nothing’s coming back.’ Like there are days like that, and then you find out that something really amazing has happened and you’ve changed the way somebody is doing his or her job in the workplace; and it’s just- it’s so awesome in so many ways.

Jeremy Wallace:

Yeah, just over the weekend I was at a function and there was a gay couple there and one of the gentlemen- and I don’t know him well but he said to me, “You know I just want to let you know that I really enjoyed your book launch event” where I spoke for about an hour, and he was there. And he said, “I have your flyer up by my desk at work.” And this is now two months later. And I looked at him almost dumbfounded and I’m like, “Why? Why do you have my flyer?” He said, “I keep it there for inspiration because I want to let you know your story is so courageous and when I feel like I can’t do something, I look at that flyer and realize I can do anything I want.”

Jenn T Grace:

Wow.

Jeremy Wallace:

And I was like, “Are you kidding me?” You know what I mean? It just really took me aback as well, and I- when you said humbled, I mean I am so humbled and I’m shocked honestly. But I’m very touched.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah it’s just- it’s moments like that, that make being professionally out and visible for a community of people all worthwhile.

Jeremy Wallace:

Agreed.

Jenn T Grace:

So I would love to- because we’re getting around the 45 minute-ish mark, try to kind of bring it all together. So can you just share I guess a little bit more about your book, and maybe what your plans are as an author, and as a speaker? So that way if somebody is listening right now and they’re just really interested in knowing more about your story or how they could potentially have you come speak to some of their people, how would they kind of go about doing that? And what kind of offerings do you have?

Jeremy Wallace:

Okay, perfect. So when I set out to write my book which is titled, ‘Taking the Scenic Route to Manhood: A Journey of Change and Transformation,’ I wasn’t sure how I was going to put all of the stories and the experiences together; they were just kind of all just rolling around in my brain. But when I sat down what I thought I would do is basically tell the story of from the day I was born all the way up to kind of present day. And the reason that I told such much back story was because all of it was relevant as I started to look over my life. Every moment that I’ve had has set me up to be the successful man that I am today, and I didn’t want to leave anything out. And my intention and my hope going forward with this book is that anyone could read it whether they are transgender themselves and have transitioned long ago, they can almost read that and reminisce about their own journey. Someone who’s maybe questioning, this will make them feel less alone, and maybe put some of the questions they have in their head, kind of put them at ease. As well as I thought about my family, and those who in essence transitioned right along with me without me really realizing. That they can get a better understanding of what I was going through, why I was probably a big jerk most of that time, and also even for people who are just curious. They’ve been hearing what transgender people are going through, they’re not really sure if they know anyone who is, and this is a great place that it’s not a clinical book, it’s just a nice story, it’s my story, it’s a true story, and hopefully it will just answer questions and educate more people. I’m hoping to have many more occasions for speaking engagements. I can speak to groups of- you know small groups of like high school classes I’ve spoken to, all the way up to conventions and things like that. And just basically I want the message to be that first of all it is never too late to embrace who you truly are, and live authentically. Change isn’t a bad thing, in my instance I think change is a wonderful thing, and you don’t need to be afraid of it. And my book- I think the biggest take away that I want people to get is this could be anybody’s story. If you take out the transgender part, this is anybody. This is anybody just getting through life and struggling with the ups and downs and ebbs and flows. And at the end of the day if you look back and you’re happy with what you accomplished that day and are excited to accomplish more the next day, then you’re doing something right.

Jenn T Grace:

Yeah, wow I feel like your book- I read it in one day which I shouldn’t say one day, I read it in the evening of a Saturday and the morning of a Sunday. So in less than a 24 hour period of time, and I read it cover to cover, and it really is one of those books that I feel like I could hand to anyone and they could wrap their head around the entire topic of trans; which I feel like no other book to my- at least to the books that I know are out there can actually do that. Because you make it- it’s really funny, like there are times where I was like actually laughing, I had tears in my eyes I was laughing so hard in a couple of the parts. And then there are some parts that are just really serious and very raw. And I feel like it’s just so- it’s just such a good book, so I’m hoping that those who are listening and they want to know more about the ‘T’ part of the LGBT community, because too often I think the ‘T’ is overlooked in a lot of things. So I’m hoping that if anyone’s listening to this and they do want to know more I feel like your book is definitely a good starting place for them. So where would someone actually find your book, or I guess your information if they wanted to potentially have you as a speaker?

Jeremy Wallace:

The best place to find any information and to get in touch with me is my website which is www.JeremyLWallace.com. There’s a shopping cart on there so if you want to buy the book, that’s a great place. Or if you’re someone who is more comfortable on Amazon, my book is on there as well. It makes it very easy if you just go to again www.JeremyLWallace.com and just click on the Facebook or the Twitter icons and it goes right there.

Jenn T Grace:

That is fabulous. And for anyone who’s listening to this and maybe they’re on the treadmill, they’re outside running, they’re driving; we don’t want you grabbing a pen and paper and trying to write this down. So when you get back to your desk you can go to www.JennTGrace.com and all of the information including a transcript of today’s interview will be available on the website. So you can get everything you need to know about Jeremy right from the site. So thank you so much, I’m so happy to finally have had you on the show. I know that your career has a ton of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing kind of the impact that you end up making on the LGBT community as someone who’s just really embracing their true authentic self and using that for such a positive, positive thing.

Jeremy Wallace:

Thank you so much for this opportunity, I’m thrilled to be talking with you today.

Jenn T Grace:

Thank you have a great one.

Jeremy Wallace:

Thank you.

About Jenn T. Grace

Jenn T. Grace (she/her/hers) is an award-winning author and founder and CEO of Publish Your Purpose (PYP), the acclaimed hybrid publisher of non-fiction books. Jenn has published 100+ books written by thought leaders, visionaries, and entrepreneurs who are striving to make a difference. Jenn T. Grace’s work elevates and amplifies the voices of others—especially marginalized groups who are regularly excluded from traditional publishing.

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