Truth Talks: Jamey

So.. what’s a truth talk?

Hi! Welcome to my new series, truth talks. I started this because I’ve always been a curious person, and love having deeper conversations with people who are different than me – whether that’s because of their experiences, their perspectives, values, or what they do in their day to day life. These interviews are all about the authentic conversations I have with friends, strangers, and people I admire.

My hope is that you enjoy these conversations for what they are, and maybe you will come away with a new perspective or you’ll identify some common ground with someone you didn’t expect to. These are truth talks: discussions with people who are living their lives authentically and true to themselves, and I don’t think there’s anything more inspiring or insightful than that.

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meet jamey.

a non-binary educator, activist, and writer. I recently spoke with them because I wanted to l learn about queer identities, gender fluidity, and basically… what it’s like to be fighting for basic human equality and rights – on the front lines, behind the scenes, and online – and how to find balance and prioritize self-care at the same time. And with election day tomorrow (go vote!), this felt like the perfect first truth talk.

I guess we should just jump right in. You’re definitely my go-to person whenever I have a question, because I feel like no matter how big or small, you know my intentions and can explain things with such an awareness and acknowledgement for both the queer community and other communities that you and I may not be a part of, too. I wanted to start with the basics and maybe lay a foundation for others who are just getting into the movement, and create a starting point of knowledge to go off of. Because for me, sometimes I feel like I am eight steps behind and don’t want to do or say the wrong thing, and then I hesitate to do anything at all. So, what is the proper term, or is that in and of itself misinformed?

First, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’m super down to explain. I work in education. I do have pretty radical politics, but work in mainstream education, meaning I’m constantly translating high theory and anarchist political thought into everyday speak to meet people where they’re at. It by no means needs to be some intense, “burn everything down” kind of movement all the time, because it shouldn’t be about isolating people with good intentions; it should be about letting them come in and understand what we’re talking about and why sometimes we want to burn things down!

“LGBTQ+, I think, is the best way to spell out our community. My organization says LGBTQ, which is great and encapsulates a lot of people and identities, but there are also some who aren’t included such as intersex or asexual people. Since the mainstream movement still has a lot to do to be fully inclusive of the ‘I’ and the ‘A,’ I think LGBTQ+ is the best way to capture it for now.”

What is the biggest misconception that people think? Is there one? Is it that people try to group everything together, or that we don’t create or learn clear distinctions between identities?

I think that there’s a lot of normativity around LGBTQ+ or queer identities because as we become more mainstream and move into public media and education, very specific representation of people within our community are given the privilege and the space and the platform to be out. So, I think mainstream media and everyday people have very little to go off of to understand the complexity of the trans experience and the complexity of asexual identity, queer identity, and intersex identities. When I am talking about this issue of normativity, I mean there is usually one or two forms of representation that people have access to, and then they only have that to base off what they kind of imagine the entire community could look like.

There’s this idea that we are all the same, but there’s so much fluidity just within each of our identities. There are a lot of similarities, like we come together through similar experiences of oppression, but there are so many divisions just within that LGBTQ+ acronym and the entire queer community altogether. When you say transgender you mean trans men, trans women, gender nonconforming, non-binary, agender, genderqueer, genderfluid, and so, so, so much more. The endless ways to be trans is the most beautiful thing about our community, and will never change.

What is one action everyone should take right now? Because inaction is still action, right?

The one pivotal, extremely critical action I think everyone needs to take, whether they are queer or not, or somewhere in between, is to orient themselves towards LGBTQ+ youth. They really hold the answers of what the future holds. They’re the future, and they’re also kind of the authors of the queer movement and queer language today. They’re changing everything within our culture and they really hold the answers of what the future of queerness and all forms of identity will look like in ten years, twenty years, fifty years, a hundred years down the line. They also have so much knowledge, not only about what’s going to happen, but what’s happening right now. My job, where I’m working for a national LGBTQ+ youth advocacy organization that’s led by adults and all staff are adults, I’m constantly checking in with the young people we’re connected to and asking, “Am I saying this correctly? Am I designing this right, and including everyone when I say phrases like this?” I think LGBTQ+ youth hold so much knowledge and experience and we all need to turn to them as the experts.

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Where can people go to get involved or donate their money to support LGBTQ+ causes and organizations?

—> donate to

Audre Lorde Project

Sylvia Rivera Law Project

Black & Pink

—> follow

Alok Vaid-Menon @alokvmenon

Laverne Cox @lavernecox

Bamby Salcedo @labamby

—> when it comes to voting..

vote YES on 3 in Massachusetts

Always check a candidates’ history with LGBTQ issues, which also often tells you how they treat other marginalized peoples, too

—> download

GLSEN educational resources, including information on pronouns here and here

How do you reconcile being an activist with at the same time being a human? Like, for example, MAC makeup was a trailblazer with LGBTQ+ activism, but they aren’t a cruelty free brand. How do you balance, or justify even just personally in your mind, activism and acknowledging all the different causes? 

I think young people do it really well, in creating a guide for us, which, through questioning everything and unveiling all of these kind of forms of oppression that we’re implicated in, they’re kind of creating a new genre of conscious consumerism. As far as practicality and being able to commit yourself every single day to every form of action, I think the first step is just acknowledging and not ignoring; I don’t think ignorance is bliss. I think being socially, politically, globally conscious can feel debilitating and like a huge weight on yourself because you have a growing awareness every single second of every single day of how you’re implicated in different forms of violence, whether it’s local or regional or global.

I think the first step is not ignoring it; it’s recognizing that capitalism specifically functions through like a give and take of oppression and luxury. Any form of luxury has always relied on degradation – whether that’s [of] the environment, or of people, or of land in order for someone to have a form of luxury, and that can hold a lot of weight for people of privilege and people who can’t really escape their system, but I find it important for me, understanding where the systems come from and how they operate in order to understand the history.

How to live with it is recognizing it’s inevitable and recognizing that every form of action we’re taking is often tied to something that is violent or oppressive and you’re totally welcome to be a crusade in one area and take care of yourself by not being a crusade in another area, for issues of sustainability and burnout. But, I think there are growing industries that enable us to not be active within the types of violent streams of [insert system of oppression here]. Seek alternatives and recognize that it’s baby steps, that nothing is going to change overnight. But also don’t give up completely and think seeming inevitability is an excuse to not take action. There is always a way to take action and resist.

I also think a lot of companies now are diving into politics and making it part of their branding because they see that their customers value it, and they want to align themselves with that. Especially Generation Y and the younger generations.

That is why boycotts and protests are important, because then that change actually happens. Through refusing to involve yourself or be a player within that type of world, you’re really catalyzing a full resistance of supporting those industries, and you’re playing a part in building industries that are more sustainable and more just. There can be this issue of - it’s sometimes called pink-washing, and it’s sometimes called rainbow-washing - it’s the act of violent systems or structures who perform specifically oppression through racism, against people of color and through white supremacy, can wash over all of that violence with a rainbow and be like, “But, we’re queer-inclusive,” or “We’re LGBTQ+ inclusive,” and I think that’s really insidious and dangerous for us. Especially for a queer-community that is filled with queer people of color, first of all, but two, our movement is supposed to be about justice working against the system and fostering a world that is inclusive and free for everyone. We have to be able to look through those types of corporations or people who may be good for us but aren’t good for other people.

So for me, as a white queer and trans person, in terms of intersectionality and this kind of like pyramid of forms of oppression, I think I definitely put racism above queer oppression because I think that’s more important to me, in recognizing my privilege within the queer community as a white person. I think white queer people need to be more vigilant of how they’re supporting queer corporations, queer organizations, and queer capital and make sure that, while we are coming out of the shadows and making a space for ourselves and being offered platform, that we’re not doing it at the expense of other people, and that we’re doing it in a just manner.

Knowing you can’t be everything to everyone, how can you persist when there’s adversity, whether it’s big political setbacks or just a hard day? How do you keep going and how do you handle self-doubt, if you have it?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how critical my community is to me. In politics and in my work, we hear about all of these terrible, terrible things happening and different forms of legislation and political action happening that will very tangibly impact people who may hold my identities and live somewhere else, but I feel like I can find comfort in fighting against that throughout the day in my job and in my activist work, and then come home to a community where I am safe and I am shielded from those things. I think finding a community of like-minded people who understand what you’re going through and understand the severity of the kind of political action we’re trying to take, but can also make a safe bubble away from the world. So, knowing that sixty-two million people voted for Trump, but I don’t have to interact with any of those people throughout my week because the community I’ve built becomes the place I have chosen to live and have fought to live in is super important. Taking care of yourself and kind of creating your own safe haven of like-minded and comfortable people.

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What motivates you?

I just think of the little Jamey’s out there in elementary school and all of the potential and beauty and fluidity that they hold, before the suppression of bullying and shame. I think about how every form of work that I do with my job or otherwise is making the world a little bit safer, and comfortable, and accepting for that kid to have just a little bit better of an experience than I did, and then in return, they’ll do the same for the next generation, and then that generation will do the same for the next generation, and so on. I think, on top of that, knowing how amazing young people are, and how the tides are totally shifting and that no matter what, whether we have a Republican House of Representatives, a Republican Senate, a Republican White House, a Republican Supreme Court – which is what we currently have – we cannot be stopped. It doesn’t matter what policies we have, what ideologies are dominant within political discourse, that youth know what they want, they know what they believe in, and they know who they are, and that can never be stopped. That the movement will only evolve and go forward.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Rushing to get ready, pretending I know how to put makeup on, shoving myself into a subway car for a half an hour as I travel from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and then running into work where I get to work with amazing queer and trans activists supporting LGBTQ+ young people in schools. Then after work, I go to a series of places whether it’s to the park with friends, or I just started talking Ballez, which is a queer ballet class of all queer and trans people which is my favorite place. We do tendus to Shania Twain and Ron de Jambes to Beyoncé. We wear whatever we want and there are no mirrors and it’s not about looking at yourself and obsessing over your technique; it’s about watching other people and being who you are. Then, every single night I end up horizontal on my couch watching trash TV and eating dark chocolate by the pound. True. 

One thing everyone should know how to do is…

Question, critique, and break down everything that they’ve ever been told was true. And to come to their own conclusions and seek knowledge on their own. I think that’s really, really important. 

Lastly, what would say to that small-town kid who is feeling so uncomfortable or unnoticed, unheard, or just is anxious or alone?

I would say that there’s community for everyone, all over the place. If you don’t feel like it it’s in your small town or your local community, then it’s somewhere else, and that’s a place that you are going to need to find. It’s not going to be easy, but going out and searching for it is so much more worth than being stuck and staying where you are. I recognize that system, and that definitely requires privilege of mobility and access, but that’s also what the greatest thing about social media and the internet is, too. People create virtual community of people across the world, whether it’s in another part of your state or another part of your country, continent, or just across the world. People have spaces to go on the internet to foster safe space and hold one another and understand one another. Also, everything is temporary. You’re really only stuck following your parents’ rules until you’re eighteen, and there’s so many options and ways to escape. I was stuck within Mormon ideology until I was nineteen years old! And I fought my way to New York City with literally $200 in my bank account, and it saved me and I found my people, and I’ve never been happier.

“It’s a terrifying step to make, but fighting to find your community is so incredibly worth it.”

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the quick fix:

I can’t go a day without… Stevie Nicks.

Everyone should… read the entire Harry Potter series. And then have a movie marathon.

Life is better with a little… dark chocolate. I’m obsessed with dark chocolate. It’s all I eat.

Everyone in their 20’s should… spend all of their money and travel the world. That’s what I did in college. I would work like six jobs all year and then I would spend the summer abroad, and spend all of it, and then start over.

One insider thing to do in Brooklyn… find a hole in the wall thrift shop and go at it.

What the world needs right now is… queer leadership.

One way to spread love… instead of judging someone by their actions, work harder to understand where they come from.

You can follow Jamey here.

photo courtesy of Jamey

photo courtesy of Jamey