Leah Juliett turned 25 just about a month ago, and the queer, nonbinary native of Vernon, Tolland and Wolcott already has accomplished more than most of us do in a lifetime, including starting and running an international nonprofit, March Against Revenge Porn.
As CT Voice reported in June 2021, they were the first nonbinary area contestant in the history of the Miss USA pageant. But even that trailblazing moment is just one of many major distinctions for Juliett, including internships at the state capitol and for a congresswoman as well as work writing for Senator Chuck Schumer. It was not long before they found their voice as an activist, fighting human trafficking, gun violence, domestic violence, cyber violence and LGBTQ+ rights.
Because of their activism, Glamour magazine named them college student of the year, L’Oreal Paris recognized them as A Woman of Worth, the Advocate magazine chose them as its Champion of Pride, the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Foundation selected them as A Daily Point of Light, Free Mom Hugs hailed them as a National Hero, GLAAD honored them as a Rising Star, Delta Airlines awarded them its Accelerating Acceptance Grant, and the NLGJA, The Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists, recognized them with its award for Excellence in Student Journalism.
Juliett graduated from Western Connecticut State University in 2018 with an honors degree in political science and the goal of becoming the first nonbinary legislator in Connecticut. Now, Juliett has published their first book, a collection of poems and prayers that got its start as an internet post, titled Naked in Public.
“I started writing Naked in Public as a young college graduate working as a writer in the United States Senate,” Juliett told CT Voice. They described their self-published book in an Instagram post as featuring “notes on mental health, queerness, fatness, trauma, violence, and gender.”
“I was suffering deeply from depression and suicidal ideation and writing about my experiences was my only lifeline,” they said, having suffered unimaginable trauma when photos of their naked body were circulated on the internet. “As a victim of revenge porn and child sexual exploitation, my whole life has been a series of experiences being ‘naked in public,’ but to me, being truly naked means being vulnerable about all of the grief, strife, and hardship you’ve experienced without fear and with abandon. That’s what I have tried to do in Naked in Public.”
They’ve been talking about their experience since 2019, in the first of two powerful TedTalks. Now, in her book, she writes frankly, “I am more than this.”
“Writing Naked in Public and unveiling the darkness I’ve experienced kept me alive during my suicidal ideation, and I hope that reading it will help other young, queer, trans folks to realize that they are not alone in their hardships.”
Naked in Public is available at Barnes and Noble’s website. Follow Leah Juliett on Instagram at @leahjuliett and at her website leahjuliett.com.