An Interview With Jack Jackson On The Importance Of Transgender Awareness
We’ve come to an age where technology has brought people closer together than ever before. Ideas and information are spread rapidly through social media platforms. We’ve also become more opened for discussions on topics that we would've once kept inside a shoebox. Ironically, I think there is still a sense of hesitation when we talk about transgender people. We are grateful to live in the part of the world or society where all walks of life from different ethnicity background, cultures and sexual preferences are (or should be) embraced. Yet, I felt we could do better in terms of bringing transgender awareness to our communities.
According to research by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 41 per cent of trans people living in the U.S. have attempted or considered suicide, compared to 1.6 per cent of the general population. Pledged to make a change, Jack Jackson established Alljackedup, a fashion conscious shop and community for the queer, androgynous, transmasculine. To celebrate and support Transgender Awareness Week 2015 (started since November 14th and until November 20th), Jackson had designed a one-off, limited production of commemorative bow tie. The unique feature of this bow tie design is decorated with names of transgender role models and heroes that inspired Jackson. The bow tie is currently available on Alljackedup online shop. Fifty per cent of the proceeds from the sale of the bow tie and all other Alljackedup products purchased during Transgender Awareness Week will go to Supporting Our Youth (SOY), an organization that is dedicated to improving lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and intersex youth. I had the opportunity to interview Jackson, to find out how we, can also support bringing transgender awareness to the rest of the community.
How did you come up with the idea of putting transgender role model names onto your bowtie?
Often news stories on trans issues tend to be headlines about trans murders, hate and violence (which of course needs to be reported, and indeed, is probably underreported). But I wanted to also highlight some of the positive stories, inspirational characters and showcase some unsung heroes. Trans people’s lives are so diverse and I thought the tie was a perfect statement piece to start a conversation around them.
Are there colour variations of these special bowties and bowtie-shaped lapel pin?
The lapel pin just comes in one colour – I want the symbol to become representative of trans awareness in the same way that the red ribbon became the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV. The commemorative bow ties come in four different colours – silver silk on soft blue wool with blue print, orange-grey shot cotton with grey print, purple-orange shot cotton with blue print, and gold yellow cotton with black print.
How have these role models made a change in your life?
I’ve been following some of these people for years, some I am just discovering. I think ultimately that hearing others' stories, knowing trans history, seeing the successes, struggles, wisdom, humour, authenticity and courage gave me the balls to start living my life in a way that felt right for me. Many of the people named on the commemorative bow tie are working tirelessly to raise awareness of trans issues which ultimately makes navigating my day to day life easier.
What are the main issues causing the general public to not pay enough attention to the well-being of transgender people?
I think this comes down to simply not being informed. When I was at school, gender was something that was never taught or discussed – thankfully, this is changing. Fear, ignorance and misunderstanding also play a role. Issues that are believed to only affect a tiny percentage of the population are all to easily overlooked. Unfortunately ignorance about the issues affecting trans people’s lives has very disturbing consequences with an alarming attempted suicide / self harm rate of trans and gender non-conforming individuals being around the 41% mark compared to 1.6% of the general population (in the US).
This statistic is deeply disturbing in a progressive society in 2015 and should demand attention. The magnitude of the problems faced by gender variant people could not be clearer with this stark statistic, but what is truly shocking is that this is a direct result of societal discrimination, systemic discrimination and violence both verbal and physical. Let’s be clear on one thing, the issues trans people face are largely caused by the daily discrimination and violence they face, they do not stem from dissatisfaction within themselves.
I think it’s also important to stress that gender stereotypes and strict gender binaries do not simply just affect transgender people, they also impact the lives of cisgender people. The notion of gender being only binary is a dated concept that often only serves to promote the well being of the ‘straight alpha male’ at the expense of all other genders.
In addition to SOY, what other programs are out there in Canada that provide help and support to the transgender community (both youths and adults)?
I’m not familiar with the rest of Canada, but in Toronto I know the following organisations provide trans specific programs – Egale Canada, The 519 Community Centre, Thrive and the Stars Project, Delisle Youth Services, Gender Journeys at the Sherbourne Health Centre.
How can we, as a community, make changes and encourage support for transgender people in the general population?
I think we need to start the conversation around gender– with our children, our families our work place. I was at a shop recently where I was asked about my work and the Ties to Love™ Campaign and the owner told me that her 12 year old granddaughter had come home from school and challenged her to name 5 different genders!
We can push for gender-neutral washroom options in public areas, schools and the workplace (a simple yet daily concern for many trans people). We can challenge the use of transphobic language. We can ask that schools and workplaces bring in trained facilitators to deliver workshops educating people on transgender issues. If we are unsure of someone’s preferred pronoun we can ask them.
Jack Jackson and Lea DeLaria
Lets keep the conversation going!! Jackson encourages transgender people and allies alike to post a photos of themselves wearing their own bow ties during Transgender Awareness Week with the hashtag #TiesToLove.
Do the things you love with passion; Learn from those you admire; Strive to become an expert at what you do xx
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