She didn’t expect to be chosen for the episode. That’s one of the key points that Gabrielle Gibson—the first-ever transgender bride to be featured on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress—makes to The Knot in an exclusive, new interview.
“It’s still surreal to me,” Gibson says. “It still hasn’t hit me.”
The future bride, who will marry in New Jersey come November, met her future husband, Jaden, through a mutual friend. Last October, Jaden proposed in Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, while Gibson’s family members hid out on the property to witness the memory. The location itself held significance. “That was our first official real date that we went on. It was a big surprise to me,” Gibson remarks. “He wanted to do it before our one-year anniversary because it would’ve been too expected and too cliche. And there’s nothing expected and cliche about our relationship at all.”
A longtime fan of TLC’s smash series, Gibson decided to make an appointment to visit Kleinfeld after her stylist recommended it. “I was already in my head like, ‘I’m 6’1’’ [and] I’m a transgender woman… I’ve been working with him for a long time before my transition so he knows how to dress me and my body type. I was afraid of going shopping that I wasn’t going to find a dress.”
Gibson submitted an application to appear on the show after mulling over the opportunity, and producers reached out to her the very next day. “It’s still one of those vivid things in my head. I can’t believe I wore what I wore!” she jokes before turning serious.
“Let me be honest: I didn’t think I was interesting enough to go on the show. Outside of the obvious fact. For me, I just wanted to show people that I’m being an advocate now, but at the time, I wasn’t going on as ‘Gabrielle Gibson, Transgender Advocate for the LGBTQ community.’ I was going on as ‘Gabrielle Gibson: A young woman who was marrying the man of her dreams, who thought she would never ever get married and ever get to have this experience with her mother.’”
There was a time when Gibson didn’t know whether her family would accept her—for her. “I’m very blessed. I was so scared to transition for fear that I would lose my parents and lose my siblings,” she recalls. “That was the whole point of me actually going to Kleinfeld’s. The whole moment of spending that time with my mother and three closest friends. I just wanted to have that experience and show that I am a woman. I have the same thoughts and issues.”
The opportunity has now allowed Gibson to identify herself as a role model to the trans community. “I’m focused on living my life and being authentic… You shouldn’t be afraid to be who you are,” she says. “I literally started my transition at 25 years old. I’ve been a hairstylist and makeup artist for 13 years. I never really had to resort to what most trans women do is sex work. I want to show people just because you’re transgender, it doesn’t mean you have to be that.”
Gibson says that she genuinely had to calm herself down, though, while filming. “I just see the front desk and I was like, ‘Oh my God, we are really here,’” she recalls. She also haphazardly bumped into Randy Fenoli, who was preoccupied with another work-related task.
“I told myself, ‘Don’t overreact,’” Gibson laughs.
Does she find a dress? Watch the exclusive clip above and tune in to find out.
Say Yes to the Dress airs on Saturday, March 25, at 8 p.m. EST on TLC.