When Gabrielle Gibson got engaged to the man of her dreams, she never thought she would be shopping for the dress of her dreams on Say Yes to the Dress. But is that exactly what ended up happening.
On October 25 of 2015 at a local arboretum, Jaden Rogers got down on one knee and asked Gibson for her hand in marriage. “I did it there because thats where I took her on our first date,” Rogers tells us. “We hid in that treehouse because it was raining so it’s now our special place.”
After the shock wore off, Gibson knew it would be a challenge to find the perfect dress for herself. “As a trans woman, a normal shopping experience isn’t going to be the same for us. I am 6’1’’. I had just gotten my breasts done. I automatically thought my dress will have to be custom made. But I still wanted that shopping experience with my mother and my family. So when I went to go to talk to the designer, I know what looks good on my body.”
Gibson decided to book an appointment at Kleinfeld’s, the New York City bridal boutique that women dream of entering to try on their dress for the big day. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity so I wanted to go there because that is where you go. We were going to go and just make a whole day of it. Get real cute and have fun.”
After Gibson booked the appointment, the store emailed her that there was a possibility TLC would be filming Say Yes to the Dress there on the same day as her appointment. They gave her the option of auditioning for the show, which Gibson decided to do.
“Just for shits and giggles. I don’t think I am that interesting but why not try?”
While filling out the application, her friend made sure she included the fact that she is transgender. “My friend told me, ‘Girl, you have to make sure you tell them you trans.'”
The application asked for three descriptive words. “So the three words I put down were: outgoing, outrageous and transgender. I never wanted to surprise them. I thought let’s just be open and honest about it from day one. ‘Hey, this is who I am and this is what I am about and this is what you get from me.’
After receiving Gibson’s application, producers asked her to submit a tape. A week later, she was accepted to be on the show as the first transgender bride ever to appear on the New York version of Say Yes to the Dress.
Gibson isn’t the first trans bride to ever be on the franchise. Precious Davis was featured in 2016 on Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. But New York is the original series of the franchise, about to celebrate its tenth season on TLC this year. This will be the first time a trans bride has entered Kleinfields for the show, and Gibson is that girl. Her episode premieres on March 25.
On the morning of the big day, Gibson says it was very surreal. “I was up stupid early at like 4:00 am. They were like, ‘Be camera ready.’ I am going to do myself because I want to look like myself.”
“We walk in the store and I almost lost it. I was so overwhelmed with emotions because you see this show that you have watched so much and it’s now your turn,” she remembers. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God! I’m here.’ They don’t let you go past a certain point because they want your reaction to be authentic. So they greet you at the door. You feel like you’re a kid at Christmas time and you aren’t allowed to open your presents until Christmas morning.”
“It seems so much bigger on TV. Shopping for a dress is already very stressful but you are about to do it front of the world.”
Despite the anxiety, Gibson says producers were a dream to work with. “They were genuinely excited to meet me. Most of them were just in awe of of how I carried myself and how pretty I am. I am just not use to that.”
Gibson says that being seen and acknowledged by producers for her beauty really took her aback. “I am very comfortable and aware of myself but I am not use to hearing that. I am use to blending in so I was very humbled by it all. I was very taken aback by how genuine and kind they were to me. They were very attentive and respectful. They didn’t ask any questions about surgeries or do you still have this or that. None of those questions were ever brought up. None of the ‘basic curiosity questions’ I call them. That moment felt so empowering. I felt so beautiful and seen.”
“I have always been confident in myself. I am not afraid to be me. So when I went in there they knew my situation, they were respectful, They were very warm and kind and there were some women on the crew but it was mostly men. And they were very respectful, too.”
“It was a female camera person in the room with me not a male. I was never sexualized. I was never asked weird questions. I was treated as a human being and a woman. That is how I was respected and that is the greatest feeling in the world.”
With help from the consultants, she ended up choosing a Pnina Tornai satin sheath fit and flare gown with infused glitter lace overlay. That is the dress she will be wearing she walks down the aisle in November.
Gibson met her fiancé Jaden Rogers on Facebook when she was still living in Colorado. “ I had no idea he was trans until I was getting into his profile. I knew trans men but I had never dabbled with them. He and I just clicked and we started talking.”
How does she hope to inspire those who are watching?
“I think about this all the time you know. The best way to inspire is just by being yourself. I hope that is what people can take away from this.”
While shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Transparent have done a great deal for queer visibility, their audiences are mostly queer or liberal watching segments of the population. When shows on the television sets of middle America such as Say Yes to the Dress portray these important narratives, that is how we really enter the hearts and minds of people who don’t know any better. Gibson may be the first trans bride of color many of these people see, so hopefully their walls and barriers of ignorance are broken down with her story.
“The fact that I am a transgender woman, I want people to know that it is possible,” Gibson tells us. “It is very much a reality for us to find love that is genuine. I had to constantly be a secret just to have a relationship. Up until I met Jaden, I was someone’s dirty little secret for a long period of time. I had gotten it in my head that I am always going to be the side girlfriend not the wife or the homemaker. I am going to be a successful person with a career but I will never be the wife. I will always be the secret.”
“Since Jaden, I have not been the secret or the side chick. I have been out front and center of this man’s world and he has treated me with the utmost respect.”
About what audiences take away from their appearance on the show, Rogers answers, “I hope that we serve as an inspiration for those out there who have ever felt unwanted, to know that we are here living as our true selves, and that trans women of color are beautiful and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Gibson reminds us of the larger battle here, as many trans women are still being killed in extremely staggering numbers. “We are human. It saddens me that there are people out in the world who are hunting us trans women down. You can kill a couple of us but we are still going to be here.”
Already this year, seven women in the U.S. have been killed and one woman in Brazil was brutally beaten and murdered. “Being trans is not something you choose to do. I knew from a young age that I was a woman and I knew from a young age one day I would marry a man.”
Despite these horrible murders, Gibson looks to the future with hope. “People have to love themselves before they can find true love from someone else. Love is love and love is real and love is out there for everyone who opens their heart to it.”
“I can’t wait to marry to my best friend.”