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Billie Lee Shares Her Journey and Reminds Us “There Still Are So Many Kids Out There Being Bullied for Just Being Their Authentic Selves”
Personal Space caught up with Vanderpump Rules' Billie Lee to chat about being bullied as a child, and her new "Beauty Has No Gender" campaign. This is her story, in her words.
I realized that I was different when I was around 5 or 6. I was at an Easter egg hunt, and I found this golden egg, which came with a really big prize. They had a big tent set up for boys and a big tent set up for girls and, depending on the egg you found, you would get a bigger gift. I was so excited because I knew I was getting a really big gift, and I had my eye on this pink bike.
I was just drawn to the pink section, and I didn’t really know why I was drawn to this feminine toy section and this pink bike. When I won the egg I was so excited, and my dad walked me past the pink girl’s tent and he brought me to the boy’s tent. I was crying and I was so upset, and they forced me to get a boy bike. I think it was a dump truck-themed bike, with a red radio on it.
I knew at that point that something wasn’t right. I thought, "I can’t have what I want. I can’t have what I’m attracted to." That also became a thing in my life. I was forced to be a boy. My parents were just trying to protect me. The nurses and my teachers — you know, I’m still close with them — they told me, "You were always in the nurse’s office and you were crying because you said you were too feminine for your boy body." I thought that was really powerful to hear because I obviously didn’t remember that but my teachers and my mom told me.
I was always attracted to feminine things. I had very feminine qualities, and I was attracted to boys. I was not allowed to express my feminine energy or I would be bullied. That was really difficult for me because I developed a deep insecurity. I had childhood depression and I missed almost three years of grade school.
My teachers saved my life. They really did. I had a man teacher in, I think it was in my fifth grade year, and I missed so much school and it was because I was very fearful of men. I couldn’t look men or boys in the eye because I was attracted to them but I was told not to be, and beaten up for it. I developed this situation where I was just very fearful of the male energy. My third grade teacher pulled me out of my fifth grade teacher’s class and said, “You’re going back to my class.”
They helped me so much. I would stay all night with them. They saw a little boy suffering pretty badly and they knew that I needed help, so they really saved my life. Even holding a fork — I would hold the fork in a very feminine way. My brother, who is very manly, would shovel down a bowl of cereal like some big man and my parents were like, “That’s how you need to eat cereal. That’s how you need to eat so you don’t get in trouble at school.”
That was just my whole childhood. My parents didn’t do it out of hate, they did it out of love. They saw their son being beaten up all the time. I guess it was my nurse, really, who helped me. It was me expressing, “Hey, I’m too feminine for this body.”
My friends saw I was very suppressed a lot, especially when I got to high school. All my friends would go off and hook up with people and date people and I would be alone. I would drink alcohol at a very young age, I was suicidal, I was crying all the time. I couldn’t really tell anyone. I couldn’t really express… honestly, I didn’t have a word back then. We didn’t have the word transgender or trans, so I had no idea. I even talked to one of my trans sisters now — literally we kind of grew up together. I met her when I was 17. We loved wearing makeup. We loved wearing girl clothes. We had no idea that we were trans.
I didn’t know I was trans until I came to Los Angeles after college. This guy at this bar was listening to my story and he said, “Sweetie, you’re trans,” and I was like, “What?!” This light bulb went off.
I feel like it planted a seed in that moment. I think being in Los Angeles away from the Midwest, away from close-minded people, away from my parents trying to protect me, I had the freedom to expand my mind and my heart. When I heard that I was trans, I had the freedom of exploring that. It was like I planted this little seed and it just kept growing and growing. I remember I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s like when you fall in love and you’re up all night giggling and have butterflies. Before I decided to start hormones, I imagined myself as a boy on a deserted island where no one could judge me, and I imagined myself as a woman. When I imagined myself as a woman on a deserted island, my heart blew open and I felt so happy and I was so excited. I knew I needed to follow my highest excitement and that’s when I knew I needed to start hormones. It was my early 20s.
People love me back home now. It’s totally different now. I think they see the work that I’m doing. Well, I still come across people that are close-minded, and I have some issues with my brother. But my dad is very supportive. He actually was one of the first people to know that I was transitioning. He randomly called me and said “Hey, I want you to know if you ever want to get married and wear a dress, I’ll walk you down the aisle.” I get emotional just thinking about it. And, I said “Actually, Dad, I do — I’m in the middle of transitioning, I just haven’t told you guys.”
My mom sends me cards all the time that say, “My daughter this” and “My daughter that,” and they’re my biggest fans. They 100 percent support me. They have major health issues and have had addiction issues my whole childhood, and my dad is currently in prison right now. But, they love and support me in every way possible.
I’ve recently become the new face of Regenix hair and it’s an anti-bullying campaign, too — there still are so many kids out there being bullied for just being their authentic selves.
We’re giving a percentage of the sales to Equality California. Equality California is working really hard to hold schools accountable for gender identity and to help the fight against bullying.
It’s just come full circle for me because I was bullied so bad in high school and middle school. Now, I'm a trans woman — I'm open and proud and have a beauty campaign where its whole thing is “beauty has no gender.” I’ve recently started dating this trans guy and I just can’t get over how beautiful he is. I love the fact that there is masculine and feminine energy. We all have that. We should be able to express that and not be ashamed of it.
Tune in for a special Pride Marathon on Bravo on Friday, June 28 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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