Developed in collaboration with PFLAG National and Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, the book Authentic Selves: Celebrating Trans & Nonbinary People & Their Families is groundbreaking in its depictions of joy and community. Authentic Selves celebrates trans and nonbinary people and their families in stunning photographs and their own words, and we had the pleasure of connecting with one of its featured authors Joey Morelli (he/him). Read on to learn more about Joey and the recently released book, Authentic Selves!
My name is Jozeppi Angelo Morelli, aka Joey. My pronouns are he/him/his. I identify as a trans queer man. I currently live in Sedona, Arizona, sacred soil of the Yavapai Apache Nation and the Hopi people. I am a retired law enforcement officer and a 911 WTC first responder from NYC.
Truth be told, suppressing oneself, one's true identity is soul-crushing. Once I realized that I was a male living in a female body (in 2009), circumstances prohibited me from living my truth. First, while I was a law enforcement officer, gender dysphoria was a psychological disorder. Second, my health challenges as a result of being a 911 first responder took priority for over a decade.
I moved to Sedona for a rigorous healing and detox program because traditional medicine was not working. During this process, I began to understand that I really needed to align myself with my true gender identity in order to physically, emotionally, and mentally heal. My motto became "Love the body I was in but honor the man inside." Two years into this healing journey, my health improved immensely. My doctor encouraged me to take the opportunity to go through gender-affirming surgery at age 54. With that surgery, I was finally the man I wanted to be.
I began my second career as an activist, writer, gender educator, and public speaker. It has become my passion to make all individuals living in the margins visible, especially my gender non-conforming siblings. I totally understand the devastation of all gender non-conforming humans who are being stopped by legislation and their own personal circumstances as they pursue their true selves.
In 2021, I was asked by Peggy Gillespie of the Family Diversity Projects to share my self-discovery journey for both a book and photo exhibit. Peggy has been making marginalized communities visible for years through photography and literary works. For this project, she collaborated with Skinner House Press owned by the Unitarian Universalists to produce an amazing collection representing and celebrating trans and non-binary humans and their families from across this country. We, folks of different ages, races, identities, disabilities, and religions, tell our stories, our personal experiences: our process of self-realization and the challenges, for example with our faith or our family, that we faced because of our identity as transgender or non-binary. The photography is brilliant and captures the humanity of each contributor. Jazz Jennings, her mother Jeanette Jennings, and Brian Bond PFLAG's National Executive Director wrote forwards for this beautiful piece of work called Authentic Selves. I participated in this book to demonstrate that although each of us identifies as gender non-conforming, our journeys are complex, with varied intersections, and uniquely our own. It is my hope that these stories and the resources included will help others find the courage and support to tell their own stories, share their authentic selves despite the conservative religious right attempts to eradicate us.
It is also my hope that everyone committed to love all humanity and to "justice for all" read this book to gain a deeper understanding of transgender and non-binary humans. We have existed for centuries, and we will not be silenced. Siblings, know you are loved, and you are not alone.
You can find the book on Amazon, bookshop.org, or at uua.org.