Living with Gender Dysphoria: Renee’ Vallejo shares their story.

Renee’ Vallejo, a junior at Tufts University, has always had a passion for modeling and for advocacy, tolerance, and acceptance. In April of 2014, Renee’ participated in the Tufts LUX Fashion Show and had the opportunity to model for the Dani & Danquell (D &D) Brand.

After the show, Renee’ sat down to talk with D & D founder and creator, Danquell Bradford, about the message and mission of the brand. Renee’ immediately felt connected with the brand and could relate to the appreciation of self-love that helped inspire its creation.

Renee’ also appreciated how D & D mission was to “promote a sense of communal support and inclusiveness while simultaneously calling forth every person’s uniqueness.”  “I love how D & D encourages people to share their individuality and expressions of that individuality with a loving, open, and tolerant community that would accept them without question and love and embrace them for who they are and all that they are.” That really resonates with me, being a person that suffers from Gender Dysphoria (people who experience significant dysphoria (discontent) with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth)  Gender Dysphoria is a nightmare I cannot fully give words to. Ever since I was 14 years old I hated the sight of having breasts. The feeling and sight of having something on my body that should not have been there in the first place is indescribable.  I needed the surgery to continue living, to live comfortably in my skin and in my mind, to feel whole. To live in a body that is not yours is painful.  I was in pain every single day emotionally and physically because of the dysphoria. I have binded since I was 17 years old. Wearing that thing literally takes your breath away; it hurts and is a pain to get on and off every day. However, the ironic thing about it is that all the pain that binding caused me was worth it if I could manage to look like I had a flat chest. After the surgery I was speechless, even 6 months later I cry because I am so happy to finally be in the body I was meant to. There are still things to work through and not all problems were solved, but knowing that my body now encompasses my personal identity is all I have ever wanted.

Speaking with Renee’ about being rejected by family members, Renee’ said “navigating life being raised by my mom for 12 years and then having her completely leave my life was really hard and hurtful, and it pained me to talk about the situation. At 17 I had finally reached a point in my life where I could tell my story and talk about it without crying”. Now, I have come to a place of feeling empowered rather than sad, so I use that story and that journey in my life to push through in the work that I do to touch peoples’ lives, just like Danquell does with her company (D & D). As opposed to the majority of Renee’s family, Renee’s father has been extremely supportive throughout Renee’s journey.

“There is still some hurt around the story and around the rejection, but I release the pain in different ways now. I use the pain, and I control it. It does not use or control me. I alone have power over my decisions as well as over my body and my life as a whole. I created this bubble around myself in which I have a world that I rule and I cherish myself, my empowerment, and my life and body,” Renee’ shared.  

“What really resonated with me and just took me entirely by surprise was that Danquell accepted me without asking me any questions about myself”.  Danquell just said “we like your style, we like your individuality, we like how you carry yourself, we like you and your confidence is out of this world. Would you like to work with us?” She showed complete acceptance without any questions about my background and upbringing, where I come from, or how I identify... I fell in love with how the brand brings together and celebrates individuality and inclusivity, as that is something I think every community needs a lot more of. The message behind D & D made me realize and know that I could do what I am passionate about, which is modeling, and be confident in my modeling and be accepted exactly as I am for who I am. What the brand does that is so moving and crucial is that it allows me to show and express to the world that I am my own version of me.

Renee’ was encouraged and inspired by the D&D brand because Renee’ appreciated “the way that the brand gives back to the community, and how it is truly about reaching people and moving them to love and accept others.” Renee’ said “I believe that if I touch the life of just one person, or move someone in any small way in this world in the span of my life, I will have done some good that fulfills a higher purpose, or that helps fulfill the purposes for which I exist here and now on this planet”. I say to others that suffer from Gender Dysphoria “Do it your way. There is not one box that you have to fit into. You are your own person and only you can define who you are. You have community in every corner of the world; people you know and people you don't know. You are so loved”.

A very special thank you to Renee' Vallejo for continue support and dedication to the D&D Brand. Blessings!!

By Carly Gutner - Davis

Photography by Shiyi Zhang

  • Michelle Winton Ruiz says...

    I am the mother of Renee Vallejo. I must say that I have not always agreed with the things that my daughter has done with her life. Renee didn’t even “come out” to me until she was 15 years old which was three years after she had moved out to join her father’s household. Natuarally, I cried and shared my religious opinion with her in a loving manner. I was disappointed and saddened because I knew that meant drastic change fr her life as well as mine. She walked out of my life for about two years; no contact, no answered phone calls, no answers to a couple of letters I had written.

    I was not trying to act as a perfect person; just a scared and very concerned mother. I wanted what I thought to be the best for her life and being gay was not what I thought was for the best.

    However, I have always been proud of her life because it has always been a very full and beautiful life and I loved the fact that she could push through every hardship and make it glow with ethusiastic beauty. Yes, Renee has had that capability since the moment I first played eyes in her out of my womb. I love the twelve wonderful years when she was under my roof. And the 10 years she has been away (6 under her father’s family roofs, and the almost four years there at TUFTS) I have learned more about who she is, her desires, and what drives her to succeed as she does succeed so very well in life.

    I love my daughter with all of my being and always will. She is beautiful, she is real, she loves with her whole heart as well, and cares for each and every soul that she has the opportunity to get to know.

    I am very fortunate to have her as a daughter and and first born.

    On June 26, 2015

  • moonbeam says...

    I cried as I read your story. It makes me sad that at this time we still have hatred because of people’s personal and private decision to live their lives as they see fit. Thanks for telling your story and for being strong and following your heart. Sorry for the pain that has to come just for living your own life. Best wishes in your life both professional and personal. Proud of you.

    On June 08, 2015

  • Kristie Collins says...

    Renee you are so beautiful!!!!

    On June 08, 2015

  • Christine Vallejo says...

    Yessss!!!! Reading this made me almost cry my heart out!!! I am so happy and I am so joyful with how great my sister has handeled so many things through her childhood until now. I, myself do not care what my sister may label herself as. I love my sister as my sister is!!!! She has been a great role model in my life for staying true to who I am and my own decisions as well. I support you 1000% and more!!! I love you. And your story, your side, and your strength alone has all been heard and you are the voice for those who can’t voice for themselves. I’m proud of you. And I love you Nae.!!!!!

    On June 08, 2015

  • Rev. Raedorah C. Stewart says...

    What I love about my village children is their determination to live authentic lives. Condemnation be dammed. Courage be determined. May Renee and all the real ones embody Psalms 139 — the whole chapter, every verse.

    Realize too, some women will hate because they are not as pretty and some men will hate because they are not as fine. @QuoteYourMother

    On June 08, 2015

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