Corey Rae, the world’s first transgender prom queen, recently joined us for a compelling virtual discussion as part of Ketchum’s ongoing internal DE&I series “Real Talk, Real People, Real Issues.” As a woman of trans experience who is now an activist, actress, model, speaker and writer, Corey has found success working with brands, speaking at various organizations and being profiled by publications such as the LA Times and People Magazine. But she hopes her inspiring story is only the beginning for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
As Corey described growing up in the ‘90s, when “transgender wasn’t really something that was openly talked about,” followed by coming out and transitioning during her high school years, having surgery during college and the acceptance and empowerment that followed, it was clear that her experience was made possible by her incredible strength, combined with strong support and care from those around her.
It is imperative that we—as communicators and as people—learn from Corey’s story and continue to support the LGBTQ+ community to aid in shaping a more inclusive environment for generations to come. While a few simple takeaways aren’t enough to get us to where we need to be, we hope these three pillars from our powerful discussion with Corey will help move us in the right direction:
A support system is essential. As Corey described her dawning realizations about her true self, she repeatedly acknowledged that she couldn’t have acted upon her knowledge as comfortably and safely as she did without the intense support of others. She spoke in depth about those who went to bat for her: Her mother, her therapist, her high-school principal and her close friends all accepted her for who she was and did whatever was in their power to shape her path to success. The writer Robert G. Ingersoll said “We rise by lifting others,” and Corey’s experience shows how relevant this statement still is today.
Representation matters. A major turning point for Corey during her middle school years was her discovery of a People Magazine story about a female-to-male transgender teen featuring the phrase “trapped in the wrong body.” Her shock of recognition—along with seeing the word transgender for the first time—set her off on a life-changing journey of self awareness. Imagine the many young people across the world who turn to the media today in an effort to understand themselves, or in Corey’s words, self-identify. By presenting positive depictions of the people they hope to become, brands and media can give them hope that they will find their way. It’s essential to understand the vast responsibility we have as communicators to help bring stories like these to light.
Get educated and speak up. On a related note, it’s on us allies to continue learning about topics that will make an impact in the global support of the LGBTQ+ community. We need to speak up publicly in this space and, as Corey says, “have those tough conversations,” while getting educated, using the proper pronouns and being vocal. Her recommendations on where to start include watching “Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen” and “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” on Netflix, reading Jacob Tobia’s memoir “Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story” and visiting www.gaycenter.org and www.lalgbtcenter.org.
Stay tuned for more reports on Real Talk conversations at Ketchum as we continue to strive to live by our value of being a force for good.