In a food truck in Southwest Atlanta, identical twins Jada Grèmillion and Branden Louis, 31, are serving up crawfish beignets, cornbread waffles, chicken, and candied yams at What Cha Cooking Baby, a thriving to-go-order restaurant on wheels that infuses the culture of their native New Orleans with authentic creole recipes passed down from their late grandmother Betsy Ann Anderson. The business is the manifestation of a lifelong dream for the owners and chefs who first opened their food truck to the public in March 2021, after a series of personal and professional setbacks that threatened to derail their future.
“We’re the same person, we just live in different bodies,” said the openly gay Louis in a 2018 documentary where he describes life with his twin sister Grèmillion, a trans woman.
“When we were younger, people would always say, 'Oh, Branden is the boy twin and Jada is the girl twin,' Louis said. “And then, I would always think in my head, what do they see that I don't see?”
“I just knew something about me was always different,” Grèmillion said. “And I knew that I didn't wanna grow up to be an old man. I knew that was not my story.”
Grèmillion tells The Reckoning that she knew she was going to transition as early as age 14.
“But of course, coming from the South, there was no word for being trans,” she said. “There was no education for being trans. I didn't even know that you can transition. I just knew that I was gonna be a woman. That is what I knew. And I knew I had to get there some way, somehow.”
Displaced to Dallas, TX following Hurricane Katrina, which marked the first time the twins were able to experience life outside the city where their entrepreneurship blossomed as early as second grade with opportunities to earn cash by directing cars to parking spaces and selling bottled water at The New Orleans Jazz Festival. Now that they were aware of the opportunities that existed beyond their hometown, Louis says he was determined to strike out on his own in 2011 by moving to Atlanta.
“I saved up all my money, and I got in my used car and it broke down in Mississippi, 100 miles outside of New Orleans. But I was so determined,” Louis said. “I think I had $90 dollars left. And at this point, I didn't have an apartment or a car. I said, I'm gonna take my last little bit of money and I'm still gonna go to Atlanta. And I did.”
Grèmillion followed Louis a year later as she was beginning her transition. And after nearly five years in Atlanta, she tells The Reckoning that she had no choice but to relocate to New York City in 2017.
“I was going through a lot mentally as a trans woman,” said Grèmillion. “When I transitioned about eight years ago, being trans was taboo. It was almost foreign, to be honest. They weren’t doing the name changes. There weren’t inclusive bathrooms. There weren’t inclusive jobs based on gender identity. It was none of this, and I was catching the wrath.”
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