The dancer and cannabis activist, who appeared on the sixth season of the reality TV competition in 2014, is one of the show’s most memorable contestants.
On Tuesday (15 June), Laganja revealed that she has been living as a woman among friends and family for a year, having used drag to publicly ease herself into her identity by “presenting as female for the last 10 years”.
“I do want to be able to express this at all times,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “In one week already, my life has changed. I’m able to come off stage and take my makeup off and still see a beautiful woman in the mirror. It’s powerful.”
Laganja said that she is yet to begin hormone therapy, explaining: “Glam doesn’t make you a woman; it makes you a woman to people outside, in the world... gender is performative, and what we wear is an extension of what we feel on the inside.”
Laganja added that she was inspired by other trans women who had come out, stating: “There are so many other women around me who’ve inspired me to come forward today, and it’s because of their fight and their struggle that I’m able to really do this and say that I’m nervous, but I’m not scared.”
This includes her fellow season six competitor Gia Gunn, who came out as trans in 2017 and later returned to compete on season four of All Stars.
Laganja said that she is thankful that Gunn didn’t “push” her to come out as trans earlier. “Of course she’s encouraged me,” she said. “From day one when we met, she was like, ‘Oh honey, you’re a woman!’ She’s known longer than I have!”
She will continue to perform under the name Laganja and use her birth name, Jay Jackson, among her closest friends so that she does not feel like she’s “turning my back on” her past.