The icon, Josephine Jones herself, in conversation with les girls les boys...
To mark, celebrate, and show up for Trans Pride 2021 we sat down virtually with Josephine Jones. Josephine was the first ever transgender person to show work at London Fashion Week, and is a fierce campaigner, artist, role model, and trailblazer for our generation.
Here, she gets upfront and personal about identity, the role fashion plays in finding ourselves, and how people and brands can be better trans allies. She also gives us her pick of the best accounts to follow to educate and inform yourself on trans rights, and to explore your own identity - so, get following.
Here we go…
lglb: What is your emotional connection to clothing?
JJ: Clothing has been, and always will be an immensely healing space for me. Before, during and after my gender transition. A space for allowing and projecting an image and silhouette which best suits you — there’s a freedom in that. An imagining. And for me I envisioned the potential I had to change, in dress before I did in confidence.
lglb: What power does clothing have to enable our true identities?
JJ: To live and grow differently. Clothing can be a revolutionary mode of expression that is totally safe, non-committal and experimental. Especially when on the path to much more fixed changes such as, for me, transitioning. Or less permanently, though significantly more often these days, my moving towards self-acceptance. As well as developing deeper, more honest and loving compassion for myself and others. It creates freedom and space in one’s life, I believe. In what I do artistically, and in myself. So my outward expression paved the way, rather unknowingly for my creating a freedom unbound by conventions or “should wears”, fear or toxic shame, mainly of heteronormative design, or ‘westernised’ convention. The lived experience, though challenging at times, is beyond my wildest dreams. A life I am very proud to lead on a day-to-day basis.
lglb: What do you wish was different about the category-specific shopping experience?
JJ: Fashion was always the antithesis of categorisation for me, I was never any good at rules, binaries, numbers, conventions. In true punk fashion I adore the rituals of dress, communities, the cultures and subcultural nuances alike. It was all about individualisation and realisation, at times reification. Of moods and ideas I was still teasing out of my subconscious. Using… chic! Bizarre but give it a go, worked for me, thus far.
lglb: How can people be good allies to the trans community?
JJ: Hun, just check in on your trans friends, this stuff is really hard. I suppose representation is good allyship. The lack of representation is like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope in cinema. If a female character, usually fairylike and whimsical in nature, only exists to act as a plot device or romantic interest to a male lead, with zero to little actual character development, or fleshed out views, OR nuanced interpersonal interests, narratives, histories and storylines outside of the main male character, then babes, she is a plot device with lipstick. And *not* a fully realised character.
lglb: What are some of the issues with representation?
JJ: What if your transition had no easy tie-in to your main interest or specialist subject? But you’re only asked to give voice to the only issues people see your entire identity as being tied to… It’s a total missed opportunity for talking to the actual indidividial who has a multitude of facinating views beyond LBGTqia+ politics which threaten their human rights to the brain-freeze inducing intricacies and cisgender-led analysis of philosophy of gender as a construct. And let’s be honest, they’ve likely done enough of that for one day! It’s about appreciating trans people not solely because of their transness. Whilst allowing that to not be the sole function of their inclusion in a project. Otherwise that person is a disposable check-box with a gender identity stuck on them. Yikes! We are trans, yay! We are wonderful in other ways, if you chat to us. So imperfect, fabulous, hilarious, miserable, strong but delicate humans are we. Yes, just like the rest of us! Perhaps it may surprise people to know that in my day-to-day life, I only think about transness in relation to, most often anyway, when being harassed by others on the street - “tube a la transphobia”. And in my nervous system anticipating these potential threats, rather than when I am living in the present moment. Aka, just being the 24 year old girl I am.
Representation of the person, the identity which is linked to but not weighted down by the fact that a human is also trans, is harder to come by than one might expect. Like, “oh, OK, you’re trans, that’s cool. Read any good books lately?” I’d j’adore some semblance of ‘integration’ and acceptance over wide-eyed fetishisation, any day! Honestly? It’s the taboo and norms of silence and of social acceptance whilst hate crimes are happening. Or hate and shame around being with/liking or even TOLERATING, which people see as accepting transgender people, which fuels the opposite. It breeds more fetishisation and obsession, which puts myself and trans folks in more danger on either end. We are constantly pushing for a middle ground which people jolt us out of on a regular basis.
lglb: How can brands be allies to the trans community, especially within fashion?
JJ: Pushing for platforming marginalised voices. Trans folks communicating their authentic representation speaks volumes of good intentions. Whereas tokenism does the opposite. Only working with trans people during Pride month, or only around LGBTqia*+ issues, or about their lived identity isn’t their *whole* realm. Even though it’s likely something an LGBTqia*+ person is likely to be able to speak eloquently on and at length, it’s rarely their main interest. Though, for me there’s an elegant transition between fashion history, of style as empowerment transformation, and crafting of design and identity, and my story, of being a trans woman. Let’s push for seeing trans people as people with nuanced, complicated identities just like everyone else. We are fabulous, fabulously human that is! It feels good to be cast as the same job a cisgender person would’ve been chosen for, rather than as a diversity quota, alone.
lglb: What are the best accounts to follow to find out more about trans rights?
JJ: Gotta be @mermaidsgender, @genderedintelligence @black.transproject and my sis @munroebergdorf. Noteworthy mention goes to @feelingqueerorganisation, a peer-led organisation formed by a collective of queer trauma survivors and to advocate for mental health - they rock and is run by my friend Hannah, who helped me find my long term therapist, who lives in California and is a dream. Ps., @travisalabanza rocks!
This year Trans Pride London (@londontranspride) is taking place on the 26th June, with a gathering in London due to take place at Wellington Arch at 2pm in Hyde Park followed by a march. It’s taking place to demand equal rights, access to healthcare, and legal recognition of non-binary people and other oppressed groups. Find out more, including how to march safely, here.