Misty Eyez is a leading activist for LGBTQ rights. She’s also a down-to-earth, caring person, and a fantastic entertainer and socialite within the Fort Lauderdale community. The real question is what can’t Misty Eyez do? From her religious upbringing to her life in Florida, here’s the lowdown on one of the LGBTQ community’s coolest divas.
Let’s start from the very beginning. You’re from Alaska, but have ended up in Fort Lauderdale. How on Earth did that happen?
Sure, well I left for college. I went to Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, which is the world’s largest charismatic, evangelic, Pentecostal school. I ended up there for many reasons…one of which is that my family is extremely religious, and I had always felt called to the ministry. But the other is that the school’s motto is “Expect a Miracle”. And I was honestly needing a miracle. I felt cursed, damaged, and broken.
At that point, I didn’t even know the word transgender existed, but I knew I was attracted to men, and I knew I wasn’t a “normal” man. So, I went there hoping I could be fixed. But it just wasn’t working. I became incredibly depressed. I didn’t know where to go…and that’s when I started to experiment with my queer side. Unfortunately, that got me kicked out of school. So I called my mom and said, I was kicked out and needed money for a plane ticket home. And she told me, “You can come home when you come back to Jesus.”
So you ended up stranded in Tulsa?
Yep. And that’s when I started visiting gay bars and reading the big gay magazines, and I just constantly heard everyone talking about Fort Lauderdale, and I was like… Wow, ALL the gays must live in Florida! So in October of 1999, right before Y2K, I moved here. It was something I just had to do. I had to get out of Oklahoma.
But right before I moved here, I had gone to my first drag show in Tulsa, which starred Catia Lee Love, who later went on to win Miss Gay America. And when I saw her, it was just like a bell and whistle started going off inside me. Something just started screaming, THAT’S YOU! THAT’S YOU! It was the closest thing I had seen to what I felt I was. So, soon after seeing her, I started doing drag.
But not long after I got into drag, I started seeing the trans performers, like Erika Norell. And once again, the bells and whistles went off and I was just like…THAT’S ME! THAT’S ME! At one point, I finally met Erika, and asked her how she transitioned and what goes into it. But I was scared to start transitioning, so I spent a few years just focusing on drag.
How did you finally start the transition?
It was 2005 when I started taking hormones. But at first, I didn’t tell anyone. My best friends didn’t even know. I was afraid that I might have to turn around and go back, so I kept it to myself. But before long, I’d start having people in the community come up to me and be like, “You’re transitioning aren’t you? I can see it!” And I’d flat out deny it. Even when other trans women would approach me and tell me they can see I’m transitioning, I’d deny it to them too.
But finally, at one point I had to hop on a plane. I was trying to present as masculine and put on boy clothes and wore a baseball cap and everything… And at one point the ticket agent said, “Excuse me, ma’am…” and I looked up, and she said, “I’m open!” And I was just like… Wow, I’m trying to present as masculine, and I’m being seen as a woman. That was the moment that really changed everything. I was like, if I’m being gendered as female when I’m literally trying to look like a boy, it’s time.
So after that point, you’re in Florida, you’re openly a trans woman, and you get involved with the nonprofit Sun Serve, which I think is interesting, because you said you felt called to the ministry. Despite how religion has treated you, you’ve still ended up in a career that helps people. Do you think you were always being called to help others, but you just started in the wrong place?
Yes! That’s actually very observant of you. Right after coming to Florida, I had totally run away from religion, as well as my family and any friends I had back in Oklahoma. But a few years ago, some of my old friends from Oral Roberts finally came down to visit. And when they saw me, they were like, “Misty! Do you know you’re totally living the ORU motto?” The school’s pledge was To preach the gospel to every man who cannot hear his whisper.
And of course, I was like, What are you talking about?!? No, I’m not! But actually, they were right. And now, I can see it, and I embrace it. I’m not working in a faith-based position, but I’m definitely working in a ministerial position. My entire career is about helping a marginalized community that’s hurting. I’m helping people who need help, and that’s exactly what a minister would do. So, even though I’m doing it in a different way than I had thought as a kid, I’m definitely living my calling 100%.
Can you tell me a little bit about what you do at SunServe?
Well, that’s a whole other story! Basically, I had visited SunServe because I needed help with a name change. For trans people, many don’t want to keep their birth names, often called “dead names”, so we often apply to have them legally changed.
So, when I was waiting in line at SunServe, the CEO at the time, Mark Ketcham, literally walked up to me. He didn’t know that I was already a drag performer, but he said that I had “The X Factor”. That something about me just seemed like I could command a room. He ended up taking me into the boardroom and said he wanted to know my whole story, from beginning to end. So, I told him much of what I’ve just told you. And after I spilled my guts to him, he was like… “Do you think you’d ever want to work for a nonprofit?” And the rest is history!
So, I started by teaching trans 101 classes to businesses, the police department, and other nonprofits. I would go in and teach sensitivity and awareness about working with trans people.
But now, I’m the director of trans services, women services, and education and training. So this place has really become my life! And I help trans women with every aspect of their lives when they’re in need. At SunServe we can help with resume building, job placement, applying for food stamps, finding compassionate doctors, and name changes on legal documents—and that’s just my department. Our job is to be there for the community. SunServe can help people on all walks of the LGBTQ spectrum, and even does mental health services and LGBTQ youth programs. It’s honestly one of the greatest resources our community has.
And how about your career as a performer? Can people still see you on stage anywhere?
Oh, yeah! I still do all the big events. I was going to be part of the Pride of the Americas celebration, I always do Fort Lauderdale Pride, and I emcee Wicked Manors every year. I still rock the microphone anytime someone hands me one!