'Champions' Star Josie Totah Comes Out as a Transgender Woman: 'I'm Ready to Be Free'

Evans Vestal Ward/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Mindy Kaling and Josie Totah in Champions

Champions star Josie Totah announced Monday that she is a transgender woman.

The 17-year-old actress penned a resoundingly powerful essay for Time announcing her identity as a trans woman. In it, she addressed the media industry pigeonholing her as “J.J. Totah, gay boy,” the anxieties that come with being a trans woman in the public eye, and the opportunity to play roles that are true to her identity.

Totah’s prior acting credits include the the Mindy Kaling-produced show ChampionsGleeOther People and the Disney Channel sitcom Jessie, all of which were filmed and released before she came out as trans.

She makes it clear that she's known her gender identity long before she debuted in the entertainment industry.

“This is not something that just happened. This is not a choice that I made,” she writes. “When I was 5, long before I understood what the word gender meant, I would always tell my mother that I wished I were a girl.”

Totah writes that after taking on roles that typecast her as a cis gay man, she was fearful of coming out to the general public.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted, that I would be embarrassed, that the fans who knew me from the time when I acted in a Disney show would be confused. But I realized over the past few years that hiding my true self is not healthy,” she continues. "I know now, more than ever, that I’m finally ready to take this step toward becoming myself. I’m ready to be free."

Totah goes on to explain that the TLC show I Am Jazz, which details the life of young trans activist Jazz Jennings, gave her the confidence to come out to her mother and begin the process of hormone replacement therapy.

“My pronouns are she, her and hers. I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah," she adds, in no uncertain terms.

A wave of support followed her announcement, with Kaling, Judd Apatow and trans celebrities Janet Mock, Laverne Cox and Gigi Gorgeous cheering her on via Twitter.

Totah concludes the essay talking about her future. She's heading off to college, and, more crucially, she plans to continue full speed ahead in her acting career -- finally playing roles that are true to herself.

“I plan to play roles I haven’t had the opportunity to play. And I can only imagine how much more fun it’s going to be to play someone who shares my identity, rather than having to contort myself to play a boy. I’m going to gun for those roles, be it a transgender female or a cisgender female. Because it’s a clean slate -- and a new world.”

Read the letter here, and see some messages of support that followed below: