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Somerville, MA

What’s your name?

Jac. It’s funny because my family still calls me Jaclyn… I haven’t told them to call me otherwise, but my family call me Jaclyn, people around here call me Jackie, and then I started kinda calling myself Jac fairly recently. So I have like three different names right now.

What are your pronouns?

So as of right now it’s still “she,” but I feel like I’m “pre-transition” everything right now, because I’ve been contemplating that for a long time. So right now I do feel kind of in between pronouns. “He” feels weird to me, because I’m just not used to it, and “she” also feels weird, because I don’t feel like I belong in that. I don’t know how I feel about [“they”] being used for myself because I’ve just never been called [that]. I haven’t used that, and change is hard for me. I think eventually I’ll probably go to “he.”

Where do you work?

I work for myself. I am a graphic designer, and I have my own clients. Sometimes I do contract work where I’ll go to different offices of various companies. It’s really varied. I started finding some clients on what is now called Upwork (it used to be called Elance) and I found a lot of clients that way. More recently I’ve been getting more word-of-mouth clients.

Do you have any hobbies or special interests?

I’m in a couple of bands, and that’s what I do with a lot of my free time. I’m in a band called Happy Little Clouds, which is having an album release in July. Then I’m in another band called Viva Gina, which is a lot of fun. I play a lot of shows, and I write a lot of songs, and I do a lot in the music community. I’m always going to my friends’ bands’ shows, and I would say that’s my crowd that I hang out with.

How do you handle the issue of pronouns and being gendered when interacting with strangers / mixed company / etc?

So far I’ve kind of just gone with “she.” There have been moments where I will get, “Hey, ladies,” and I hate that, so I often will say, “Hey, can you not call me lady, because that just doesn’t sit right with me.” But besides that, I still go by “she” – that might change in the near future. I’m wrapping my head around it, I guess.

What word(s) would you use to describe your identity?

I think right now I just identify as queer. Like I said, I feel like I’m becoming more and more open to the word trans for myself, because I think that it ultimately fits me, but it’s so new to me that I don’t know if I’m quite there yet. So I guess for now, queer kind of encompasses all that I am and all that I’ve been for the past many years. I think also I’m kind of averse to labels. I’m just myself.

Are there ways that you dress / act / speak / etc. to specifically make a statement to others about your identity? Why?

Well I definitely am more masculine-presenting, I guess. I don’t really wear girl clothes anymore, and I haven’t for years. I like to dress in guy’s clothes. I usually have my hair short but I’m actually growing it out to make a statement about coming out and gender identity in general. It’s a long way off, but I have been growing my hair out for a music video. When I first got it cut, it was very significant to me in identifying as queer to the world openly.

How early on did you know or suspect that you did not identify within the binary?

I think in high school was when I started realizing, “Oh, I like girls” – I was pretty sure about the sexuality part for a while. And I always felt more…guy-like in general. But I think more recently I’ve been thinking about the reasons behind why I feel that way and how I’m not just a lesbian.

I guess I look back at my childhood and I’m like, oh, I probably didn’t fit my whole life, but didn’t really realize it until I came out as gay at the end of high school. But I can look back at my childhood – whenever we played games of pretend, I would always be the male role. All of my girl friends loved playing imaginary games with me because I would always be the role they didn’t want. I would be Aladdin so someone else could be Jasmine.

Do you think anything about the way you were raised or where you grew up affected how easy or difficult it was for you to draw conclusions about your identity?

I think my parents are pretty open-minded in general, but I think that they’ve been heavily influenced by society, so I don’t think that I was exposed to a lot of queer culture or any of that probably until the Ellen Degeneres show was on television. I actually remember watching that with my dad and thinking, “What’s ‘gay?’” I don’t think I was exposed to that at all until middle school. Clearly my parents knew gay people were in the world, and probably had gay friends, but it was never really brought up. It would’ve been helpful to know more about the existence of queer people. But my parents were not against anything, it just wasn’t talked about because it wasn’t a thing in their existence.

Can you give any examples of misconceptions people have about those who identify outside the binary? Have you personally dealt with them?

I think a lot of people think that being queer is a choice. I think people are afraid of what they don’t understand. I think a lot of people who are ignorant and don’t have experience with queer people directly probably feel like it’s a choice and not something that you are. In this society it’s hard to be queer because there’s a lot more violence around it. You’re judged more in general. That’s not an easy thing for people in general. I don’t think people understand that you don’t choose it, you just are, and people like us exist. We need to educate those who don’t know queer people.

In your own words, how would you explain that gender identity is different from sexual orientation?

I think of it as two spectrums: one for gender and one for sexual identity. Masculinity and femininity on both sides of the gender spectrum, and I think people can fall anywhere within that. I fall closer to the masculine side of that gender identity. And then sexuality has [homosexuality and heterosexuality] on either side of the spectrum, and people can fall anywhere along that spectrum, and maybe not even be on that spectrum. There are asexual people that exist too.

Promo picture for Shift, Jac's debut album. (c) The Secret Bureau of Art & Design

I’ve met so many people that have been so many different sexualities, and so many different gender identities. It’s really a mixed bag. I think until people meet those people in their lives, you don’t even know they exist. I think when I was in college was when I met the first trans person I ever knew. She was male-to-female trans, but identified as a lesbian. I didn’t understand it because I had never encountered it before. But now it’s very obvious to me, especially after going through my own identity crisis.

How do you feel represented in media and society at large?

Not very. At Pride I actually just met Aydian Dowling, this trans guy I’ve been following him on Youtube for a long time. He was on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, he was on the Ellen Degeneres show, he’s really cool. Not that it’s media per say, it’s Youtube, but he’s one of the few people that I don’t know personally that I identify with very much. As far as mainstream media – I guess Boys Don’t Cry was a pretty good representation of a character that I could identify with very well. I used to really like Ellen Degeneres a lot, but I identified more with her when I identified as a lesbian. Now that I don’t feel like a woman, it doesn’t line up as much for me anymore.

What improvements would you like to see happen in and outside of your community?

More acceptance. Beyond that, more of it not being a novelty. We exist. Let’s get on with it and keep living and co-existing. Within the community, I would like to see a more mixed bunch of people. When I hung out more in the queer community, I did identify as a lesbian, and that particular community felt very clique-y to me at the time. I don’t know if it’s still that way, and I don’t know if I necessarily belong in the lesbian community anymore. But I would like to see more unity, especially with bisexual and transgender people, because I feel like those two groups of people are on the outskirts of the queer community and not always as accepted even in the queer community – which is baffling to me. I’ve dated a lot of bisexual girls and been friends with a lot of bisexual people, and I think they all kind of feel very ostracized. The community that I’ve gravitated towards more recently has been the music community because it’s so accepting of all kinds of people. There’s queer people, straight people, there’s all kinds of races, it’s just all-inclusive. I just want to see that all around in every community.

Could you tell me about an experience or moment in your life that was very impactful for you? It can be in regards to your identity, or not.

Music has been a really impactful thing for me. Just becoming more myself as I get older. I’ve used music as an outlet for a lot of feelings that I couldn’t tell anyone else. It’s been impactful because I’ve grown confidence by using music and performing and all of that, and connecting with other people through it. It’s kind of saved me in a lot of ways. The people I’m in bands with, we end up getting to know each other so well.

There’s this sponsor organization I’m part of called Girls Rock Campaign Boston, and a lot of the people I know in other bands have been part of it. I’ve only been part of it for the past couple years. I do vocal instruction and band coaching. It’s an organization that helps young woman and girls. It’s an empowerment program for them. They’re taught rock instruments, then they form bands and they actually play out at an actual showcase, at a real venue. It’s really cool. It gives you confidence. Going up on stage in front of people is something that can be really [scary] but if you do it, and you have all these people there supporting you and helping you do it, it becomes an amazing experience and you carry that through your whole life into other areas. I think if I had that as a kid, that would’ve been very impactful. But being involved even now as an adult has been impactful because you get to help people find their confidence and through that, you find your own again too. It’s something that has impacted me but also impacted so many other people that I know. Being able to have an outlet through music, through performing, and through all the people I get to meet through it has helped me feel more comfortable being open with who I am. I’m almost discovering more about my gender identity because of the support of the community that I’ve been around with music.

Who in your life do you feel you can trust or depend on?

My family, for one. I don’t know what I would do without them. They’ve been really supportive of me through all of this coming out stuff. No matter what kind of curve balls I throw at them, I’m never afraid that they won’t love me. I feel like I can trust them. I also have a lot of friends that I’ve met over the years and more recently that I feel I can turn to, and a great artistic community that I can turn to and trust. I know they understand who I am, and they don’t care what I am.

How has your identity played a role in your relationships, romantic or otherwise?

Album cover for Jac's debut album, Shift. (c) The Secret Bureau of Art & Design

It’s been pretty significant. I think more recently, dealing with gender identity issues has been interesting because I don’t necessarily appear like a man right now, so people don’t expect me to be dealing with gender or trans stuff. It’s been an interesting thing. But I’ve been completely supported in it with whomever I’ve been dating. You know, there are certain body parts I don’t like touched and that kind of thing, and whomever I’ve been with has been supportive of that even if at first it was kind of a new thing for them. So I’ve had a very positive experience with that.

Are you able to find adequate medical care?

Yeah. I go to Fenway Health right now. I haven’t done much along the lines of looking for support with transgender-related things yet, because I’ve been very involved in getting my album out for my band, and I’ve just been in a whirlwind of that and trying to make money, and haven’t quite looked into it that much. So I think I will soon be discovering how supportive it actually is, but it sounds like it is around here as far as what I’ve heard from other people. And you know, I’ve gone to the doctors at Fenway Health and there was all this stuff about transgender support groups, and it looks like they cover everything pretty much. I don’t know if that’s true for other places. I can’t say that was true for the old doctors I used to go to. But I started going to Fenway Health because it sounded like they were way more supportive than any other places.

How has your view of yourself changed since you were younger?

Well, I feel like as a kid I was just a kid – I didn’t know anything about gender, I was just kind of being who I was. I think I probably always have been more masculine; even then, looking back at how I played and how I interacted with the world without even having a concept of society’s views on queer people or any of that. So I think fundamentally I haven’t changed all that much, but I have over time made progress in finding out and making sense of who I actually am in the world. I think I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I used to be a really shy kid. Now I perform on stage in front of lots of people.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Because I think I really was when I was younger. Even beyond gender identity stuff, I was just a very shy person and always afraid of how other people would judge me. So I would say, stop worrying about what other people think and just do your thing.

What are your concerns for the future?

I think – especially in light of Orlando – I would hope that those kind of things don’t happen, but also that those events light the path for acceptance of queer people. I hope the world becomes a more accepting place and not a more fearful one. It’s hard to not be concerned about that. I don’t think I was that concerned before Orlando.

I guess I have a lot of concerns around navigating being transgender, and what that means for me. I’m very concerned, more superficially, about my voice because I am a singer and that will probably change in the near future. There’s a lot of concerns around all that, because there’s so much to think about surrounding it, and I feel like I only just started seriously accepting myself in terms of transgender stuff. I wasn’t really thinking about it that much before, and now I’m like, okay, this is what I am, and how do I navigate that from here? There’s a lot of societal things, a lot of medical things, there’s a lot of things. And I think I’m lucky that I’ve been very open about it with a lot of my friends, and I feel very supported thankfully. I know a lot of people can’t say that. And even me, someone who is supported, I’m still scared about all that.

What do you look forward to in the future?

I look forward to becoming my true self in every possible way. I look forward to my album release, which I’ve been gearing up towards for a while. I’m having an album release show for my band Happy Little Clouds, which features songs that I wrote over the years and newer ones that I recorded with my band. I’m putting together this show at O’Brien’s Pub on July 9th – I’m going to be raising money for Girls Rock Camp. The guys who are MCing it are from this poetry night out in Worcester called the Dirty Gerund Poetry Show, and they’re going to perform poetry in between bands playing. There’s a lot to it, I’ve been working on getting it together. I’m going to be playing with a lot of local bands.

It’s a significant album for me, especially in terms of the queer community. My album is called Shift, and it’s kind of representative of the moment that you’re shifting in life. The concept behind it is that moment when you look behind you before you leave this place that you’ve known and move forward into the unknown. That shift from comfort into unknown, but discovery. I don’t know what will happen, especially with my voice and that kind of thing, so this is a very significant album for me because I don’t know how things will change. I'm very excited to put it out. It’s the first professional album we’ve put out. 

Promo picture for Shift, Jac's debut album. (c) The Secret Bureau of Art & Design

It’ll be on [iTunes, Spotify, etc.] online. I wanted to give back to the art community that I’ve been around. It really ties together art, poetry, and music, and it’s all for the best cause I know: Girls Rock Campaign Boston. It’s my contribution back to the community.

What have been the important frustrations in your life, and the most important successes?

I think the biggest frustration, at least right now, that I’m facing is how to make my outsides look like my insides. The way I’ve appeared thus far has not felt like how I feel inside. So I think that’s been a big frustration. Right now I look like a very small, queer-looking woman, but inside that’s not really how I see myself. So that’s been a frustrating thing probably my whole life, but I’ve only recently discovered that, hey, that is a frustration, what do I do about that frustration now?

I feel like this album is a big success because a lot of my songs are an outlet for me, so finally getting that out into the world and being vulnerable – I mean, it’s not a success yet, but I’m hoping it will be. And living the way I want to live right now, having the freedom to put this kind of thing together, instead of being stuck in the corporate world, in a place that doesn’t fulfill my heart, I think that’s a big success in my life.

Do you have a philosophy of life? What’s your best piece of advice?

If you have any interest in something that you want to do in life, just do it and don’t be afraid of doing it badly, because the only way of doing it well is to do it badly first.


Are there any other questions you would have liked me to ask, or anything else you would like to talk about?

I guess my thought about even this [interview] is – I haven’t come out as trans to many people, but I think this is kind of the beginning of me being like, yep, this is who I am. So I’m a little apprehensive, in a way, but I feel like it’s important for me to do it.  I think being out in the world as trans is something very, very new to me, so I’m still wondering if I can call myself that. But I guess I have, so there you go.

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