This story was originally published on January 26, 2017, and we're bringing it to your attention again in honor of Transgender Day Of Visibility.
Alexander Lane Miller never felt comfortable in his own body. Born Lexus Chanté Miller, the 22-year-old grew up knowing he was a man, but never dared to say so out loud, since he grew up in a Southern Baptist family. Miller came out as trans in the spring of 2016, not long after he met photographer Betina Nathalie Garcia. In her photo series He, She, It, Garcia captures the subsequent months of Miller's life and transition.
When he was much younger, Miller believed that, since he was biologically female, he must be a lesbian: "I was trapped in a woman's body, and I guess that’s why I kind of identified as a lesbian, because legally I'm a female, and if you date girls, then you're a lesbian," he told Garcia in an interview. "But I never really liked saying that I was a lesbian."
After leaving home for Western Kentucky University, Miller got up the courage to tell his mother he was a lesbian. She gave him her love, but told him she couldn't accept that part of his identity. "It made me feel like I was selfish," Miller said. "I was destined to end up not only in hell, but also without the support of my family."
Soon after, Miller's family stopped supporting him financially and he lost contact with his mother. "I’m not the perfect daughter she always thought I was," he said.
Despite his personal struggles during college, Miller found comfort in his role as the university mascot, Big Red. The character's gender neutrality didn't pressure him to adopt a male or female identity, while its persona reminded Miller to look on the bright side: "When you're so caught up in school, life, and adult stuff, it's great to portray this character that has no responsibilities other than to...be the life of the party."
Miller called mascotting the "perfect outlet" for him, especially at that point in his life, when he needed time for self-exploration. "Most people assumed that Big Red was a boy, but it’s gender neutral," he told Garcia. "However, no one could tell the difference between myself and the cisgender guys that were also Big Red, so I started to take it as a compliment when people would call me 'he' while I was in the suit." In fact, he said that mascotting eventually helped him come out to his friends.
Garcia plans to continue to photograph Miller into 2017, while Miller plans to schedule his top surgery this year and come out to his mother as trans. "I know this will risk losing her entirely, but I’d rather her know the real me," Miller said. "I’ll be on testosterone for the rest of my life, because it makes me happy and whole."
Click through to see Garcia's photos of Miller, along with her captions.