So my name is Jae Ratio and I’m born in Boulder City, Nevada.
As a six, seven-year old, I don’t really know the specific age, I was living the trailer park and it was just me and my dad. I was playing with the neighborhood boys who were coming up on our rollerblades down the street, sitting on – right in front of the driveway of my house. The three of us were going to be playing Animorphs, and that is where we morph into an animal to fight crime, whatever that is.
And we were going around and Jason said, “I’m a tiger.”
And then Pete said, “I’m a lion.”
And I was going to say what I was, and Jason stopped, and they both were like, “You’re a girl!”
In that moment, I cowered away, and I said, “I’m not half girl!” and picked an animal and tried to play along and just pushed it away.
Fast forward ten years later, I have found a man in the moment and we were looking to get married and we were talking about what that would look like and how that would be in our future. And it was really an amazing time. But then came the discussion around our names and what we would be doing in a marriage. So we were hyphenating our names and we ended up hyphenating his last name and then my last name.
With that name change was a new beginning in this marriage. Years later, I started to experiment with different things that were more on the feminine side versus the masculine side. I remember one night specifically, I was going to a comedy club with some of my friends. And in the bathroom, I had eye-liner that I had purchased myself and it had been in there for a couple of weeks and I started to put it on, and it was fantastic. I loved how I looked with it, I knew my friends would love how I looked in it.
But then I came downstairs and there was a change in behavior that my husband was seeing. You know, any change is going to say what’s going on, what’s happening? So there was a little bit of tension in that aspect.
That, in combination with some other things, we ended up getting divorced.
Two days after announcing the divorce, I was at home and alone on my couch watching RuPaul’s drag race. And I had earlier bought a pack of acrylic nails from the local store, Jewel. And I sat there and I was putting them on. I was gluing them on, learning how to do all that, and just exploring what it was like. So, when I finally finished putting on the nails and had filed them into the shape that I wanted, I just kind of sat there and I kept looking at my hands, and I started taking selfies like, looking just with nails on because it felt empowering. It felt great.
And I really enjoyed that moment of being able to say, “This is what I love and I’m okay with that.”
That kind of acceptance piece of seeing it for myself, was fantastic. So over the next year and a half, I really kind of dabbled along with what my femininity looked like, what my masculinity looked like, who I was.
Probably two months ago, I reached out to one of my best friends and I asked, you know, “Can someone be transgender without transitioning?”
And she said, “Of course, baby, of course.” And then she sent me this amazing article that she was working on.
But fast forward now to where I go to the spiritual center and I had officially come out and said to my current social circles, “My name is Jae.” So I’m going into this new spiritual center, we’re sitting in a circle doing an introduction of who we are, and I introduce myself as Jae. Totally fine, I’m good with the introduction.
But what was really impactful was when after, a gentleman came up to me after and said, “Hey, Jae, can I borrow a pen?” And hearing him just call me Jae, without any question, without any assumption or thinking it’s different that I wasn’t Jake or Jacob, but just being able to identify myself, me, makeup and all, as Jae that first time, was so rewarding. I didn’t have to do anything different. I just handed him a pen, it was no different and it was fantastic.
I didn’t have to have a conversation about a transition. I just got to introduce myself and be who I was. At work, I’m also in that middle of the transition.
So I’m sitting in my manager’s office and I actually say to her, you know, “I’m changing my name, so can you refer to me as Jae now? J-A-E?” And I kind of explain it’s just a neutral term when it comes to my name, so that’s what I’d like to be known as. And she was totally on board.
She said, “Absolutely. That’s what I’ll call you and move forward.”
So I’m sitting at my desk and I’m checking an email that my manager sends out to the whole leadership team, and I know it’s with a document that we’ve both been working on together. So under my portion, when I look at the email, she has that actually spelled as J-A-E on there and I’m overwhelmed. I’m just like, got the butterflies. I, like, see it. I feel validated. I’m excited.
Even though it was a small document in a small moment that may not matter to other people, it was super empowering and super eventful and I’m always going to remember that.
I think a name is part of an identity, and for me, having a name that fits who I actually am is extremely important. So, as a child and being Jake or Jacob with my dad and the kids in school, that was fine. Getting married and having a hyphenated last name, I also felt in that moment kind of empowered to have a hyphenated last name. And I’m married, and I’m doing what society says. Then transitioning now again into the divorce and then my first name changing, to really focusing on my identity as a gender non-binary person. And that name and importance, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time deciding what that transition would look like because I want to have a name that is neutral yet still reflects who I am. And that’s, you know, it’s extremely important for my identity.