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Jaah Kelly

Source: Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Cirque du Soleil / Getty

Back in 2014, Drea Kelly and R. Kelly‘s youngest child, born biologically as a female, came out as trans male and started going by Jay Kelly, sharing online (via Ask.Fm) that “I believe I am a boy and want surgery and the medication to help me be who I was supposed to be.”

Jay received a good amount of support, specifically from family and mom Drea, who had no problem using the preferred gender pronouns.

“[My mom] was like, ‘Baby, you know I love you if you were bi, gay, [lesbian], you name it and I would still love you so much,” Jay said at the time.

But in the present day, things have changed. Jay is now Jaah, and is no longer identifying as a trans male, which she felt like she was from ages 6 and 7 and was preparing to take hormones to make happen.

“When I posted that video, I was so scared,” Jaah told PAPER magazine in their recent issue for Pride. “When I was younger, I always felt like I had to make a choice. I knew that I was a girl who liked other girls. But because of what I was taught, I felt like the only way you could like another girl is if you were a boy.”

In the interview, Jaah reveals that after coming out publicly, she found herself struggling with severe depression and ended up staying in a psychiatric hospital for a few weeks. Afterward, she viewed herself and her experiences in a different light, and while she doesn’t mind how other people choose to refer to her (female, genderfulid, nonbinary or male), she is now identifying as lesbian.

“I identify as a lesbian, I know I like girls, but that’s as far as I’ll go to label myself,” she said. “It’s up to you how you see me. Either way, I don’t care. I stand in my truth, and why does my truth need a label?”

Drea has been there every step of the way and is Jaah’s biggest cheerleader, however she chooses to identify.

“I remember when Jaah first came out to me when she was 10 years old. She thought, ‘Oh Mama, I was scared to tell you because I didn’t think you would love me,” Drea shared in the interview. “But the unconditional love of a mother is like that of God. There is nothing you could do to earn it and there is nothing you could ever do to lose it. I told her, ‘I love you because you’re mine, not because of your orientation. I’m always gonna be here to protect you.’ Meantime, live that best life, and live it out loud and in color. Who gives a damn what anybody else thinks?”

Outside of that though, Jaah is distinguishing herself as a musician. Going by JaahBaby, she’s a self-taught pianist and producer. She’s also quite the talented vocalist.

“Jaah is fearless to me as a person, and as an artist,” Drea said. “One thing she gets from her father, true in her DNA, is her ability to create and produce by ear. She’s entirely self-taught. When she wanted to learn piano, she just came to me one day and told me she taught herself how on YouTube. The same goes for making beats. To have my JaahBaby [Jaah’s artist name] doing what she does in a male-dominated industry makes her all the more extraordinary in my eyes.”

Overall, Jaah is hoping to get her music out there, and also get it to people in the hopes of encouraging them to live as freely as she is living finally.

“I’d want people to know that you can do whatever you feel you want to because you have one life,” Jaah said. “The reason I dress the way I dress is because I want to. The reason I do anything at all is because I want to. It just makes me happy. I feel like there are so many people who don’t do what they want to do in life. But sometimes they can’t because of safety reasons or there would be negative consequences if they did. Maybe people who feel like that can listen to my music and feel like they can do whatever the hell they want. Music doesn’t have one sound, one identity, and neither do people. Just let go of everything.”

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