Pandemic paves path for members of the transgender community

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- The COVID-19 pandemic helped pave a path for some members of the transgender community to explore themselves.

"When we transitioned from going to the office to working from home, it gave me a lot of space to really explore who I was in, in a place that felt safe," said Kaylee Harris, who is originally from Portland, Oregon and now lives in Union, New Jersey. "It let me wear dresses to work when I wasn't necessarily sure that was the full direction I wanted to go."

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, and I didn't want to go back," she said.

Her friend told her about Piazza, who specializes in gender hormone treatment, and Andrew would begin the transition to Kaylee.

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"Sometimes, like, 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. 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."

Piazza explains the pandemic hasn't been easy for everyone in the transgender community. 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, you know, being exposed to COVID in the hospital setting or the clinic setting or even when taking public transport to get to the clinic." Piazza said. "And then 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 non-binary identity. And so 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," she said. "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. 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."

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