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  • - Growing up, I didn't even know what trans was.

  • It was always, "You're not a girl.

  • You're not a girl. You're not a girl."

  • If you brought your heels with , please put them on.

  • - Black trans woman from Trinidad and Tobago,

  • that doesn't go over well.

  • DOMINIQUE JACKSON: Step up. Don't be scared.

  • I don't bite till after midnigh.

  • [class laughing]

  • I did not see a future for myse.

  • Walking, a lot of times, we don't understand

  • we carry our emotions with us when we walk.

  • If you are late for work,

  • it's gonna be... excuse me. Exc. - [class laughing]

  • Get out of the way, right?

  • - Ballroom becomes salvation fo.

  • DOMINIQUE: When I first put on my hair...

  • and I realized that I could be ,

  • there was no going back.

  • dance music playing

  • Five, six, seven, eight, walk.

  • But what I've discovered by walking with my head up

  • is being able to say, "No.

  • I don't care what you think abo"

  • CARLOS WATSON: The most extraordinary lives

  • follow undefined paths.

  • To find your voice,

  • you may need to journey into the unknown.

  • I'm Carlos Watson, editor of OZY,

  • and these are Defining Moments.

  • EDWIN TORRES: I don't know if it's straight o.

  • DOMINIQUE: Yeah, I like that.

  • I never thought I would have put my mother on my wall like t.

  • - Hey. How are you? - Hi, Carlos.

  • A pleasure. Welcome. - How are you?

  • - Welcome to my little, little .

  • CARLOS: Thank you. Beautiful pl. DOMINIQUE: Thank you.

  • Thank you. Thank you. In the spirit of the holidays.

  • CARLOS: I was gonna say, you're getting ready for Christ.

  • Is that your favorite holiday?

  • - Eh, you know, um,

  • for quite a while I really didn,

  • get into holidays and stuff lik,

  • because there was so much more going on.

  • I really couldn't put up photos.

  • Like, everyone does. They have ,

  • but I didn't value my life.

  • So therefore, I didn't celebratf by putting up my photos.

  • I was living in survival mode.

  • CARLOS: What was it like for you growin?

  • Were you able to be open...

  • - No. - ...as a trans girl, trans wom?

  • - I would never have come out

  • if I was living in Tobago.

  • Trans people on the islands are murdered.

  • And there's nothing done.

  • CARLOS: Was there anyone else growing up on the island,

  • like, were there any other peope who felt like their gender...

  • DOMINIQUE: There was this one person...

  • People on the island treated this person horribly.

  • Like, they couldn't get into ta. They had no place to live.

  • I would see people discriminate against them.

  • I would see people laugh at the.

  • But this person was so happy.

  • When you saw them, they weren'tg with their heads down and feeli.

  • They were walking around, like,

  • really happy. Like, singing and, and a lot of people would say,

  • "Oh, they're crazy. They've lost their mind."

  • But what I've come to realize i, that person had found their tru.

  • They didn't care what anyone el.

  • Going through life, growing up,

  • when it came to understanding m,

  • I was so excited about my truth

  • that I thought that everyone should just be like,

  • "We accept you. We love you. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

  • For my mother, who is rooted in her church,

  • in, in her Bible,

  • she did not understand it.

  • CAROLE LYONS: My name is Carole.

  • And Dominique is my son.

  • My... sorry.

  • Is my daughter.

  • My firstborn.

  • Dominique was a wonderful child.

  • Loving. Kind.

  • He was always a performer. He was a great dancer.

  • DOMINIQUE: I played Wonder Woman.

  • I didn't want to join the Boy S. I joined the Brownies.

  • And when I got to a certain age, it was no longer cute

  • for me to do the girly things.

  • Now it was like, "Look, this can be kind of seri"

  • I had an aunt who, every time I opened my mouth,

  • she would say, "Speak like a boy!

  • Act like a boy! You're not a girl."

  • Okay, but, this is where I rela.

  • - From what age did you feel th?

  • - It was about when I realized that girls had vaginas

  • and boys had penises, and I didn't want one.

  • - So, you're talking, like,

  • - five, six, seven-- DOMINIQUE: Four.

  • I remember first asking the que,

  • "What is this? Why is it here?"

  • To them, it was like, you're born male.

  • But to me, it was like, this is.

  • So, somebody fix it.

  • - Were you saying this to Mom--

  • - To my grandmother, but they weren't hearing me.

  • I was taken out of dance classe, and put into soccer.

  • I went to church every Sunday, Sunday school.

  • CAROLE: Religion was very much a part of our lives.

  • He was very involved with the Anglican church.

  • He was an acolyte at the time I left Tobago...

  • in 1986.

  • My husband and I at the time,

  • and my three children, we moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

  • JAYE BREBNOR: Mom came over to the Unites States for a bett,

  • to prepare a better life for us.

  • CAROLE: Dominique's grandmother didn't want him to leave Tobago,

  • so he left him with her.

  • DOMINIQUE: I'm about to become an acolyte,

  • so now this is a prestigious thg on the island.

  • Your child is serving on the al. They're closer to God.

  • And then the priest,

  • I started to feel really strange vibes from him.

  • He took me to the beach,

  • myself and another acolyte, and I'm thinking,

  • ooh, everyone else is gonna be ,

  • because now I'm close to the pr.

  • To me, it was like being close to a president or something lik.

  • And so we're in the water, and..

  • he takes off his shorts.

  • My priest was not a homosexual. He was a pedophile.

  • CARLOS: And you were how old at this po?

  • DOMINIQUE: Eleven, probably.

  • I cannot tell you if I was penetrated in the water or not.

  • I just know I felt pain.

  • I know that things did not feel.

  • CAROLE: When I heard that...

  • if I was able to travel,

  • I'm sure I would have committed.

  • DOMINIQUE: Religion was always a part of m.

  • But religion also hurt me.

  • At those times, I didn't feel le I had any connection to God.

  • Even though I knew he was there,

  • I just didn't feel like He lovee or cared for me,

  • because I was told that I was an abomination for being .

  • Years later, I got a phone callg that one of the acolytes had pa.

  • It was from AIDS complications.

  • And so, when I heard that the priest may have HIV,

  • in my entire being, all I heard was "run."

  • "Run."

  • CARLOS: By age 15,

  • Dominique had experienced enough fear and abuse

  • to last a lifetime.

  • Now, she'd leave the only home she'd ever known

  • seeking the one thing she neede:

  • family.

  • CAROLE: She came here to Baltimore.

  • I said, "Okay, that's fine. You can stay with me."

  • And basically, that's when...

  • let us know about his new lifes.

  • It was a shock to everybody.

  • DOMINIQUE: I was being hot in the booty.

  • Went downtown Baltimore. Snuck away from home.

  • I needed to find a place that he

  • find some kind of feeling that I was normal.

  • I met this guy.

  • Taller than I was,

  • and I'm standing there, and I'm like,

  • "Ah, yeah. We're gonna go out." And then here these people come.

  • Trans women.

  • I didn't even know what trans w.

  • But I'm thinking to myself,

  • okay, something's different abo,

  • and I relate to it.

  • And they're like,

  • "Oh, you're not dating him."

  • "I don't know you."

  • "No, you're not dating him."

  • They told me he contracted HIV,

  • and the way that he dealt with t was to do this thing called "gi"

  • His idea was, someone did it to,

  • so I'm gonna do it to everyone .

  • And they held me and they walke.

  • But they were from ballroom.

  • Ballroom saved my life that nig.

  • - For people who've never been to the shows,

  • take 'em inside.

  • What were the shows like? - Fantastic.

  • dance music playing

  • DOMINIQUE: You could be coming into that br

  • with all kinds of burdens and t,

  • and then this person would get ,

  • and you would see makeup, and you would see hair,

  • and you just feel this sense of.

  • dance music playing

  • It was ballroom, and we were vogueing at night,

  • and doing runway, and tying sheets around to make.

  • It was a place for us to just really have community.

  • It's like, why are you going to?

  • Because that's where you feel your comfort.

  • I had found my chosen and prove.

  • People who were just like me.

  • CARLOS: Dominique's initiation into the world of ballroom

  • helped her define what she'd always been feeling.

  • It also provided sanctuary to l,

  • as the person she saw in the mi.

  • JAYE: I found out when I was about 10

  • that my brother is no longer my.

  • It's my sister.

  • So, of course, like any other p,

  • Mom has rules, standards, guidelines.

  • If you don't want to live under my household, you know, leave.

  • And, you know, that's what happd at that point in time.

  • CAROLE: If you love someone,

  • it's not about acceptance.

  • That's how I see it.

  • In my eyes, it's wrong.

  • We were taught by my grandmother to always live for the Lord.

  • That's how we lived.

  • And there was nothing about bei, or anything like that.

  • DOMINIQUE: I couldn't go back h, because if I had gone back home,

  • then I would have to de-transit.

  • So, because I could not live in my mother's house

  • as a female at that time,

  • the voice came back to me. "Run."

  • I ended up in New York.

  • - Tyra Allure Ross is who we kn.

  • You all know her by Dominique J.

  • So when I say Tyra, I mean Dominique Jackson.

  • She was a legend. A bona fide legend.

  • HOST: Miss Tyra Allure.

  • - MICHAEL ROBERSON: In the house of ballroom commun,

  • particularly her category,

  • the trans women are overly made, if you will.

  • This notion of a Jessica Rabbit,

  • small waist, big breasts,

  • and here's this tall, slender wn

  • who would walk in a club

  • part the Red Sea like Moses,

  • have all these little young gayn surrounding her.

  • Like Janet Jackson, like Naomi ,

  • Tyra has that same kind of powe.

  • And when she does it, you would never think

  • someone like that is struggling with self-esteem issues.

  • DOMINIQUE: When you came to New, you only knew one place.