StoryCorps OutLoud: Jesse Ryan

Jan 29, 2015

Cynthia Eason and Jesse Ryan

In WJCT’s StoryCorps OutLoud series, we’re hearing from Jacksonville residents who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Each week, WJCT’s Lindsey Kilbride shares a conversation recorded by the StoryCorps oral history project. All the participants are linked by the local LGBT youth support group, JASMYN.

Jesse Ryan is a transgender Jacksonville man. That means he was born with the physical parts of a female, but he identifies as male. As a teen Ryan sought support and community from JASMYN, but long before his teen years, he felt love and acceptance from his grandmother, Cynthia Eason. Ryan is now 31. His grandma is 80.

Cynthia: I had never heard the term "trans" so I didn't know but I knew that you definitely were of male orientation. Because you always, whenever we went shopping you always went for the boy type clothes, nothing frilly. And I remember I bought you a pair of black high tops ...

Jesse: That was great..

C: And then I remember I bought you your first boy underwear.

J: Those were the best! Ninja Turtles. It was awesome the first time they were popular.

C: Well... and then of course we had the scene at the beauty salon when you had real long hair and you...

J: Well, I was with you when we cut it to shoulder length and we got away with that for a while, and then when I was, I went back with you again and I came home with, short short hair

C: short hair...

J: Which I later realized was, from pictures, was a much more feminine cut than I realized, but I couldn't see past the short, it was short... short. And I was in Heaven because I didn't have to tuck it up under my hat anymore like I always had

C: And I said 'your mothers gonna kill me'

J: She wasn't happy, but I was thrilled. Same thing with the black high tops because I was five, and she never would get them... and then... with the Ninja Turtle underwear when I was six, I think that's about the time she started coming with us...

C: Yeah

J: ...when we went shopping, and I think that's probably the last time I ever went with a short haircut. I think I was like nine or ten. I think that was the last time she let me go to the beauty parlor with you without her, too.

C: You know, I am really pleased with you as a grown up man now, and you are very responsible and I love you for that. I have never hidden away with any of my friends

J: Yeah, and that's what makes you awesome

C: Oh well I don't know about awesome but, I love you and...Like I said, God made you the way you are. I'm not going to hide and say 'oh gosh, gee, that you're something that you're not.' You are what you are.

These interviews were recorded at StoryCorps, a national initiative to record and collect stories of everyday people. Excerpts were selected and produced by Lindsey Kilbride. Next week, we StoryCorp OutLoud continues with a lesbian couple who talk about finding the courage to be true to themselves.