Joel Evan Tye graces magazine covers and makes appearances around the country today. But it wasn’t always this glamorous for the native Arizonan. From a repressed, socially abused and confused boy, who refused to speak to anyone for many years, sprang a powerful man who sings, acts, and models professionally. Through spiritual power, hard work and determination, Joel Evan Tye transformed his body, mind and soul into the man he always wanted to be, but was afraid to become. Tye’s story is one of finding self-love and acceptance miraculously.
During Tye’s childhood, he grew up believing that he just wasn’t good enough because he was forced to adhere to gender conditioning. His memories are haunting melodies that still play in his mind and consciousness to this day. Tye must work to continually silence the negative voices and oppressive gender identification messages which still ring in his head.
Tye grew up in a normal family, but his personality traits were far from what most consider the norm. At a very young age, Tye was intrigued by the things that are associated with girls and had no interest in things that were associated with being a boy.
“I was not allowed to have certain things my sister had – beautiful clothes, dolls, jewelry – all of those things girls get, because I was a boy,” states Tye. “I was angry that I wasn’t a girl…I was a boy, and boys were somehow undeserving of certain things just because they were boys, no other reason.”
Out of the anger, Tye developed a mental obsession with obtaining these items labeled as feminine while also consciously and unconsciously building a stronger effeminate character. He would fantasize about wearing beautiful women’s clothes and when no one was around, try on jewelry.
“I somehow developed mannerisms, body languages, and vocal tones similar to a girl. I would take my sister’s things and hide them in my closet. I’ve never been someone to accept what I was told, even as a young child I could never stick to the rules. But of course, those who don’t follow the rules always have to pay the price. In this case it wasn’t from the authority figures of the time, but from my own peers.”
Tye’s parents did try to guide him and warn him about the norms of society and the consequences he might suffer if he continued acting as a girl into his teens. Often teased and taunted by other children, Tye became known as “the boy who talks like a girl.”
“I didn’t know why I had such a high voice or why I liked to skip and scream really loud or why I cried when I didn’t like something or why neither the girls nor the boys liked me. I was just, so not like either of those two groups. That was the start of the realization that my silence was the answer to cope. Sometimes it was accepted and it was my victory. Other times, the lack of an answer or response led to physical assault. I was taunted and beat up quite often.”
As painful and humiliating as the taunting and harassment became, Tye never stopped or made any attempt to assimilate himself. In fact, he went further into his own world to keep people away.
“In my childhood I did have a few friends here and there. Sometimes, I would even try to convince my female friends that I was a girl, just so I could play with their toys and dress-up costumes. It did get harder as I grew older though. ‘The boy who talks like a girl’ became harder and harder to befriend because he just got weirder and weirder in the eyes of the other maturing children. I found though that there was one person that didn’t mind the ‘boy who talked like a girl’ no matter how old he became. That person was me.”
Tye became more and more introverted, spending way too much time by himself because when I was alone, he could do anything he wanted without anyone’s judgment. However, as Tye grew older, puberty became his worst enemy.
“The thing about puberty is, when your voice drops, talking in your head voice becomes almost impossible. I never learned to talk in my chest voice like a normal person does. I spoke in my head voice, or falsetto. Like other boys, my voice was changing, but I didn’t know how to change with it. I didn’t want a new deep voice. The idea of becoming more like a man frightened me. I didn’t want to be a man.”
Tye’s parents tried to understand. His mother would often say to him, “Just talk normal,” which he hated. He struggled and became angrier with the fact that he was being asked to assimilate and become like everyone else. Rebellion consumed Tye’s persona and at the age of twelve, he refused to speak to anyone.
“If I needed to communicate something to someone I simply whispered it or used a translator. I would whisper to someone who would then speak normally to the person I wished to communicate to. In a way I became this eccentric mysterious figure, like a member of royalty who avoids the crowd by staying behind a curtain. I adjusted my body as well to fight off becoming a man. I would shave off all my body hair, keep my nails long and wear jewelry and baggy shorts. Afraid of the noisy salon, I would order my mother to cut my hair in a bowl shape at home, and I would take a razor and shave the bottom half right down to the skin. I plucked my eyebrows very thin like a geisha. I was odd looking, to say the least, androgynous and silent.”
During high school, Tye became compulsive about homework and passed the time by eating and watching cartoons to escape his reality. He also became an obsessive-compulsive eater. Afraid to go out in public, Tye developed severe social anxiety.
“Anytime I had to go somewhere, I would start sweating. I couldn’t look at people; I had to keep my head down everywhere I went. The world was so frightening.”
Because of his obsession with studying, Tye was made president of the school’s National Honor Society and graduated class Valedictorian.
“I delivered my speeches whispering from a microphone. I discovered that being in front of a crowd speaking was different than being lost in a crowd. People listen when you have a microphone and are on a stage. These experiences created a need for me to be the center of attention.”
Tye began to break down inside and out. He often literally fell to the ground in tears. Finally, after years of emotional turmoil, Tye’s parents took him to see a therapist.
“It felt so shameful to talk to the therapist. She asked me gender identity questions which struck nerves in me. When I got home I refused to leave my room and began tearing up pages from books violently. I changed therapists, which didn’t help much. I would never answer any of the therapist’s questions.”
After graduating high school, Tye enrolled in college in Sante Fe. Something changed within him during this phase of his life. He began to come out of his shell with a desire to fit in. He somehow gained courage to get his hair cut normally at salons and dress in pants instead of shorts, a small step toward what was to become an enormous transformation.
“One day I looked in the mirror and said, “This new hair doesn’t match this body. I need a new body.”
It was at this point that Tye discovered physical fitness.
“The theory I was working with at the time was, if I have to be a man, then instead of fighting my body, I should work with it in ways to make it the most beautiful version of a man’s body I could. That way, it wouldn’t feel so bad to be a man, because it was my new understanding at that point that a man could be beautiful too. From that point on I made it a point to be the most beautiful man I could be.”
Image identity wasn’t enough, though, for Tye. Just like a lot of reality show contestants who lose weight on TV, only to gain it all back when the show ends, he was still living with many of the same thoughts and tapes playing in his head. He continued to eat compulsively, focused on homework and working out, avoided people at school, and refused to live in the dorms.
“I was still living my lonely, no-purpose life – just in a different costume. I had merely found a new way to put myself on a pedestal while keeping my old habits.”
Remaining miserable inside, Tye eventually developed a fear of going to bed because it meant the day was over, along with another fear of waking up in the morning because it meant that the same horrible day was about to start again.
“It was lonely, I was lonely. I was in denial of my own depression but felt powerless to change anything.”
Then, on a random cloudy day, Tye was working on a Euclidean math problem. Suddenly, he felt the urge to stop and take a break. He stared out his window for a moment and then sat back and closed his eyes.
“I asked myself in my head, ‘Why am I so miserable? What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose in life?’ A voice came to me and said, ‘You were born to sing.’ Surprised at this answer my inner voice was giving me, I asked, ‘I should sing!?’ The voice answered, ‘When you learn to sing you will find your voice, you will find what you are looking for.'”
A miraculous breakthrough had occurred within. A few days later Tye picked up an empty notebook and started writing down words and poetry verses for songs. Joel developed a passion, which led him to begin singing lessons.
“It took me some time with the lessons; they were very intimidating. At first, I started regaining my courage to produce sound in my falsetto again. After about half a year I slowly gained the courage to discover my chest voice. It was frightening to hear this low voice coming out from me.”
At age 20, on the first day back at school, Tye finally let go and spoke for the first time to another human being in his real voice.
“I don’t remember who it was or what I said, but I remember how strange it felt to use this new voice, like trying to walk fast on an uphill path. Nevertheless, I had done it, I had learned to talk again. It was much easier to leave the house now; I had a few relapses back into whisper mode, but eventually I felt like I could go anywhere because I wasn’t afraid of the risk of having to talk to someone. Because of this, I was able to seek out help. With the assistance of anti-depressants and continuing voice lessons to help my voice grow, I began on my new path of self-healing.”
With his anxieties and fears diminishing, Tye began to write and record music with a local producer. They recorded two CDs and even produced a music video which aired on the LOGO network. Soon after, Tye moved to Hollywood to begin work on his career as a singer, model and actor. The once introverted and awkward boy with gender identity issues has paved his way into a career as a sought-after model for fashion shows, clothing ads, and magazine covers and spreads. He works with music producers on original material, which he performs throughout the country at clubs, festivals, and Gay Pride events. He also performs weekly with an improv comedy troupe in Hollywood, which helps him open up even more.
Eventually, Tye faced his demons and won the battle over becoming a man in his own fashion. Today, Joel Evan Tye enjoys also being known as Sir JET – a stage name persona, which is a play on his name’s initials and evokes his striking masculinity and mindset of today.
Living proof that everyone can transform their lives, Tye currently speaks in front of audiences and on panels to connect with others in the community to provide strength and inspiration for others to embrace themselves and live life to the fullest. His mission is to talk openly about gender bias and identity issues and help those who may be going through the similar issues he dealt with for so many years.
The story of Joel Evan Tye’s transformation into self-acceptance and self-love is an inspirational story that must be told.
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