Usually there's a protocol when a celebrity announces they are transgender. For Caitlyn Jenner, there was the big, splashy Vanity Fair cover story, an interview with Diane Sawyer, and then the I Am Cait series that chronicled her adjustment (or lack thereof) into the transgender community.
More recently, celebrities go the way of announcing their transition on Instagram at the beginning, like Elliot Page, and then later, doing a high-profile interview about the experience. Page sat down with Oprah.
As a former publicist, I know it's a very elaborate and strategic process to guide someone through a public transition. That's why you read about a trans person on the front or back end of their transition, because those are the most dramatic touch points. And most people, because society is a bit shallow, focus on the physical part of the transition. You seldom hear about what happens to public personalities "in the middle." Yes, there are physical challenges to be sure, but where emotions are most raw, and where there's concern over what lies ahead.
That's why when I heard about Kacy Boccumini, and where he was in his transition, I thought of the song, "The Middle," by Jimmy Eat World. A close listen to the lyrics will tell him that he is "in the middle of the ride," and that, "Everything, everything will be just fine. Everything, everything will be all right, all right."
Boccumini is best known for his appearance on The Real L Word, a nine-episode Showtime series that followed a group of real-life Los Angeles lesbians. And the web series, "Take One Thing Off." He is also a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles.
He may not be an A-lister, but through his work, Boccumini has touched the lives of many. When I reached out to Boccumini about doing a column about his experience, I asked if he would be willing to speak about the raw emotion on his current journey. He is more or less, nearing the middle state, which for may can be the most difficult part of the process.
"When the world went on lockdown in 2020, I found myself living alone for the first time in my adult life," he says. "Living alone and working from home provided the backdrop for my transition for a few reasons."
The most important reason, according to Boccumini is that he had more time to write, which is what he's always wanted to do. "I love writing. It's my sanctuary and where I feel the most like myself. Writing is how I can regulate my mood, my mind, and my heart."
Through Zoom Al-Anon meetings, Boccumini discovered that he could dive much deeper into himself, and found that he had the power to change everything in his life.
"I didn't have to get dressed for someone else anymore. My uniform consisted of basketball shorts and t-shirts with the sleeves cut off. A hoodie when I got cold. At work, I was a voice and a perspective only. I was no longer worried if I was wearing the same shirt as my cis male counterpart and how he would feel about that. I was no longer uncomfortable from skinny jeans and an ill-fitted button-down. I was relaxed and comfortable as well as smart, capable, and effective. "
After some time, he started experimenting with he/him language to describe himself, like "this guy" and "cat Dad." "I didn't think anything of it. I started having more conversations about gender identity, which ramped up when Elliot Page came out, but that resulted in the conclusion that I was "too old to transition at 40."
But memories continually persisted about his youth and childhood behavior. "I knew who I was when I was three or four. I have memories of standing at the bathroom sink shaving with my dad. But in the early '80s, parents were not allowing their children to explore their gender. I wrote myself stories. I learned how to daydream and live in my head. I learned how to hide, specifically and especially from myself."
On Valentine's Day of 2021 Boccumini uttered the words outloud for the first time. "Kacy, you're a boy. You always have been a boy. You've always known this. Isn't it time to just give this to yourself?"
"So, I did. Once I came out to myself, and once I got through my friends, I came out at work. Then from work it was time for family. My dad was the last person I told. He will still get my pronouns wrong but corrects them when he realizes. He loves me and has been 100 percent clear about that."
Boccumini came out on Instagram on May 25 of this year publicly announcing his transition.
However, Boccumini had an obstacle that had the potential of standing in his way. He was diagnosed with MS in 2013. "I am on a medication that lowers my white blood count and suppresses my immune system, so I'm really scared of getting COVID."
When the subject of physical transition came up, he knew that his first stop was his neurology team. "MS is a disease that effects more cis women than any other group. I was somehow convinced that I couldn't start hormone replacement therapy because it would somehow interact or worsen my MS."
Luckily for Boccumini, his doctor had done one of the first studies of testosterone on men with RRMS (relapsing remitting MS) where she found marked improvement in lesions and cognition through clinical trials using testosterone as a treatment for MS. "Not sure how many men break down into tears in the neurology department at Cedars Sinai [Hospital], but this one sure did. I realized at that moment that testosterone was going to help a lot of things in my life."
Every week, he gets a very small dose of testosterone injected into alternating sides of his buttocks. "The shots don't hurt really. A very kind nurse is gentle. Once I get used to them, I will be able to inject myself at home. For now, the ritual of driving over and getting them is meditative. It reminds me of the days when I used to drive Cori, my ex-wife, to get her fertility shots when we were trying to get pregnant. In fact, it's in the same building."
Boccumini sometimes catches a glimpse of himself in the glass doors of the downstairs eatery and looks at his reflection. "I think back to 10 years and a different lifetime ago, when I walked the same path for very different reasons. Then, I was walking toward a life built on what I now realize were other people's dreams and hopes and ideas of who I was supposed to be. Now, I am just a guy walking to get his T shot. Literally on my path, in my body, fully present in my journey."
Surprisingly, the hardest part so far has been the change of his voice. "It hurts! No one tells you this part of it. The first thing I noticed after my first shot was my throat hurt. Not like a sore throat, but just a general awareness of the sound of my voice. It's deepening, but also the way it vibrates inside my body is different. The first time I felt it I cried. That's why it's hard to talk. The sound of my voice is new. In my head and out loud. I've become more introverted and quieter. Holding my thoughts inside my head, turning to my journal to get them out."
Boccumini spent the better part of 41 years not looking at his own body. "I would avoid mirrors, not look at my hands or feet when I was walking, and really disassociate from existing in my physical form. That is slowly changing. I see the hair on my legs and finally feel like they are my legs. I haven't grown facial hair yet as I am only a few weeks into therapy, but as soon as I can grow a beard, I will. In the meantime, I use Zoom and Instagram filters to explore what that looks like."
Emotionally, Boccumini is facing the realities of all those years of internalizing his feelings. "When I was living my life as a woman, I found aspects of my body unacceptable. The size, shape and texture of my own legs or stomach or hips were disgusting to me. The instant I realized I was a man; those exact same parts were totally fine. Size, shape, texture - no issue at all. It made me so very sad and angry all at once."
The next phase of the transition for Boccumini is top surgery. "I have never had any kind of surgery, and this one is a biggie. My consultations with surgeons are booked, and all I can say is this: I am ready."
And that applies to everything. Boccumini is ready to hear what his actual voice sounds like. He is ready to see his body in the mirror and know that it's his. He is ready to love himself, truly and honestly, and to extend that to everyone else in his life. "I am finding that not unlike my characters, when I replace judgement with curiosity, I am more compassionate, loving, and kind. In short, as I am changing, I am healing."
I asked Boccumini where he goes from here. "From where I stand now, I can see that I covered up a lot of hurt for a long time, and no amount of testosterone will fix that. No surgery will remove it either. Transitioning for me is just the beginning of starting over. It's step one and taking that first step will simply allow me to access the life and gender identity I was denying. It will not teach me to love myself. That is the real work."
Boccumini religiously watches RuPaul's Drag Race, and he appreciates RuPaul's catchphrase: "If you don't love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love someone else?"
"I look in the mirror every single day and try to love the man that stands there now. A man in mid-life and mid-transition, trying to build a life based on happiness. A life I have seen in my daydreams - where I dance, and write, and make movies, and fall in love, and build friendships, and change minds and hearts and rules and limits, and wrap my arms around joy."
John Casey is editor at large for The Advocate.