Leah Juliett is probably the person you needed when you were younger. At just 13, an age when most of us are trying our best to fit in, they were coming out––the first of three times. And while they’ll admit that it took some difficult life experiences and serious self discovery to get here, the advocate, nonprofit leader and founder and executive director of March Against Revenge Porn is unapologetically them. Not only is Juliett living as their most authentic self, but they’re open to however that may change and evolve over time. It’s no wonder they’ve inspired so many people in the LGBTQ+ community and beyond to embrace their differences and to make their mental health a priority. Juliett recently shared their experience coming out three times, their thoughts on individuality and the importance of representation in the content we consume.
Tell us about your coming out experience. Was there a moment or person that stood out to you?
I've had to come out to the world many times––I came out as gay when I was thirteen. I came out as nonbinary/transgender and queer when I was nineteen. I came out as a victim of revenge porn around the same time. I find that the necessity for LGBTQIA+ folks to come out is in itself a challenging expectation.
Can you explain what you mean by that?
Our sexual orientations and gender identities and terminology is always subject to change and evolve. Sometimes it feels like coming out traps you in an immovable box formed by a label that is appropriate for a moment in time. Coming out to the world is something that I have to do every day; I'm constantly correcting people who misgender me and misidentify me. Tattooing my pronouns on my neck was a way to be undauntingly visible and own who I am in the face of a world that wants me to be smaller.
What would you tell your younger self about individuality?
The ability to be unapologetically and unabashedly who you are is a liberating freedom––but safety is most important. Being true to yourself and embracing your individuality is wonderful, but if you can't do that safely without fear of violence where you are at this moment in time, that’s okay, too. Safety is key. Today, I'm a liberated, unapologetically queer, fat, trans, tattooed, survivor of sexual violence living with mental illness. The pride I have for who I am is tenfold over how I felt about myself when I conformed to social expectations of who I thought I should be.
We see a lot of rainbow flag homages around this time but what is your go-to beauty look that you put on when you want to show off your pride?
I love supporting small businesses and LGBTQIA+ artists, so much of my wardrobe during Pride consists of fun clothing and accessories that I've collected over the years. I've also been loving fun, colorful nails. For makeup, I think whatever makes you feel comfortable in the heat of June is a good beauty choice!
When was the first time you saw yourself reflected in pop culture and what effect did that have on you?
Watching Ruby Rose on Orange is the New Black was a pivotal cultural moment for me. Before Ruby Rose spoke publicly about gender identity on television, I wasn't aware that gender fluid or nonbinary identities existed. I remember doing a deep dive into nonbinary gender identity and recognizing that I saw myself deeply reflected in the visibility that Ruby Rose provided. Sally Ride said, "You can't be who you can't see." Before I saw my identity reflected on television, I had no idea that I could identify that way.
Come up with a cool saying for LGBTQ that would describe who you are and what being queer means to you.
Leaving Gender Behind and Triumphing the Quintessential. I'm a liberated person––I am deeply and profoundly alive. Leaving behind historical notions of gender and quintessential ideologies that force me into a box that I do not fit into has freed me to be who I am. I am the person I needed when I was younger.
This Pride month, L’Oréal Paris will be running a series of Q&A interviews with ambassadors from the brand, sharing their personal stories of identity and how they celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.
Photo Courtesy of Leah Juliett
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