Transgender Activist Precious Brady-Davis: “I Have Always Been Me”

You may know Precious Brady-Davis as the first transgender woman who appeared on Say Yes to the Dress. You may have heard that Precious and her husband Myles, who’s also transgender, gave birth to a now 19 month old daughter.  Today, Precious gives us the inside scoop on her experiences growing up in rural Nebraska, her courage to transition, and becoming an inspiration to so many who don’t want to be afraid to be themselves.

I Have Always Been Me: A Memoir“, by Precious Brady-Davis

Transcript

Jackie Ferguson: Hi, and welcome to season four of the Diversity Beyond the Checkbox Podcast sponsored by The Diversity Movement. I’m your host, Jackie Ferguson equality advocate and certified diversity executive. On this show, we discuss how diversity, equity and inclusion benefit our workplaces, schools, and communities by sharing the stories, insights, and best practices of game changers, leaders, and glass ceiling breakers that are doing the work to make our world a more understanding, welcoming and supportive place for us all.

I’m so excited to have renowned and groundbreaking, transgender activists, Precious Brady Davis with us today to talk about her journey and her new book. I have always been. Precious, will you please tell us about your early years and how you got to the pivotal moment of knowing that it was time for you to transition? Let’s start there. 

Precious Brady-Davis: Hi Jackie. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast today course. Wow. My early journey growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, I grew up a child who was very resilient. I was very optimistic. For as long as I can remember, I was outspoken in who I was, even though I didn’t have the words to describe my identity.

I was being my authentic self. And that’s why the book is. I have always been me, whether it was walking in my sister’s high heels, down the hall of our home, whether it was accidentally wearing my sister’s shoes, wearing my sister’s shoes accidentally to school ,wearing a dress at a drama club party and through the momentous activity of performing drag in college. So drag was the first gateway for me to be my authentic self in discovering my womanhood, because I felt at the end of the day, I didn’t want to take it off.

Being Precious and being the, the authenticity of, of my person, but it took me many years after that, before I could officially transition, because I was weighed down with a myriad of religious teachings. That, that to me felt like. If I were to transition that I would be doing something out of God’s will, or that I would, would go to to hell.

Um, because you know, I was raised and was ingrained with a myriad of tropes surrounding the LGBTQ community. Even when I did drag, I kept it very light. I kept like very light in terms of like my music, because I said, oh, I still wanted to be in God’s will. But ultimately after I graduated college and in college, I was like a very gender non-conforming and I felt like I crept out of the closet, little by little it started, you know, I would wear heels around campus, then I would start wearing nails and then I would start wearing, so it was like a gradual process, but the thing about it was I didn’t have a label for what I was doing. I was just being my authentic self like I have my entire life, but after I graduated college, I went to work at an LGBTQ community center here in Chicago.

And after I started working at that center cause I was male identified when I started working there. I saw this young girl, 16 years old, coco skin, beautiful hair down her back. It was a young trans girl. And there I was to inspire the young people to inspire them. And there she was inspiring me and I said, She goes to school like that? And they’re yeah, like she is a young trans girl.

And that night as I walked back to my desk, I said, I wish I could be sitting here as Precious. Um, and one of my coworkers leaned over to me and said, why can’t you? And it was like that final moment. I mean, that was a, probably a 10 year journey, you know   to get to that point where I could release all of the stigma that I had around the trans community and all of the things that had been ingrained in me from my childhood about being feminine, you know, as a child, I was extremely policed. You know, my gender was of, wear your watch on, you know, a different wrist. Don’t switch when you walk down the aisle of a grocery store. I didn’t even know what that meant, but for me it was that pivotal moment. When I worked at the center on Halsted when I saw these trans youth being the authenticity of their person, it was, it was like them holding up a mirror to me. 

Jackie Ferguson: That’s so amazing. And you know, the title of your book, I Have Always Been Me, and you talk about being your authentic self, but it’s hard for a lot of us especially those in the LGBTQ community to feel comfortable in stepping into their own skin and who they are fully and being able to express that.

Can you tell me what gave you the courage to move forward in that? 

Precious Brady-Davis: I will say that optimism is one of my gifts and something that I have possessed my entire life. And I know that it’s not easy for, for everyone to pronounce their, their authenticity, but I think it’s something that is ingrained in my being that my whole life that I have always been, been brave.

But I also think that it was because it was such a policing of my behavior as a child, uh, I grew up with a, the generation before me was children are to be seen and not heard. And I always pushed back on that of saying I deserve to be heard. I deserve to be seen, I deserve to take up space. And so I think because my environment was so constructed around me.

I was so focused on, on breaking the mold of that, of creating a shinier mold for one that was created for me. And it indeed took courage and I think for each of us to. Stand in our authenticity, it takes courage. But for me, at many points in my life, I didn’t have the choice, you know, uh, being raised in foster kid, being raised as a foster kid, you’re often thrown into those situations.

And so I think for me, it became a mechanism of survival. 

Jackie Ferguson: And Precious you say that optimism is one of your gifts and you’re quoted as having said, this is one of my life’s great gifts to be optimistic, to see a world, not yet created. What does a world not yet created? What does that world look like for you?

What do you see for that? 

Precious Brady-Davis: A world not yet created for me, it is, it is a safe space. It is a world in which. All people are included, regardless of ability, faith, gender, sexual orientation. It is a place in which we can all coexist and we can look aside our differences and find our shared humanity with one another.

And that is something that I’ve been doing my entire life. And that’s goes, go back to the title of my book. I have always been me as a young gender nonconforming kids showing up, you know, I think about growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, I’m from a red state. Growing up. My best friend was a kid who had a disability.

You know, I am left-handed, I am biracial. And so being a part of so many marginalized groups, I feel like it has forced me to, to dream a new, to, to create spaces that were not created for me. And so for me, it’s about. Creating a world that is safe regardless of, of difference for all people. 

Jackie Ferguson: I love that Precious.

And tell me from your perspective, what’s the one thing that, that we can do for those of us listening to step towards that new world? 

Precious Brady-Davis: I think the one thing that we can do to stepping into that new world that I, that I talk about creating, is to stand in your truth. It’s about being you, it starts with being authentic, this connection that we’re having today, it’s about bridging the divide.

It’s about having conversation about these issues. And for me, especially as a trans woman of color, I believe that walking out of my door every day, is an act of dignity is an act of bravery. It’s those small moments of bravery that I think that each of us can take to further diversity and authenticity.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s incredible. Thank you for sharing that Precious. You were the first out trans gender bride to be, to appear on the show, Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta. How was that experience for you? 

Precious Brady-Davis: A great experience. It was a dream come true. So I didn’t reach out to them. They originally reached out to me and I had the opportunity to actually go on either of their franchises.

I could have gone to Kleinfeld in New York, or I could’ve gone to Bridals by Lori, which I ultimately chose . It was such a dream come true. It was actually overwhelming because there were so many choices, obviously that I ultimately did not pick one of the dresses that was there. I had a dress custom made for me, which was such a life moment to have my wedding gown, to have it custom made a couture piece for my Cinderella wedding. It was absolutely humble. And one of the things that I loved about filming it is Lori and Monte that the host of the show they were. So in tune to the sensitivity of the moment, there was nothing different about my experience because I was a trans woman. I was a trans woman shopping for her wedding dress.

It was a life moment. And, and for me it was about finding the best dress that fit me. And that’s the thing that I loved about it, that there was nothing extra or anything different about that appointment. It was absolutely affirmational and I’m so glad that I did it. That’s why Myles and I went on the show, you know, to show that trans love is a possibility.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s fantastic. Precious you and your husband miles have a biological child. Can you tell us about that pregnancy and that journey and how it is parenting? 

Precious Brady-Davis: Well, our daughter’s age, she just turned 19 months and she is the joy of our lives and Myles. And I knew. As soon as we met each other, that we wanted to have children, you know, that was one of the earliest conversations that we had when we got together and what a journey.

And these are conversations that I don’t think a lot of folks have publicly, you know, IVF is an experience unto itself and we did IVF, you know, to, to have her, you know, and the first time didn’t take, but, but the second time did, and then, you know, Pregnancy, like in general is a very scary experience. And I don’t think people talk about that part of pregnancy.

I think when people are talking about pregnancy, they only talk about the happiness and the glow, but like the, you know, you’re waiting on the milestones and you’re praying that you make it to the 20 weeks, you know, like, yeah, we gotta make it to like the, the 20 weeks. And like all of these things, you know, that, that I didn’t, that I didn’t know.

And then put on top of that, you know, being a trans couple, you know, and my husband, you know, is a man, you know what I mean? And so my husband carrying, you know, like that experience of what it is to be a pregnant man navigating the world and my husband is so strong. And, and so resilient. And he actually experienced discrimination.

You know, he was shopping at a store and you know, someone at the store thought that he had clothes underneath his, his sweater, you know, and the police came and like grabbed him, who he didn’t even know, you know, what was going on. And they pulled up his, his belly and saw that he was actually pregnant. And so it’s it’s not even safe for someone who is trans to be navigating the world, just shopping at like a regular store. But otherwise the rest of the experience was very affirmational. And we had a purveyor who was affirming the whole time and was actually a part of like the LGBTQ community, which made the experience so wonderful.

You know, she guided us the process so beautifully, but we are happy. Happy parents. Very happy family. We’d like to have more, but it just is, as a parent, I’m learning so many things about my myself. I’m learning. Of course, you know, this book, I talk about the lengths of resilience that I have known, but oof being a parent is to be resilient.

I don’t know if you have kids, but

Jackie Ferguson:  I do. Yours is 19 months. Mine is 19 years. 

Precious Brady-Davis: Oh my. Oh, my gosh. So I’ll take some, I’ll take all of the lessons from you. 

Jackie Ferguson: Just do the best you can is the best advice we all feel like we’re not doing enough, but you are just start with love and with love. You’ll be doing all you need to do.

Precious Brady-Davis: Thank you so much. I’ll take that advice to heart. Uh, yes, I can play the agree with you. Our home is, is rooted in love and she has brought so much light to our lives. And we feel like it’s always been this way that she’s like always been here. And so we’re enjoying parenting.

Jackie Ferguson:  I love that. And just to say for our listeners as well, you as a couple were the first transgender couple to be correctly gendered on an Illinois birth certificate, just another groundbreaking thing that’s, that’s so important. So I wanted to make sure to mention that for our listeners as well. 

Precious Brady-Davis: My husband and I, we say that we live in the legendary lane. That is who we are. Black excellence is at the heart of our being, but all that aside, you know, that was really about us being affirmed in our gender, affirmed in our humanity when trans folks can’t legally change their documents,  it creates a host of issues when it comes to our, our safety. You know, when let’s say, you know, we were, were to travel and things didn’t align that would create a myriad of problems for us.

And so, uh, we’re grateful to the state of Illinois for taking our petition. 

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Well, let’s talk about this amazing book which I have here. I Have Always Been Me. Precious, tell me what readers will gain from reading this book in reading I Have Always Been Me.

Precious Brady-Davis:  Folks will see I have always been the person I am today.

You see a resilient child who fashions a shinier mold for themselves than was presented to them. You see that I have always wielded my voice, that I’ve always been passionate about public service, that I have always been passionate about, uh, performance and, and music. And it’s really the place that I found myself that authenticity has run a string through my entire life.

Jackie Ferguson: One of the things that I learned in reading, it is just understanding the resilience that you had and the perseverance that you had. And it’s so inspiring. Tell me what has inspired you to achieve so much to keep moving forward, to push through the challenges as a kid. 

Precious Brady-Davis: I’ll never forget. Going to see my biological mother for a visit.

And I knew from a young age that my biological mother didn’t want me and that she wanted my sister. And I write about that in the book. And I’ll never forget. After leaving that visit, I jumped in the car, pulled the door shut as hard as I could. And the sun was beaming that day. The sun was beaming. And I remember looking into the sun saying, I will show you, I am going to be- and I didn’t know then that it was a mode of success or a model of success. But I remember to my young self saying, I’m going to make it. And I’m going to show you. I’ve always had the ability, the ability to say, I am not that.  I am not made less because of this. And that is that natural optimism that I’ve had.

And I think it is a survival mechanism. You know, I think that it’s something that a lot of foster kids. Have, you know, because you are forced to put together your life in a matter of minutes, you know, when you’re in a foster home and know your, your things often don’t go with you. You know, your life is put together in fragmented pieces and you don’t really have a choice.

And so I think I didn’t have a choice in the matter when you are a foster kid, emotionally, I think you either rise or you sink. You know, given that, given the circumstances and the challenges, but I remember from a young age of saying, no, no, no, no, not, I, I will, I will create, you know, I, I like you, we talked about here.

I’ve always had the ability to create a world not yet seen. I think of the, the child I talk about in the book. I didn’t see a picnic table. I saw a stage. I saw, I saw like a runway, you know, to be whole than the trees, you know, became the procedium to my performance. There was no one watching me, but I think I’ve always had the ability to, to create and to, to be optimistic.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s such good advice for all of us, you know to – that despite challenges that we’re facing to maintain that. Positive attitude and positive outlook to be able to push through those challenges. That’s so important. Precious, one of my favorite questions to ask my guests is tell us something about you that not a lot of people know.

Precious Brady-Davis: So I write about this in the book, but I feel like no one knows that I can sing, but like 

Jackie Ferguson: Do you want to sing for us a little bit right now? 

Precious Brady-Davis: I mean, no, I don’t need to but I…Um, but I promise that I can, but I – that I can sing of like that, I, you know, it is something that I am passionate about, you know, that I’m classically trained, but I am a classically trained singer and that’s what I studied in college.

Jackie Ferguson: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Precious as we begin to wrap up our time together, what’s the message you want to leave for those listening that may be grappling with sharing their own gender identity. 

Precious Brady-Davis: For me, I would challenge them to stand in the authenticity of their truth and shine in the places that they can.

For me throughout the book, there are glimmers of places that I could shine, whether it was in my church, whether it was in my drama program. And I think that coming out looks different for, for everyone. Uh, throughout this book, you will see there are, I had multiple coming outs. And I would encourage people to stand in their truth and to come out as they feel, feel comfortable, but I would affirm them and celebrate that there is a great history of gender nonconforming folks who have come before us and who will come after us.

And I think that I am. A part of that, that legacy. And for me coming out, I hope that it inspires other people. I think sometimes people don’t come out because there are fears of retribution, you know, when it comes to career, when it comes to love, when it comes to family and those are all very real fears.

And I also would confirm those things, but I also would confirm that it’s a journey that, you know, I have lots of family who did not understand what I was doing when I was doing drag in college, but they came to, to understand it. And now we are in a great place, you know, when it comes to my spirituality, it is not your stereotypical Judeo-Christian beliefs that I subscribe to, but I believe that my transness is a part of my spirituality that I am in tune to spirit. And, and for me, it’s really about standing in one’s own truth. And I would affirm them, uh, do it in your own way. 

Jackie Ferguson: Absolutely. Absolutely. Precious this has been so incredible and, you know, I could certainly spend another hour talking to you, but being respectful of your busy schedule. I just want to say thank you so much for being with us today on the podcast and, you know, continued success, keep shining mean you are such an amazing example to so many of us who are just looking for, you know, that, that inspiration, that person who is just being themselves and living their authentic life, because it inspires so many of us.

Precious Brady-Davis: Thank you. Thank you so much for your kind words. Thanks for having me.

Jackie Ferguson: Thanks for listening everyone. If you enjoyed this episode, please take a moment to leave a review and share it with a friend. Thanks to you, this podcast is now in the top 10% of downloaded podcasts. This episode was edited and produced by Earfluence. I’m Jackie Ferguson. And I’ll talk with you next time on Diversity Beyond the Checkbox.

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Diversity Beyond the Checkbox is brought to you by The Diversity Movement, hosted by Head of Content Jackie Ferguson, and is a production of Earfluence.

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