When did you realize you didn’t relate to your birth gender?
I first realized it when I was around 10 or 11, it was 4th of July and I was buying fireworks with my grandparents. I wore my hair braided like Allen Iverson all the time because I wanted to be just like him. I definitely looked like a little boy in my basketball shorts with these braids. One of the guys working at the store called me a boy and I didn't correct him. It sounded right when he said it. It felt right. My mommom corrected him when I didn't and I was a bit upset about it? At that age though I definitely didn't understand why or anything. I didn't even know what transgender was/meant. Plus I had always heard everyone around me call me/tell me I was a tomboy so I went with it. I never really thought about it again until I met a transgender girl named Trish my freshman year of highschool. We weren't really close friends, but she was the first transgender person I had ever personally met. As the years went on, I continued to dress masculine but I just told everyone I was a butch lesbian, because that's what everyone told me I was. And about three years ago one guy changed that for me. I found myself head over heels for him and I didn't understand why. We ended up dating for a bit and I ended up realizing that while I did like him I wanted to be him more.
How did you deal with that mentally & physically?
I pretty much avoided it for 2.5 years. I talked to two close friends about my struggle with identifying who I was, who I wanted to be. I definitely knew I didn't identify as female anymore. Being called my birth name, she/her, and anything remotely feminine stressed me out and brought me to tears some days. Instead of accepting myself as trans, I finally decided "Okay, maybe I'm just gender-neutral" as I was still comfortable being feminine every once in awhile, just not 24/7. I went by gender-neutral pronouns for awhile and it eased some of the anxiety; however, my dead name still brought me incredible amounts of stress. I finally caved when the dysphoria just couldn't be managed anymore.
I still get misgendered every once in awhile, but since I've started my transition I've been happier than ever.
Give me a glimpse of the inside you verse your outward appearance.
On the inside, I am extremely insecure about pretty much everything. I also have a pretty big heart. I'm overly emotional and I'm a pretty big dreamer. On the outside, I am overly social so as to not let my anxiety win. Inside, I tend to be pretty quiet even though I want to to do everything under the sun. Outside, I know I can't afford to be quiet. Both inside and out, I just want to make a difference in the world.
How would you prefer people to address you? pronouns, preferred name etc
My full name is Jackson Alexander Williams. Most of my friends call me Jack. I have a few that call me Jackson and a few more that call me Jack Jack Jack. It honestly doesn't matter much to me what people call me, as long as they check in with me first. My pronouns are he/his/him.
What does gender identity mean to you?
For me, gender identity is how you feel, which can change at any moment. It's fluid and ever changing; it's beautiful and freeing.
Was there someone in your life that helped you start to see your authentic/true self? Tell me about how they helped you/who they are/
There have been so many people who have helped me get to where I am now. Avery, Julian, and Madison, the first people I ever really talked to about being transgender. Two out of three are transgender and they were able to give me so much advice. My two "moms" in California, Bri and Lainey, who knew me before I began my transition and have always been there for me. Angelica Ross, who is an incredible actor and founder of the company TransTech Social Enterprises who gave me advice on dealing with invasive questioning and microagressions. Laverne Cox, who gave me the biggest hug when I met her, reaffirmed my identity and feelings, and gave me plenty of advice. And the most important, the friends I've made at Penn State within my major (Noah and Katie) and in Penn State's club Queer & Trans People of Color. Not only are they all incredibly supportive when it comes to my identity, but also just in general. Everyone I've mentioned, and so many more people that I haven't, have taught me what it means to be who I am, accepted me for who I am, and have helped me learn and grow. I wouldn't be the person I am without them.
Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you’ve overcome them.
My entire journey has be an absolutely wild one. I've had so many identities in such a short time and I've faced my own difficulties with each one. But with each one I've gained so much support. It's taken me a long time to see it, but I truly am loved. I am where I'm supposed to be and now that I'm finally living as myself, I am happier than I have ever been.