The O'Herlihy Sisters Came Out As Trans Together

Jamie O'Herlihy and Chloe O'Herlihy, the O'Herlihy sisters who happen to be trans sisters sit beside each other

When Jamie O’Herlihy came out via a YouTube video, she didn’t mention that her sister, Chloe was also trans. But then the media got hold of the fact and the O’Herlihy sisters’ story went global. The spin was largely positive and the message is about being true to yourself, but it’s not all plain sailing, they tell Brian Finnegan


It’s been a whirlwind year for Cork siblings Jamie and Chloe O’Herlihy, who made worldwide headlines in May after being interviewed for a Closer magazine article about coming out as transgender at the same time.

Suddenly the pair were everywhere, from the redtops to the couch on ITV’s This Morning, but the story this time was different from the usual salacious tabloid trans fodder. Jamie (23) and Chloe (20) were held up as paragons of sisterly support through the ups and downs of being transgender.

The media blitz happened out of nowhere. At the beginning of 2016 Jamie was working at The George, while Chloe was in college in Cork, living a quiet life at home with her mum. Then Jamie’s coming out video went viral.

“In February I made a video for friends on my social media,” she explains. “I wanted them to know that I was changing my pronouns and about how I want to be seen. It went further than I expected, it got something like 20,000 views.


No Hesitation

Someone from a press company in London saw it and she got in touch with me, wanting to put my story in magazines. Then a documentary maker got on to me. I told them about Chloe, that my sister was trans too, and they were like, ‘No way! We have to meet you right now.’ “They both said our story was amazing, of two trans sisters coming out together and going on the same journey at the same time. So, I pitched it to Chloe.”

Chloe is the quieter of the two. A self- confessed introvert, she lets her older sister do much of the talking, but when Jamie approached her about the media offers, she didn’t hesitate.

“I felt that we couldn’t not be out,” she says. “I’m not used to attention, I never had it. I was a small, chubby boy for most of my life, and Jamie was the one who always had attention wherever she went. But then, because of who I am, I get attention every day when I walk down the street.

“It could be something we’ll regret down the line, but we felt it was right to tell our stories.”


Teenage Years

The two mostly refer to themselves as ‘we’, and there’s a sense with them that every decision is taken collectively, but it wasn’t always this way. Jamie and Chloe only came out to each other a few months before their story went global, after they’d drifted apart during difficult teenage years.

“I was a very angry teenager,” Jamie says. “Chloe didn’t understand where I was coming from. I put a lot of pressure on our mum and her, acting out a lot. Then Chloe came into her teen years as I was moving out of mine, and I couldn’t understand how she was acting, completely forgetting that I had been in absolute torment as well.”

“I was so uncomfortable,” Chloe remembers. “For my last year at school I didn’t go to one PE class. PE was a must and there was no getting out of it, but I found whatever way I could. I was so awkward in the men’s locker room, I didn’t feel like anyone should be seeing my body.”

Both siblings found their own ways to tackle bullies at their secondary school. “I was bullied in my first and second year,” says Jamie. “After second year, I thought I’m not tolerating this anymore, so I stood up to the bullies and got them off my back. After that I was fine.”

Chloe’s tactic was much less confrontational. “I built up an army of girls,” she says. “No guy would ever say anything to me, or go after me in school because they knew every girl there would stick up for me.”

According to Jamie, life didn’t really start for her until school finished. “When you’re in secondary you want people to like you, to fit in, and I knew already that I was battling with my sexual orientation. I knew there was something there and I’d have to eventually come out and tell people.”

Click below to keep reading about Jamie performing as a drag queen and Chloe calling herself ‘gender-fluid’ before coming out as trans.

Jamie and Chloe will appear on The Ray Darcy show on RTÉ One at 9:55pm on Saturday, October 22 2016.


Britney T Carter

While still at school Jamie started performing as drag queen Britney T Carter, in the now-defunct Loafer’s gay bar and at Cork Pride. “After I left school I started getting more into it, I started getting better at make-up, I bought wigs and shoes. It was becoming more than drag for me.

People would say, ‘You look so much like a girl,’ and I was delighted with that. Then I moved to Dublin and the scene is so huge for drag queens, so I was in my element performing.”

True to type, Chloe took a less extroverted, but quietly formidable route towards her own gender expression. “I used to do back-up dancing for Jamie, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to perform,” she says. “My way was to wear full make-up to school and gender neutral clothing.”

A few months before Chloe came out as trans, she started calling herself ‘gender-fluid’. Then, just before her school debs, everything changed for the siblings.

“When I was doing drag and Chloe was starting to wear make-up, we didn’t really talk about it,” says Jamie.


Trapped In This Body

“But it became something just before the debs. Chloe wore an all-black outfit with a long tailcoat, gold bracelets and necklace. She got extensions and her hair was ice-blonde, and she was in full make-up. We were leaving the house to go to the debs and I said to her, ‘Do you think you might be trans?’ She was like, ‘I don’t know. Why?’ And I said, ‘Because I think I might be.’

“I had been thinking about it a lot the previous summer. I was going to sleep in my drag, I wasn’t taking off my bra and my wig, and wanting to wake up the next day in them. When I did take them off I was sad. I felt more confident when I was dressed up.”

The day after the debs, Jamie and Chloe had the most important conversation of their lives so far. “Chloe said she didn’t think gender fluid was something she could relate to anymore, that there was no fluidity there. She said I feel like I’m trapped in this body.

“I had been watching her grow into herself, thinking she’s really doing something here. I was trying to help myself to understand what she might be going through to be who she was. I was thinking about what courage it would take. I knew I had to say something to her.”


Being Trans Can Be Tough

Since coming out to each other, Jamie and Chloe have bonded closely, building on the relationship they had as young children when they would dress up as princesses together. Telling their story to the world has become central to that bond, and while they do acknowledge that the media’s positive spin has been great, both sisters are keen that GCN represents them with some realism as well as positivity.

“The story can be very sensationalised,” says Jamie. “They don’t often go into how difficult it can be.”

“There’s always the fear that that something horrible is going to happen to you because your gender expression doesn’t fit into society,” adds Chloe. “There were times when I would sprint up the road to the bus stop because I was so scared.”

“I still wouldn’t want to walk to the shop by myself,” says Jamie. “I get taxis to places all the time. I worry that something will happen to me.”

Click below to read about the O’Herlihy sisters’ medical transition journey, Jamie’s live videos on Facebook and watch some of her Youtube channel with trans boyfriend Harry.

Jamie and Chloe will appear on The Ray Darcy show on RTÉ One at 9:55pm on Saturday, October 22 2016.

Medical Transition

While facing the world on a day-to-day basis, with all that entails, both sisters are in the medical process towards transitioning.

“I waited for six months for a medical card to come through so I could talk to my doctor,” says Jamie. “He referred me to a psychologist in the HSE, but they told me that wasn’t what was needed, that I really needed a psychiatrist. So then I had to go through the process of finding one.”

Both sisters are on a waiting list to see Professor Donál O’Shea in Loughlinstown to begin the stages of their transition.

“I’ve heard of people waiting 18 months to see him, but I won’t accept that,” says Jamie. “It’s so depressing and sickening to drag around a body that you don’t feel comfortable in. The dysphoria is crazy.”


Social Media Stars

In the meantime, with their documentary waiting for a distributor, the sisters have taken their publicity into their own hands. “I said, why don’t we reach out to people in our own way?” she explains. “I love social media, so let’s push ourselves out there by doing live videos.”

Jamie also has a YouTube channel with her boyfriend, Harry, who is also trans, called That Trans Couple.


“I want to show people it’s okay to express your true self,” she says. “What I tell everyone is that life is too short to be going around pretending to be someone you’re not. Life is so fragile as well, and it can be taken away from you, so why would you waste it masking who you really are?

“Ever since we came out we’ve been so much happier, even though we face depression, anxiety and everything else that comes along with it. We have a greater foundation for our happiness. We know that we’re on a good journey.”


Jamie and Chloe will appear on The Ray Darcy show on RTÉ One at 9:55pm on Saturday, October 22

© 2016 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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