“I’m a grateful student. It’s learning new terminology and words,” Jamie Lee Curtis, whose daughter Ruby came out as transgender last year, exclusively tells PEOPLE
Ruby had something to tell them. She was going to come out as trans. But she wasn’t able to.
“It was scary — just the sheer fact of telling them something about me they didn’t know,” Ruby tells PEOPLE, sitting down in their living room last week. “It was intimidating — but I wasn’t worried. They had been so accepting of me my entire life.”
So Ruby left, and then texted her mother. Remembers Jamie Lee: “I called her immediately. Needless to say there were some tears involved.”
But today Ruby, 25 — who works as a video editor for a gaming personality on YouTube — is more at ease as she, alongside her mom, gets ready to talk about her journey publicly for the first time.
And Jamie Lee, 62 — still with a few tears — remains ready to listen. “It’s speaking a new language,” she says. “It’s learning new terminology and words. I am new at it. I am not someone who is pretending to know much about it. And I’m going to blow it, I’m going to make mistakes. I would like to try to avoid making big mistakes.”
Jamie Lee says she’s learned a few things: “You slow your speech down a little. You become a little more mindful about what you’re saying. How you’re saying it. You still mess up, I’ve messed up today twice. We’re human.”
“But if one person reads this, sees a picture of Ruby and me and says, ‘I feel free to say this is who I am,’ then it’s worth it.”
Below, Jamie Lee and her daughter speak with PEOPLE about Ruby’s journey.
For more from them, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands this week.
Ruby, for many LGBTQ people, coming out is not a onetime thing. When were you first able to say,”I am Ruby” to yourself?
RUBY: When I was about 16, a friend of mine who is trans asked me what my gender was. I told them, “Well, I’m male.” After, I’d dwell on the thought. I knew I was — maybe not Ruby per se, but I knew I was different. But I had a negative experience in therapy, so I didn’t come out [as trans] immediately when I probably should have. Then, seven years later, still being Tom at the time, I told the person who is now my fiancé that I am probably trans. And they said, “I love you for who you are.”
JAMIE LEE: When Ruby just said her dead name — I haven’t ever heard her say that name. It so doesn’t fit anymore. That was, of course, the hardest thing. Just the regularity of the word. The name that you’d given a child. That you’ve been saying their whole life. And so, of course, at first that was the challenge. Then the pronoun. My husband and I still slip occasionally.
RUBY: I don’t get mad at them for that.
JAMIE LEE: I think that’s sort of evolutionary and a very important step in our home. We have tried to maintain it in a big way. I’m learning a lot from Ruby.
Jamie Lee, there is that expression: “A mother knows.”
JAMIE LEE: I knew Ruby had had a boyfriend. I knew that Ruby had used the word bi. But gender identity and sexual orientation — those are two separate things. And I knew that Ruby played female avatars in video games. But when you ask, “Did you have an inkling that Ruby was trans?” I would say no. But when I replayed Ruby’s life, I went, “Hmm, that, that, those, hmm.”
Ruby, while you and your sister Annie have well-known parents, you are both private people. Did your family’s Hollywood legacy have any effect on your coming out? Did it add pressure?
RUBY: Yeah, no one knows anything about me, and I’ve tried my best until now to keep it that way. But I’m happy to talk about my experiences now. Is it helpful to come out? Yeah. Like, people will still remember me for who I was, but I haven’t changed that. They finally get to see who I’ve always been, you know, inside, but now I finally get to show it on the outside. But me coming out has nothing to do with my mom being famous. I’ve tried to stay out of the spotlight for many years, or at least done my best to. I’m happy to be more visible if it helps others.
JAMIE LEE: I’m not proselytizing, and I’m not trying to force-feed something to people. I’m simply saying, “This is our family’s experience.” I am here to support Ruby. That is my job. Just as it is to care and love and support her older sister Annie in her journeys. I’m a grateful student. I’m learning so much from Ruby. The conversation is ongoing. But I want to know: How can I do this better?
RUBY: You’ve done the most you can, and that’s all I want. Helping others is something everyone should do. I don’t think it’s only our household thing. It should be a human thing.