We met with Jay to talk about his involvement with trans social and support groups in Manchester and his experience at the launch of #TransMCR.
Can you introduce yourself and share a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Jay Crawford; I am a queer transman in my mid 20's and I am happily married to my wife Stephenie, we live together in a quiet suburb of Manchester with our Jack Russell Terrier and we’re also hoping to have a child in the not too distant future. I am currently a volunteer for 2 Trans Organisations and I also work with another non LGBT charity helping people with learning difficulties and disabilities engage in horse riding sessions in South Manchester.
You are on the board of trustees for Sparkle, can you tell us a bit about your history and how you came to be part of Sparkle?
Having first attended Sparkle in 2008, I left the weekend having really loved the atmosphere. The celebration had an air of “whoever you are, whatever you are – you are welcome” which at that time I had been craving rather than a protest. In 2012 I became a moderator in an online group called Trans Masculine Support and Advice (TMSA-UK), we help lead a peer support group and offer mentoring, advocacy and signposting to over 1600 trans masculine people in the UK. Fast forward to 2015, when the opportunity came up to become a trustee with Sparkle and I jumped at it. It is a massive challenge, but the rest of the Charity Trustee's are fantastic to work with and we are incredibly lucky to have such wonderfully talented, committed people onboard. 2016 has been a fantastic year so far as we launched the first “National Transgender Awards” ceremony and we are looking forward to the Sparkle weekend in July. We hope everyone will join us for the Sparkle fringe 6th-13th July and the Sparkle weekend on the 8th/9th/10th July.
You modelled for Amy’s Life drawing class at our #TransMCR event on 9th April. Can you tell us how you became involved?
I did a foundation degree in Art and Design in my late teens and I really enjoyed being a life drawing model back then, I saw a shout out on social media for a life drawing model for the #TransMCR event and I thought “hey! Why not!”. It was as much about being useful to others as it was, just a good experience for me too.
The class was really well-received and I think many attendees were particularly pleased to see a trans model. What does trans visibility mean to you?
Trans visibility is something I have the privilege of making a choice about. I am visible when I need to be, but I often assume everyone knows I was female identified at birth when that isn’t always the case. I think now is the time for trans people in the UK. We are slowly moving forward in a direction that in my opinion is guided by us, and so many organisations are doing their very best to fight for the rights of trans people. I am committed to improving the lives of other trans people by being visible myself wherever possible. We still need to fight for rights of every trans, non binary and gender variant person across the globe, TDOR highlights the importance of this every year.
What did you think of #TransMCR and what would you like to see from future events?
I was so proud to see so many young trans people at the event, There wasn’t an event like this when I was first coming out, just a monthly support group MORF and TREC (which ceased in 2014). The atmosphere was very positive and engaging, everyone was very upbeat and sharing knowledge. Pockets of conversation were across a broad range of subject and getting people to talk about being trans, our experiences and sharing those with our SOFFAs (significant others, family, friends and allies) is an incredibly valuable experience. I think it will be great for so many in the community.
May 17th marks ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia & Transphobia’ (IDAHOBIT). How do you think we can challenge transphobia?
I think for me the importance of May 17th is that ALL areas of the LGBT spectrum come together for one single agenda, the end of stigma and at the same time gain the attention of the media and the general public in order to create a better space for everyone without fear of persecution. Millions of people across the world come together, to show support to their LGBT friends, families and allies and that's incredibly valuable. I think the biggest fights are still to come from Bisexual people who are very much the invisible acronym in many parts of the community and those who identify as gender variant. The only way to fight transphobia is by standing up for injustice around transphobia, engaging with policy makers, what is left of the NHS and by challenging those who are given a soap box in the media.
What advice would you offer someone questioning their gender identity or newly out as trans?
Every single tear, moment of fear, panic and stress is so worth it. Family can be tough, friends can struggle but you will also find so many allies that you never knew you could. There is a vast sense of community out there for trans people so no matter where you live, study or work, there will be people like you. Reach out to the internet for safe spaces and advice if you feel more comfortable with that. Whether or not you choose to take hormone treatment, move on to have one, two or more surgeries or none at all, makes absolutely no difference as long as you are working towards a place where you are happy. I love art, music and enjoy the company of horses; I also enjoy dying my partner's hair and I chose a wonderful pink flamingo wallpaper for our bedroom – I don’t see those as female or male traits, I just see them as part of my personality. There is no need to feel as though you must fit into a ‘heteronomative’ view of female and male or masculine and feminine as long as you are true to yourself.