How pandemic restrictions gave Kaylee Harris the chance to explore her gender identity

UNION, N.J. -- For Kaylee Harris, working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic offered a unique opportunity to explore her gender identity in a safe place.

"It let me wear dresses...when I wasn't necessarily sure that was the full direction I wanted to go," explained Harris, who is originally from Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Union, New Jersey.

The 25-year old was first introduced to makeup by a close friend during the pandemic.

"When I first had to take off my makeup that first night, I cried. I didn't want to go back," she said.

Harris' friend told her about Dr. Michelle Dalla Piazza, who specializes in gender hormone treatment, and Harris began gender-affirming hormone treatment.

"Sometimes you run out of time to find who you are, and I was really just tired of seeing just a shadow of myself in the mirror," Harris said. "A lot of us do get to really find the joy that we've been seeking when we finally get to see ourselves."

Harris added, "My experience with the gender-affirming hormone treatment has been really positive. I get to look down at my body and see a change in ways that make me really happy today. I get to see new aspects of myself developing that make me more able to express who I am."

The pandemic hasn't been easy for everyone in the trans community, Dalla Piazza explained. The isolation forced some people to go into a depression.

"As you can imagine, especially early in the pandemic, there was a lot of anxiety about being exposed to COVID in the hospital setting or the clinic setting or even when taking public transport to get to the clinic," Dalla Piazza said.

"We also had a lot of patients who rely on public transportation that worry about being harassed on their way coming to the clinic because of their transgender or nonbinary identity," Dalla Piazza added. "Being able to quickly leverage this ability to connect with patients via video, we've been able to engage with patients all over the state of New Jersey."

Harris considers herself lucky for having the support of family and friends during her transition.

"I'm not sure my transition will ever be complete. I'm not sure when you finish finding who you are and getting to know yourself. It's really a process that has started and I'm not sure if it'll end," Harris said. "I'm excited to see where it goes. It makes me happier every day as I find more of who I am and find more of how to express that person."

This Pride Month, we're celebrating members of the transgender community as a part of a special series called Our America: Who I'm Meant to Be. Click here for more stories from your city and around the country.
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