Evans Vestal Ward/NBC



In a powerful essay for Time, "Champions" star Josie Totah -- previously known professionally as J.J. Totah -- has come out as transgender.

Totah, who announced that she is "ready to be free," starred on the short-lived NBC sitcom as Michael, the gay son of co-creator and recurring star Mindy Kaling's character. As she explained in her essay, Totah said that that image is something she projected to the world as a form of self-preservation, and she "let [herself] be shoved into a box: 'J.J. Totah, gay boy.'"

As the actress explained, she "felt like I owed it to everybody to be that gay boy. But that has never been the way I think of myself." She knew as early as age five, "long before I understood what the word gender meant," that she was female.

Totah's essay continued:
"In the past, I’ve halfway corrected people by telling them I identify as LGBTQ. I wasn’t ready to be more specific. I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted, that I would be embarrassed, that the fans who knew me from the time when I acted in a Disney show would be confused. But I realized over the past few years that hiding my true self is not healthy. I know now, more than ever, that I’m finally ready to take this step toward becoming myself. I’m ready to be free. So, listen up y’all: You can jump on or jump off. Either way this is where I’m heading.

My pronouns are sheher and hers. I identify as female, specifically as a transgender female. And my name is Josie Totah."

Totah -- who's also appeared in films including recent MCU hit "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and 2016's "Other People" -- is currently on hormone blockers, and is set to start college soon. She still plans to act, and though she remains nervous about the judgement and rejection she may face because of her identity, she's excited for the "new world" she's entering.

" ... [W]hen my friends and family call me Josie, it feels like I’m being seen," she writes. "It’s something everyone wants, to feel understood."

Read Totah's entire inspiring essay over at Time.