Nick Oza documented the journey of Jamie Roberts’ transition from a male into a female as a personal project since most newspapers and magazines were afraid to touch this subject a decade ago. “I (Jamie Roberts) was born in Griffin, Georgia, a small city 45 minutes south of Atlanta, in 1972. I grew up there and graduated from primary and secondary school before leaving for college elsewhere in Georgia. I also completed law school at the University of Georgia. I work for the state as a criminal defense attorney.
From a young age, I felt like I really wanted to be a girl. Most of my playmates were girls, and despite my being raised as a boy, I was jealous of my girlfriends who could wear dresses and play with dollhouses. I was picked on by my boy classmates for being a ‘sissy’, a ‘girl-boy’, a ‘faggot; a ‘crybaby’, in addition to being the class ‘nerd’ for wearing glasses, and being studious. I was also overweight for many years and there were many days when I was afraid of going to school. I was occasionally physically assaulted, spat upon and treated like I was invisible.
As I got older, however, the situation improved, partly because I tried to act more outgoing, lost a lot of weight and tried to act more masculine. By the time I was in college, I was accepted for the most part as a‘normal’ male. But inside, I was terribly conflicted. I had secretly cross-dressed since I was a child and by my mid-20s I felt depressed that I was living a lie. I felt that if I could not express myself as a woman I would die a spiritual death, one in which I would be very alone. That is when I decided to ‘transition’, or live my life as a woman. I sought counseling, agreed to take hormones and ultimately decided to undergo gender confirmation surgery.
My parents were worried and confused when I first came out to them as a homosexual at age 27 and a female at the age of 28. However,I’m very lucky that they accepted my transition despite the challenges at a personal and social level and traveled with me when I went to get surgery. When I was 27, I got my first job as a lawyer in Macon working for a non-profit law firm that depended in part on donations from local individuals. After telling my colleagues several weeks before that I was becoming a woman, I arrived for work one day in a jacket, blouse, skirt, wig and heels. I was so happy inside but at the same time some people in my office refused to acknowledge my transformation. I eventually got fired from that job. My supervisor told me it was because the management was afraid that having an openly transgender person in the office would scare away donors.
Despite that setback, I was able to find employment elsewhere and am currently enjoying a rewarding professional career. I started volunteering with a transgender support group and am now serving as Co-Chair of a statewide organisation that advocates for the LGBTQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer) community. I am also contributing a chapter, with my friend and Psychology Professor, Dr. Anneliese Singh in a forthcoming book entitled Trans Bodies/Trans Selves. These days it is heartening to see the Western world growing in its awareness of gender inequality and polarity, in order to protect the rights of trans-people everywhere, even though progress can be and has been uneven.”
All images from the series Jamie’s Journey Neenah, Wisconsin, USA 2001