As an out and proud transgender woman, GENERAL HOSPITAL star Cassandra James (Terry) embraces any opportunity provided to her by being in the public eye to share her story and represent the trans community. During a recent chat with her GH co-star, Maurice Benard (Sonny), on his State of Mind YouTube series, the actress did exactly that, speaking candidly about her experiences in an enlightening conversation.
Perfectly poised and graceful during her chat with Benard, James — the first transgender woman cast as a transgender character on a soap opera — opened up about her childhood and her experience in being able to finally live as her authentic self. “I was different,” James shared about her childhood. “I was very effeminate my whole life. Hindsight is 2020, and I look back at my life and I really do see my closeted self inside all the time. But it wasn’t that way experiencing it and living it.”
Although James struggled with feelings of isolation and not fitting in as a youngster, she says she still “very comfortably identified with the gender I was assigned at birth.” Her supportive parents encouraged her to express herself with her choice of toys (like Barbies and dolls) and clothing, but she was still “in a lot of pain my whole childhood.”
Eventually, James came out to her family and friends as being gay, but she still didn’t feel like she was living as her true, authentic self. In 2015, she came out again — this time as a transgender woman — and began her transition in 2016. “My mom also has hindsight,” James shared with a smile. “She goes, ‘When you came out the second time… you were never really gay.’ It was like an identity thing that she knew [me being gay] wasn’t the final destination. That whole period of my life, I was surrounded by the gay community [but] I never fit in there either. Because I wasn’t gay. I’m a trans woman. And my dad is amazing. He said, ‘I always wanted a daughter anyways.’ And that was it. It was that simple.”
James has been in the public eye as a trans woman since joining the cast of GH in 2018, and she’s about to gain even broader exposure in Hollywood: She’s part of the ensemble cast for the upcoming HBO Max comedy series SORT OF, a coming-of-age story that follows a gender-fluid millennial trying to straddle multiple identities and labels to the various people in their life. “I look forward to representing the community through my career and my work,” she says of her position as an openly trans actress. “But I can only speak to my own experience. My job as my platform grows will to be like, ‘Why don’t you talk to her instead.’ Or ‘Let’s have a conversation together. There are these kinds of folks in our community that people should meet.’ I hope that I’m able to do that.”