“Home for the holidays” takes on new meaning when former Atlantan and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” alum Sonique does it in Albany, Ga. The journey to get there was tough, and her hometown paper is dishing the dirt.

Long before she was a transgender advocate, Sonique (top photo) made waves here in Atlanta as a one-named drag wonder. Then she became one of Atlanta’s “RuPaul” girls, then “sashayed away” in an unpopular decision, and ultimately rocked your TV in a brave coming out as transgender in Season 2’s cast reunion episode.

Since then, the stage performer Sonique spends most days as beautiful-actress-about-Hollywood Kylie Love. Though she has made triumphant returns to Atlanta on tour stops, Loves ditched the ATL for LA right after “Drag Race” and performs in movies, on TV and on stages across the country. It’s a far cry from her difficult Southwest Georgia roots.

None of that may sound too surprising, but that the Albany Herald shares it so matter-of-factly with its readers may be as much a revelation for small-town Georgia as any statement Love makes or photos she shares in her hometown interview.

Love’s childhood in Southwest Georgia could be described in any number of ways: difficult, lonely, dramatic, confusing, tragic even. But growing up in Albany, Camilla, Leesburg and Sasser was anything but normal for Love. The classically beautiful woman whose dance skills now have her in demand across the country actually grew up as Jason Edwards [right].

As a child, Jason didn’t understand why he liked to play with Barbie dolls, why other kids teased him and called him names like “sissy,” why he preferred dressing in girls’ clothes, why he never really felt like a boy. As a transgender woman who is deep into the arduous process of transitioning from male to female, Kylie understands well the gender confusion that is inherent among those who share her lot in life.

Her mother thought Love’s attraction to men and identifying with women was a phase and sent young Jason to military school. She was ostracized there even more unmercifully. Life in Atlanta started the gears turning toward the woman who Love always wanted to be, but it was ultimately the California move that sealed the deal.

“I never lived as a female in Atlanta because I felt people saw me as some kind of freak,” Love tells the paper. “It’s been an adjustment living as a girl in California, but it’s getting easier.

A recent family outing to a restaurant in Albany brought Love full circle with relatives from whom she was estranged at times for years.

She’s reveling in the spotlight she adores and anxious to be recognized in her hometown alongside such home-grown stars as Luke Bryan, Phillip Phillips and Paula Deen. She has her good days — her “normal” days — and her bad days. Just like everyone else.

“I never lived as a female in Atlanta because I felt people saw me as some kind of freak,” Love says. “It’s been an adjustment living as a girl in California, but it’s getting easier.”

[Albany Herald]