In the digital age, we can choose how we are perceived by the world, but have no control over the fact that we're being perceived in the first place. When you're a celebrity, this takes on extra meaning — a choice must be made over what to do with your own visibility. This is something Nats Getty knows well.
In January, Getty came out as trans via Instagram. Flanked by trans flag emojis, the caption read, "Coming out as trans nonbinary," paired with a photo of Getty and his wife, trans YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous. While Getty is a model, fashion icon with his own label Strike Oil and a staunch LGBTQ+ advocate, he grew up stifled by the limelight. This was his moment to take control.
The grandchild of oil tycoon Sir John Paul, Getty grew up unaware of his surname's implications. "I was kind of shielded from it, I had no idea what my family was," he says over Zoom. It wasn't until Getty went to boarding school in England that people began talking to him about it. "That's when I started to conform and act a certain way because I suddenly realized, Oh, for some reason I'm being perceived as different, so I wanted to blend in."
Before this time, Getty had just one lone memory of attempting to conform to his sex assigned at birth. "There's a picture of me when I was christened," Getty recalls. "I must have been like, two years old, and I think that was the only time my mom really forced me into a dress and she said even then I threw a fit."
But once the spotlight of being a member of one of the richest families in the world was lit on Getty, the need to conform — to blend in — became a survival tactic. "It was no longer fun and easy for me to just be totally authentically myself," says Getty of this time at boarding school. "It was a mix of me wanting to not step out of line and also not want to attract bullies and harassment from what I thought were my peers."
Once free of the plush walls of boarding schools, Getty moved into modeling, only to find similar struggles. "I enjoyed a lot of the aspects of modeling, I found a whole new side to myself and I found like a lot of confidence, which was amazing," Getty says. "When photographers and my agents and whatever would leave me alone and just let me be me, I thrived, the pictures would come out amazing, they would pop there would be like this essence in them."
But when the pressure to conform was applied again, Getty retreated. "When they would try and make me be something that I wasn't, that fire inside kind of died. The pictures would turn out fine, they like them, they're good, but it just wasn't for me — I just couldn't do it."
Fashion was an opportunity for Getty to define his feelings on gender and presentation. "I think that fashion gives you the ability to express how you're feeling on the inside on the outside; it's a walking billboard for how you're feeling and you have the liberty to take it as far as you want," he says. Still, as a model, he was frustrated with the constant push to conform to stereotypical norms of classic femininity. "[Clothing] doesn't need to have a gender assigned to it," he insists.
Modeling also introduced Getty to his wife, and through her, a new reality appeared. "When I met Gigi, I was kind of thrown into this amazing, beautiful, colorful new world. And that just totally opened my eyes," he says. Between Gorgeous and Getty's best friend Gottmik, the first trans man to compete on RuPaul's Drag Race, Getty is lucky to have landed with a loving family of trans icons.
Growing up and phasing into adulthood, Getty struggled to find media that reflected his experience back at him. That changed during the pandemic, when downtime provided a chance to watch HBO's We Are Who We Are. "It's just one season," Getty says, "but I watched it like three times. I finally saw TV representation of what I was going through in that exact moment of time, and it totally blew my mind."
The combination of Getty's close relationships and consuming a story that resonated so deeply within him revealed a truth that allowed him to see his own story. "All my time with Gottmik during COVID, because we were in the same house together, my five-plus years with Gigi, and then finally seeing a character on TV that was going through the same struggles that I was going through that all kind of came together.I was like okay, I get it now."
Gottmik was the first person to know that Getty was trans. "I just had to tell [Gottmik] first because he was a huge reason why I was able to wrap my head around being trans myself," says Getty of telling his best friend the news. "Then we went outside and we told Gigi. And the first thing that came out of her mouth was like, 'You better work bitch,' and just gave me the biggest hug, and said, 'I love you so much,' and we all kind of just shed a tear."
The next day, Gorgeous called the surgery center to book a consultation for Getty's top surgery. Once that was set in stone, it was time to tell Getty's mom, Ariadne Getty. "She just started sobbing with tears of happiness, and you know she has a mother's intuition, and she basically told me, 'I've almost been expecting this, this makes the most sense,' and she was just so happy for me."
Top surgery was a necessity for Getty, more so than changing pronouns or landing on the right words to describe his identity. "I actually started by saying, 'I'm really considering top surgery, I need this for myself, I feel so uncomfortable in my body. I hate the way that I look, I can't even take a shower and look at myself.' That was my first step. To me, that was more important than pronouns because I wanted to feel comfortable in my skin."
He continues, "I almost feel like pronouns, and this is just my opinion, it's different for everyone. Pronouns almost feel like they're for other people. Other people see a person, they are either triggered within themselves to gender that person, or they're told by that person or someone around them, 'Oh, that's this person's pronouns,' and then that's a way for them to assign that person to a box."
Gorgeous filmed Getty's top surgery and made the video available on her YouTube channel. "I knew that it was something that I would want to look back on," Getty says. "And I also just almost feel like it's my duty to somehow give back, or be the person that somebody out there relates to, because I've seen it firsthand with Gigi and it's so beautiful to see the effect that she's had on people."
Getty is keenly aware of the position that being a member of one of the wealthiest families in America affords. "I'm not blind to the fact that I do come from such a place of privilege, in being able to afford my top surgery and then also having the support system in place around me, to support me through it and help take care of me," Getty says, matter of factly. "I know that the reality for so many trans people and nonbinary people and queer people in general is that they don't have the means, and they don't have the support. And when you take away both of those things that seems like a really impossible place to be."
Getty is still on the road to discovery, figuring out what being trans means to him, but he is no longer afraid of the spotlight — not worried about having attention on him while he's able to live open, honest and proud about who he is. "The stance that a single person is taking when they proudly live their life as a trans person can do so much good for the world," he says. "It touches my heart when I see other trans people proudly living their lives, and so I've decided to follow in those footsteps."
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