Former Disney actor announces she's transgender

Josie Totah, formerly known as J.J. Totah, more recently starred in "Champions."

August 21, 2018, 4:08 PM
Mindy Kaling and J.J. Totah, now known as Josie Totah, appear in a scene on "Champions."
Mindy Kaling and J.J. Totah, now known as Josie Totah, appear in a scene on "Champions."
Evans Vestal Ward/NBC

Former "Champions" star J.J. Totah revealed in a new personal essay that she's transgender and goes by the name Josie.

Totah, who had roles in Disney's "Jessie" and "Sofia the First," as well as shows including "New Girl" and "Glee," wrote that she always let people assume that she was a gay male, and only clarified previously that she identified as LGBTQ.

However, she added that more recently, she's realized that "hiding my true self is not healthy."

"I know now, more than ever, that I’m finally ready to take this step toward becoming myself. I’m ready to be free. So, listen up y’all: You can jump on or jump off. Either way this is where I’m heading," she explained in her essay for Time. "My pronouns are she, her and hers. I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah."

Totah, 17, explained that she's always known that she's female, but it "crystallized" about three years ago when she was watching "I Am Jazz," the reality TV show about transgender teen Jazz Jennings. Learning more about Jennings' journey, which included gender confirmation surgery this past June, inspired Totah to begin hormone replacement therapy.

"Like many trans people, I developed serious anxiety as I hid who I was. In some ways, I felt like I was lying by letting people believe I was that gay boy. I also couldn’t be myself. I hid the girls’ clothes I really wanted to wear under sweatpants and sweatshirts. And I had an enormous fear of male puberty," she wrote. "Once I got on the hormone blocker, which basically stopped my testosterone, that part changed. I wasn’t waking up every day and panicking. 'Is there hair on my face? Is my voice getting deeper?' Those changes are very hard, if not impossible, to reverse. And I knew that I was giving myself what I needed, that I didn’t have to be afraid of that anymore."

The actress wrote that while she's still nervous that being transgender will cause her to face discrimination, she added that being called Josie makes her feel more "seen." As she goes off to college and continues to pursue acting, she's excited to take on new roles that she never before thought possible.

"It’s something everyone wants, to feel understood. And, as a semi-religious person who went to Catholic school, I have come to believe that God made me transgender. I don’t feel like I was put in the wrong body. I don’t feel like there was a mistake made. I believe that I am transgender to help people understand differences," she wrote. "It allows me to gain perspective, to be more accepting of others, because I know what it feels like to know you’re not like everyone else."

Jennings tweeted she was proud to see Totah "living in your truth!!"