Transitioning out loud: One Colorado’s deputy director to transition in the public spotlight
May 4, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 6:37 pm)
Of all the community leaders I speak to on a regular basis, it’s Jess Woodrum, One Colorado’s deputy director, who I hear from the most.
I can’t think of a week that has gone by – even when one of us has been on vacation – that we didn’t check in. I’ve discussed all sorts of issues with Jess: civil unions, school bullying, inclusivity within our own community, politics in general, our lives.
Our paths first crossed when I was with gayzette.
It was September of 2010. Woodrum had just been hired on as One Colorado’s spokeswoman and public relations guru. I’m pretty sure she didn’t like me at first.
Truth be told, our relationship got off to a rocky start.
We butted heads in late 2010 when she told me a town hall meeting discussing One Colorado’s legislative agenda for 2011 was off the record. I published a not-so-happy post on gayzette’s blog saying as much.
By this point we knew One Colorado’s top priority was to help pass a bill establishing civil unions here. I was as surprised as many folks in the room that with less than a year under its belt, the organization was already preparing to lead the charge.
Due to the circumstances: Me reporter, Jess spokeswoman, the two of us had to work closely together during the 2011 civil union debate and beyond. And during the last year, she’s really grown on me.
Truth be told, until recently, I thought Jess was one of the hippest, coolest, smartest lesbians in Denver.
(Not to mention, she’s the only one in Denver I know who gives Brad Clark, One Colorado’s executive director, more hell than I do.)
Now, I think Jace is one of the hippest, coolest, smartest – did I mention bravest – trans men in Denver.
That’s right, Jess is now Jace.
“I can’t wait to walk on a beach without a shirt on,” said the typically button-downed, scripted Jace in a rare moment of spontaneity.
I spoke with Jace the same day he announced his plan to transition.
While most folks who begin transitioning share the news privately, face-to-face with family and friends, Jace decided to take the very bold step and announced his truth in a very public way: in a video, posted to One Colorado’s Facebook page and sent to thousands of the organization’s supporters in an email.
“I’m taking this path to feel most authentic,” he said to me. “I’m excited and nervous, but I’m looking forward to everything.”
On the agenda: therapy, hormones and top surgery.
“When I was 14, I looked down and saw my breasts, and I hated them,” Jace said. “Then my mother said they’d only get bigger. The 14-year-old girl in me will never be satisfied until I have surgery.”
But Jace’s transition is more than just about surgery and bathrooms.
“Please don’t make this about bathrooms,” Jace jokes with me. “Somehow these pieces always turn out to be about bathrooms.”
OK, so his journey actually did start in the bathroom at One Colorado’s office, but I’m going to let him tell that story himself.
The story I’m most interested in – and you should be to – is the fact the Jace, unlike most trans folks, will be living and progressing through his transition in front of thousands of people online and in the media.
Yes, I’m aware there are a large number of trans folk who, in the age of YouTube, chronicle their transition online. But this is different. I mean no disrespect, but Jace, in his position as deputy director at One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, is in a key role to not only affect policy but public opinion, within and outside our community.
“Certainly, I thought about One Colorado,” Jace said when I asked how he thought his transition would impact his self-proclaimed dream job. After all, I’m not the only reporter he talks to. There’s Eli Stokols on Fox 31, Shaun Boyd on CBS4. These folks don’t report for you, they report for the suburban moms and dads who might never have heard the word “trans” before – at least not in a positive way.
“I think my transition is going to allow me to do my job better,” Jace said. “Mainstream reporters always ask me if they can just call us a gay rights group. And I have to explain to them, that no, we work for every part of our community. Now, I hope to be able to use those awkward moments as a teaching tool.”
The same day Jace came out, I saw dozens of words of encouragement for him on Facebook. Dozens of our mutual friends shared his coming out video.
“I was overwhelmed,” he said.
But what of his family, his partner – the ever adorable Addison?
Turns out, not only is Addison totally supportive of Jace’s transition, but she expected it, Jace said.
But there will be bumps.
“We’ve always thought of ourselves as a lesbian couple,” he said. “Now that’s changed. This will be a journey for Addison, too.”
Jace’s parents are a different story.
“My mother said she was disappointed in me and my dad hasn’t said anything at all. I think he’s still processing it,” Jace said. “My sister’s been very supportive.”
They think, Jace believes, that this his transition is a choice. Like whether or not to have dessert.
Despite what his parents think or don’t understand, despite what most people – including gays and lesbians – think or don’t understand, that isn’t the case. And Jace will no doubt use every tool in his arsenal to share his experience and explain his truth not only to his own parents but to the countless parents across Colorado who face the same situation with their own children one day.
After all, “I was never a quiet lesbian,” he said.