CONVERSATION WITH JAC (TRANSCRIPT)
*Transcript has been edited to remove filler words (um, uh, etc.)
My first question for you today is...you grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. What was that experience like as a black person?
A combination of uneventful and very lonely.
I didn't experience a lot of overt, like overt racism…. the Northwest, especially I would say Washington particular excels at what I call, you know, the covert racism, the polite racism…. the kind of underground racism that a lot of people who perpetrate it, I think honestly, don't even realize they're doing sometimes. Or think that what they're doing is okay, because they've couched it in other terms for themselves like professionality and politeness and all this other stuff. So not a lot of overt things.
And so growing up early on, it was just like…I was very aware that I was the different one. But I didn't have a sense that, that people hated me or had negative opinions of me or things like that. And frankly, growing up, uh, what few other racial minorities were in the area, if there were more of them, then they got more heat. So like, I remember in high school, the Latinx population, those students, frankly, faced a lot more overt racism, I would say from teachers, from other students, from the environment at large, whereas all the black students, I feel like we got to be the model minorities in the space.
You were born in Walla Walla and you grew up there. How did you feel that, how did you feel about the Walla Walla community itself? You mentioned that sometimes you were treated as a model minority, but can you talk about some of the microaggressions you saw growing up?
It's funny. Cause as soon as you asked, the first thing I thought of were macro aggression, just like straight up aggressive incidents. Um, so they're little, there were little things like the way people stare at you as soon as, as the teacher announces that, “Oh, it's February, it's black history month” and everyone in their chair in class, just sort of like swivels around and looks at you. And you’re just like, why, why is this about me now? You know, awkward things like that.
There were some more, much more overt incidents of, um, of like I have this really distinctive memory from eighth grade. I was straightening my hair at the time. And you know, I have very nappy 4C, type eight, black hair. And at the time I frankly didn't like it that much. I’ve grown to love it as an adult, but at the time I didn't appreciate the beauty of my texture. But as a result, when you straighten hair like mine… when you chemically straightened it, it's not fully straight, you have to flat iron to get that shiny straight finish. So when I was in sports, [when I was in] junior high and showered…when I first got out of the shower, my hair had that crinkly look that like chemically straightened hair has right after it's been wet. And then like most of the other girls at the time that I played sports with, I would get out my flat iron and take care of my hair. And a group of five or six girls…
Literally I remember being backed up against the wall and all of them sort of like surrounding me, arms outstretched, hands reaching towards my head, like… What is happening. And I remember they were led by this one girl. We’ll call her Nat. It was her and all her friends. I made some exclamation like “This isn't a petting zoo!” or like “I'm not, I'm not a petting zoo!” Like knock it off, you know? And Nat’s just like, “Well, isn't it?”
Just so fast! [She] just came back with like, “Well, isn't this a petting zoo?” I actually do not remember what resolved after that. I completely blank on how that ended. I just remember that was a big key moment in my life when I realized that these girls were never really going to be my friends. [They] were never going to be people I could trust.
You were assigned a certain gender at birth. Can you tell me about that moment or that time period of your life when you began to realize that you do not identify as that gender that you were assigned and what that process was like?
I was assigned female at birth, right and identified with that. Around age 18, 19, I really started to come to grips with the fact that I liked girls… and I sort of admitted it and then sort of, but, but definitely talk to anybody about it and, and maybe told like two to three friends and kept it to myself for several years.
Finally, moved out of Walla Walla to the Spokane area. [I] just kind of got to reinvent myself. And so there, I started out being like, “Oh, I'm an ally”. And then eventually I was like, “No, no, I'm just, I'm just really, really gay.” So, [I] came out fully as, you know, bisexual or pansexual, I'm comfortable with either term and thought that was the end of it until I realized that there was still like farther to go.
Like something was not right still.
I'd spent a lot of time talking with, and empathizing, and listening to all of the other trans students in the queer spaces that I that I spent time in. And then I remember specifically around age, let's say 23, 24, I start sort of dissociating from it, womanhood.
And I had these instances with the clothes I would wear it, I've always loved clothes, always cared about clothes. I remember having days where I would put on…. I would start the day in a very sort of stereotypically feminine, you know, like a pencil skirt and blouse or something like that, or like a dress or whatever. And then halfway through the day, just be like [sound of disgust].
What is this? This is wrong. [I] would like literally run home in between classes and change and try to find clothes that felt right to wear. I remember increasingly every day being like standing in front of a closet, like paralyzed, like I don't know what to wear. It wasn't just like the social anxiety, but when an outfit is cute, it was something deeper than that. And then I eventually sort of ran into, I started like looking for things on the Internet. I remember being on my incognito browser and like looking up binders, like they were porn. And looking up all these other sort of symbols of trans masculinity and tools of trans masculinity and checking them out and looking at blogs and looking bloggers on YouTube and stuff.
And I finally, I remember I ran into a blogger who was gender fluid. This person moved back and forth sort of across the entire stereotypical binary gender spectrum. So they would, at one point could feel and identify in a very feminine way. And think of themselves as female. And then later would identify themselves completely in a masculine way…. and then sometimes identify a gender-neutral way.
Something clicked when I saw that vlog, it was like, “Oh, that makes sense. And that's a real thing. Like someone else came up, like, I didn't make it up! Like, there's someone else saying this?” And I suddenly, I remember relating super hard and being like, “Oh, Oh, okay. You know, I'm not crazy.” And I found this whole world of people on the Internet. And then from there, I eventually just started shifting further and further to the masculinity of the spectrum.
So first I identified as being gender fluid and then I identified sort of being vaguely trans masculine, and then eventually, and then non-binary trans masculine, then eventually I settled on identifying as a demi-guy. And that just feels right.
But, I also leave room in my head for the notion that one day I might feel more fluidity again. I don't know. These things just happen, I suppose.
End of Transcript.