Few topics have deepened the political divide like transgender issues have in the past couple of years, and that, it seems, is no coincidence. As society becomes more inclusive and accepting, those threatened by what they don’t understand have seized upon trans and queer issues in general, spreading misinformation and fear as a way to maintain power and a suppressive status quo. But humanity and unity will keep moving forward, regardless. As conservatives and religious zealots fight against the shift of thought and shattering of constructs surrounding gender and sexuality, those who believe in body autonomy and personal freedom (and moreso, those who have a trans or nonbinary person they know and care about) will focus on promoting unconditional love and support. Now more than ever, living one’s truth publicly and unapologetically is the ultimate form of activism and push-back. Few embody these ideas better than GiGi Gorgeous and Gottmik, two bodacious media figures and beloved personalities in the trans community who also happen to be close friends, learning and growing together on individual paths toward self-acceptance, made all the more manageable (and seemingly more fun) by their connection.

The T Guide – Our Trans Experience and a Celebration of Gender Expression — Man, Woman, Nonbinary, and Beyond (Penguin/Random House), is an expansive volume featuring everything you ever wanted to know about being trans/queer but were afraid to ask, written by the pair and featuring dozens of contributors. As Pride month continues louder than ever by necessity in the wake of hateful legislation in states like Florida and Texas, the book is essential reading for a much wider audience than might be apparent at first glance. Yes, it will be a godsend for people struggling with gender identity questions, but it’s also meant as a helpful guide for families seeking to comprehend and empathize with their sons, daughters and gender fluid kids (or their friends), wherever they might be in their journeys. Even those who don’t have a trans person in their lives will find much to enjoy and learn from in this colorful, conversational, user-friendly book.

“I think Gigi and I did a really good job at making this feel like a conversation between two friends, so I hope when people are reading it they feel that they’re listening to a friend talking,” says Gottmik, whose legal name is Kade Gottlieb, in a recent group chat on Zoom alongside co-writer Gorgeous (aka Gigi Gorgeous Getty). “We’ve pretty much covered a lot of the bases – we have Sarah McBride, the first trans Senator, in the book, and we have really, every type of person ever, to show that you are talking to trans people every day out there.”

Gottlieb says that fighting against negative trans portrayals and “the crazy media push of like this left wing, insane type of person,” was a major goal. “Girl, we are doctors, we’re senators, we’re teachers, we are all around you,” he says. “We’ve always been here and we’re always going to be here!”

While trans people of the past were more secretive and in the shadows, mostly for their own safety, the fact that they aren’t so much anymore has led to backlash from people who question their increased visibility. Even those who support trans people in theory still have some hangups. The American public’s views on trans people at the moment, especially when it comes to trans youth and how young is too young to really declare or know one’s gender identity, has varied and become more complex, especially as Republican rhetoric has gotten in the mix and wrongly equated validation with indoctrination. (Read our 2021 cover story about Trans Visibility in Entertainment here).

The T Guide will only be seen as encouragement for young people who have questions about being non-binary or are actually trans. This book, as with movies or music featuring trans characters and creators, can’t “groom” someone into being trans who is not. It doesn’t work that way and that’s just one of many truths that becomes clear as you read the individual stories and share the intimate and honest conversations from the authors throughout.

“The adults who think that are uneducated 100%,” says Gottlieb. “They’re scared of the unknown. And they’re scared that the unknown is their children. I know my family was kind of scared at first, too. I had to take it upon myself to educate them and teach them that it’s not a scary thing. It’s always been like this. And I’m the same person. I just didn’t have the language to communicate it before, because I didn’t have anyone that was like me before. So it’s just an educational process.”

“I feel like those who need to hear it will absorb it,” adds Getty about the book. “And those who don’t will just be educated. You know, it’s not going to change anyone. I think if you ask the majority of queer people, ‘when did you know? They’ll mostly say, I always knew.”

Before she became Gigi “Gorgeous” Getty, GG was a popular YouTube personality known for creating and starring in the reality program The Avenue. She became even more famous after coming out as a trans woman in 2013 (when she took the Gorgeous nickname, while also legally using her family surname, Lazaratto). Canadian-born, she came to L.A. as her online presence grew as the first social media figure to document her gender transition with videos of cosmetic procedures and personal experiences. In 2017, she also shared her life in a documentary called This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous.

Identifying as pansexual (as does Gottlieb), she met Nats Getty, a member of the Getty family, during Paris Fashion Week while modeling for their brother August Getty, who is a designer. Nats (who is a trans man) proposed a year later and the pair married July of 2019. Watching Nats’ path to his true self and how the couple navigated it all on a public platform was inspiring to Gottlieb and the friendship between all three grew soon after.

Gottmik – whose name is an obvious play on the dairy industry slogan – made “herstory” as a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13. He was the first trans man to compete on the beloved reality contest, making the top 4, and rocking his signature gothy/kabuki-inspired white makeup looks and decidedly rock n’ roll and fetish-flaired fashions. While RuPaul did not allow trans contestants on the show at first, he ultimately changed his mind and trans women have competed ever since. Gottlieb remains the only trans man to have been on the show, but his appearance was notable not only for his gender, but for how he blurred it with ease, showcasing both masculine and feminine looks and using both pronouns (“she” in drag and “he” out of drag). It felt fresh coming from a trans man, even if it wasn’t new – most drag queens use both pronouns depending on the looks they are representing.

A popular makeup artist who worked with celebrities and the L.A. drag community long before Drag Race, Gottlieb was also involved with Hollywood clubs before coming on the show, so he is very much entrenched in local LGBTQ+ nightlife and creative circles. At just 20 years old he was the VIP door host at Andrés Rigal’s 2016 gathering called Commodore. “L.A. really opened my heart and soul and mind up to everything that I am now,” shares the Arizona-born Angeleno. “Andrés saw me out here doing crazy makeup and crazy looks, and in the L.A. spirit, he took me in and that’s kind of what a lot of the promoters and queens out here do — they see your talent and they want to nurture it. And he let me work his door at the clubs. So I was working in drag and at the door at all these L.A. parties, and then I started hosting them.”

Steven on the scene

Gottmik, Gigi Gorgeous and Andres Rigal at ‘The T Guide’ party at EVITA (Photo by Steven on the Scene)

“There’s nothing like L.A. nightlife,” adds Gorgeous, who first met Gottlieb, they both recall, at The Abbey in West Hollywood. “It holds a very special place in both of our hearts. I remember growing up in Toronto and going out and, you know, it was either straight or gay clubs. When I moved to L.A., I was just so taken aback that there’s so much blending that happens here. People are really open minded here. There’s almost no labels. I remember going to Bootsy Bellows and being like, ‘oh my god, half the scene is gay and half the scene is straight.’ It’s so blended and it made me feel really safe and free to express myself.”

Rigal, who currently throws the hot queer parties such as Evita and Summertramp, says that L.A. clubs “allow for self-discovery so that people may find the courage, power and community to follow their destiny and ultimately find their true selves, whatever that might be.” Of Gottlieb, he says, “never have I met someone with so much natural talent, ambition and drive to achieve whatever he dreams. I feel so grateful that I have been able to witness and support Kade through his chrysalis and proudly watch as the rest of the world experiences what I saw from day one — a diamond, legend, leader and visionary for our community.”

Speaking of leaders in the community– The T Guide is filled with personal stories and advice via well-known contributors, handpicked by the authors. “We definitely started with our idols,” says Getty. “Adam Lambert is a huge idol of Kade’s and Paris Hilton is a huge idol of mine… Amanda Lapore is a legend. These were people that were no-brainers to us. Paris obviously is not transgender, but she is such an inspiration to me with the way that she lives her life and with her aesthetic ever since I was young. So I really wanted her to write the “tips for being feminine” chapter. As far as how we chose what people would write about in the book – some people, we were like, ‘we really feel like you would fit in this chapter,’ but other people we were just like, ‘what do you want to write about? What haven’t you spoken about?’”

Gigi Gorgeous

(Shaun Vadella for ‘The T Guide’ / Penguin Random House)

 

Some of the most impactful passages in The T Guide come not from famous people, but from the authors’ own parents, each of whom share their struggles with acceptance and how they came to it. Both Gigi and Kade came from conservative families, which made coming out hard for each.

“Being transgender is a journey, not a specific event. The personality of the individual does not change in that process. But how they present themselves to the world changes and evolves. Parents, family and friends have a decision to make early on. Do they want to figure out how to be supportive, or do they want to let their views and experiences get in the way of the person’s decisions and happiness?” 

David Lazzarato, Gigi’s dad, in The T Guide 

“First and foremost, love your child unconditionally. This is not a “choice” for them; it is who they are. It wasn’t easy for them to talk with you about something so crucial and personal. You may not understand yet and you may not be comfortable with what they are telling you, but you need to listen, listen and listen some more. Ask questions. Do your own research and communicate openly. Be their safe haven. Be their home.”

– Amy Gottlieb, Kade’s mom, in The T Guide

Beyond mourning the son or daughter they raised by their “dead name,” one of the hardest things for parents of trans people to deal with concerns worrying how the world will treat them. There is much more acceptance these days, but there is also more resistance. And even loving, liberal people may have varying views on hot button topics such as prom date outfits, gender neutral bathrooms, who should compete in sporting competitions, and who should have spokesperson gigs for their favorite products. Each issue has its own nuances and the public discourse rarely addresses them all. For example, the particularly massive uproar over Tik-Toker Dylan Mulvaney promoting Bub Light after being sent cans with her image on them has been on the forefront of the cultural conversation, leading to boycotts of the beer and hate from “anti-woke” Right Wing figures and groups on social media.

Getty and Gottlieb are, sadly, both familiar with the kind of online bullying and IRL bigotry that Mulvaney has dealt with. “You know, some people are given the beautiful gift of being able to be loud and proud and shameless, and other people go through their transitions really quietly,” muses Getty, who is friends with Mulvaney. “And I think people like Dylan and others within our community are really blessed with that kind of fearless attitude. Like, let me just share it all. They’ve saved so many lives, undoubtedly.”

Being so public does have its daunting moments, even for this seemingly bold and confident duo. They are sharing what they’ve learned along the way and even acknowledging missteps as part of their individual paths, which is not easy to do, especially when naysayers tend to seize upon that. We asked if they had any regrets about what they’ve put out there thus far, and if they shared anything new about themselves in the book that they hadn’t in the past.

“I started online but it was never my goal to share my personal life there,” says Getty. “It really just unfolded that way. I’m like the queen of coming out online because I’ve come out I think four times. But that’s how I  was feeling in the moment [and] that is beautiful in its own way. I’ve always received so much love and respect from my supporters and my following because they know that I’m always coming from an authentic place.”

“I’ve always been really open about my surgeries and things that I’ve done to modify myself to be happy,” she continues. “But in the book, I also talk about mistakes that I’ve made with that, and challenges that I faced because of that. That’s something that I’ve never shared.”

 

9780744070590

‘The T Guide’ (Penguin Random House)

Gottlieb and Getty share a frank conversation near the middle of the book about bottom surgery (neither has had it and both want it), discussing their individual hopes for improvements on these medical procedures, and the pros, cons and risks of taking this step in general. It’s often the last part of the transition process and it is given the serious discussion it deserves.

It was a step out of Gottlieb’s comfort zone, for sure. “I’ve always been someone who believes that you don’t need surgery to be trans and it’s just like part of everyone’s individual journey,” he explains. “So I don’t usually like to talk about it that much. But this is a book about our personal experiences and medically transitioning is a huge part of my journey and will always be. So I talked about all the surgeries I have, and the surgeries I want to have, which I’ve never done before at all. It was kind of crazy and scary to write it down in a book [but] I have to remind myself that there’s definitely people out there who feel the exact same way, so it’s important to just be open and honest.”

In the end, The T Guide is a fascinating and entertaining read, and a beautiful book to look at, too. The images of Gigi and Kade, shot by beauty and celebrity photographer Shaun Vadella, are stunning, and they put a lot of what’s presented with words in a complementary visual context. Both authors are so beautifully themselves here, that they almost leap off the page with magnetism, allure and happiness.

“This is what trans joy looks like,” declares Gottlieb as we ask for final thoughts as the interview concludes.

To which Getty adds, “The general thing I want people to take away from the book is that trans people aren’t doing anything but living in their own truth. All we want is to just navigate through life and be accepted. Also, it really does transcend being transgender, because it’s just about humans and their struggles and friendships. It’s just all love.”

The T Guide is available wherever books are sold (and not banned). 

 

 

TGuide COVER 33 2023

This week’s cover story. (Photo by Shaun Vadella for ‘The T Guide’/ Penguin Random House)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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