2016 Grant Recipient Jonni Caldwell

My name is Jonni Caldwell, I’m 23 years old and I live in Seattle Washington. Since my earliest memory I have always known that I was different. At pre-school age I can recall asking my mom to wear her night gowns and high heels. Not wanting to upset my dad we would always wait until he left for work.

Growing up my best friend was also my neighbor, her name was Emily, I would spend most of my days at her house playing dolls, dress up and my all time favorite game pretty pretty princess. I have two older brothers, Josh and Jason, they both excelled at sports and it was a major passion of theirs. From a young age I was forced to participate in most sports while I would have much rather been taking ballet, which i did one year and it was amazing, or singing which was and still is a passion of mine.

Not wanting to disappoint my dad I stuck it out until high school. That’s when I came out to my mom that I was transgender. My junior year I decided to be myself at school and starting dressing in female clothing. I was the first transgender student at my high school, and I got the rule changed allowing myself and future trans students to use the correct bathroom for which they identify. For me I was allowed to use the women’s bathroom. I feel so fortunate that not only at home from my family but at school, in my work place and in life I have always felt comfortable, I felt more awkward and uncomfortable before I started transitioning and being myself.

When I was 18 years old I started cosmetology school to become a hairdresser, I also built up the courage to tell my dad that I was transgender. At this time I was living full time with my mom so it as easy to conceal from him, but it was distancing us and he has always been my best friend and biggest fan so I knew I had to tell him.

When I was 2 years old my dad almost died when his kidneys failed unexpectedly due to a rare auto immune disease he had developed called Wegners. So with his declining health I always wanted to seem like the normal son he always wanted, but to my surprise when I told him that I was transgender he not only fully embraced me as who I was, and he also said that he wasn’t that surprised, but he once again became my number one fan and biggest supporter.

Last November my dad passed away leaving a giant hole in my life. We knew it was coming so we all were able to say our goodbyes and share happy memories in final days. His final request to me was that I get this surgery no matter what, and I plan on doing just that, not only for myself but for him as he watches over me constantly.

I will always miss my best friend and dad, but i know I’m making him so proud. If I didn’t have the family that I do, I don’t know where I would be or how I would survive.

At the age of 20 I started hormone replacement therapy(HRT) And while that was a major step for me I feel like the past three years have been very stagnant. I feel plateaued in this body and I’m ready to begin my life the way I was meant to be. I’ve already met with my surgeon and I absolutely love him, it feel like my puzzle is almost complete but at the same time I’m missing the biggest piece. This grant means the world to me. I am a big believer in Karma. I believe if I put out great energy it will come back to me. This grant is good Karma coming to me and it’s life changing. The Jim Collins Foundation is giving me a gift that I’ve wanted my whole life