— -- A transgender woman who happened to be going through her transition at the same time as Caitlyn Jenner said that the former Olympian’s public announcements helped her own private coming out to her family.
“For me, having the Bruce-Caitlyn story in the media at the same time that I was gathering up the strength to make my big change -- it made it easier to me because I felt like I was coming out to a more understanding public,” Daniella Madigan told ABC News today.
“For me to transition, it was a life-and-death thing,” Madigan said, noting that heroin and crack were drugs of choice.
“Anything I could get to escape myself and the pain I was in,” she said, “and that’s really what it boiled down to -- not being myself and denying my true self was killing me."
Madigan, who lives in Long Island, New York, and raised her now 18-year-old son largely on her own, said that the breaking point came after a breakup with his then-fiancée, which led to suicidal depression in 2012 and eventually counselling. In the summer of 2013, Madigan said that she admitted out loud that she wanted to live as a woman and she has felt lighter ever since.
“Something had to give. It was either me living or me dying and it got me to the point that I went to this rehab and we started to dig into my psychology and [the counselor] asked, 'What are you holding back?’ and the only thing I could think of was that I had this huge thing that I really thought I was a woman,” Madigan said. “Once I cracked that egg open, within the next day I never wanted to use again.”
She spent the next year and a half preparing herself to come out publicly as a woman to her friends and family, but also “getting to be more comfortable as a woman” behind closed doors by taking steps like moving the women’s clothes she had collected out from storage boxes and into her closet.
When it came time to tell her family, including her parents and her son, speculation about Jenner’s gender had reached a tipping point.
“How many chuckles did I get when I was walking past the magazines in the grocery store being like ‘Hey, I’m right there with you,’” she said.
Little did she know that Jenner’s transition and Madigan’s coming out were closer aligned than she knew. According to Buzz Bissinger’s Vanity Fair article chronicling Jenner’s transition, the Olympian-turned-reality star underwent 10 hours of plastic surgery to appear more feminine on March 15.
Madigan is far from the only member of the transgender community that felt Jenner's public announcement was a confidence booster.
Aiden Munar, a 24-year-old student in Ohio who was born a woman but now lives as a man, has already been on prescription hormones for two years but he said he still felt emboldened by Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover.
"Her coming out and transitioning ... it made me more confident about myself," Munar told ABC News.
Munar came out to friends and relatives in 2013 and said he has felt largely accepted. He has been in a relationship with his girlfriend since 2011 so his girlfriend initially identified as a lesbian but now considers herself pansexual.
Munar said that he is currently saving up to have surgery, though genital reassignment surgery would have to come at a later date since that costs more and is “still a decision” that he has to make. But for now, the testosterone hormones have helped, he said.
“When I see physical changes, it makes me feel as a whole who I am truly meant to be,” he said.
Even though he experienced some bullying online when he transitioned and has had trouble finding trans friends in Ohio, Munar said that he was pleasantly surprised by the reception that Jenner received online on Monday.
"It is a positive outlook for the trans community because when I scrolled through the positive comments and that just made me confident about myself and it being 2015 and people moving forward it’s just amazing," he said.
Though Madigan has not had any surgery at this point and has no immediate plans to, that was the same week that Madigan came out to her family.
“I feel blessed to be having my journey occur at this certain time in history,” she said.
“When I see Caitlyn, I know that she’s enjoying the same things that I am and she’s realizing all of these little things that make her a woman,” Madigan said.