By Kelsey Giangiodano
KU alumna Riley Wilkins explains how Jane Eyre encompasses her life. She owns over 40 different copies of the novel. Wilkins feels as though the main character, Jane, is similar to her in many ways.
From early memory, Wilkins knew she was not “the boy everyone expected her to be.” In fact, she was unsure she wanted to be that boy, caught in the standards of a gendered society. She used her freedom and independence to leave the part of her life that was holding her back, just like Jane fled Thornfield in ‘Jane Eyre’.
With a closer look, it is obvious there is more to Wilkins than the label of a transgendered woman. “When I walk into the room, everyone notices,” said Riley, who describes herself as a woman full of “strength and resiliency.” She took the time to explain why she chose these two words, saying how it takes strength to “know oneself” and be strong in one’s own identity from a young age.
When it comes to resiliency, she notes her ability to handle “the dark lows” of changing one’s identity, and being able to bring herself up from those lows and build her own happiness. She recognizes that her parents have always been there for her through tough times. Her face lights up as she describes her mother and how they “just get each other.” She explains that their relationship is something she could not have with anyone else.
Wilkins’ life is encompassed by the theme of “overcoming obstacles and embracing the idea of self.” She expresses that she has spent much time “learning to love” herself and “be comfortable” with the skin she is in.
Wilkins laughs as she talks about her flaws of trusting too easily and “looking for love in too many places,” as she admits that many feminists would not approve of her search for romance. Aside from her flaws, she recognizes that she is honest and has an incredible gift to connect with people.