November 17, 2019

Transgender actress Dominique Jackson shares struggle to find acceptance

“I was so determined to prove I wasn’t this abomination everybody said I was,” Jackson said at the Oct. 17 fall headliners event.

Actress Dominique Jackson, a transgender activist, became well-known in the New York ballroom scene in the 1990s.

From fleeing persecution as a transgender woman in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago to starring in television hits, Dominique Jackson has seen it all. After experiencing homelessness and rejection from her own family, Jackson has used her success to shed light on the issues transgender women like herself too often face.

Jackson came to Webster on Oct. 17 as part of the Multicultural Center and International Student Affairs (MCISA) series, “Fluidity: Deconstructing Gender Roles and Stereotypes.”

Jackson stars in “Pose,” an FX television series about the African American and Latinx LGBTQ+ gender-nonconforming ballroom culture scene in the 1980s and 1990s. “American Gods,” a fantasy drama television series on Starz, recently recruited Jackson to star in the upcoming third season. 

For Jackson, her “Pose” character, Elektra Abundance, is more than just someone she plays in front of the cameras. She is a representation of what Jackson and many transgender women go through when they lose their families after coming out.

Jackson spent much of the event talking about her relationship with her mother. Jackson said for much of her life, her mother has not accepted Jackson’s gender identity. Jackson said she went many years without contact after her mother refused to address her daughter by feminine pronouns.

“My mother told me, ‘I will tolerate you, but I won’t accept you,’” Jackson said.

Jackson describes her mother as a “west-Indian deacon who goes to church four times a week and prays multiple times a day.” When Jackson’s mother told her that her identity went against God’s word, Jackson responded by hanging up the phone. She would continue to remind her mother who she was, but she refused to get into verbal altercations.

“I was so determined to prove I wasn’t this abomination everybody said I was,” Jackson said.

Jackson’s experience with her mother stood in stark contrast to that of audience members Nathan and Noah Lowery, who attended the event with their mother, Joanna Lowery.

According to Lowery, her children introduced her to Jackson when they started watching, “Pose.”

“They said, ‘Hey, come watch this,’ and I have been watching everything I can to keep up with them and learn what their lives are about,” Lowery said. “My husband watches it with me.”

Lowery said Jackson’s insistence and courage to be herself resonated with her experiences with her two children. Noah, who identifies as gay, and Nathan, who identifies as nonbinary, accompanied their mother to the talk.

Joanna Lowery (left) speaks with Webster students and attendees to the Oct. 17 discussion led by Dominique Jackson.

Lowery said she often sees people, including family members, reject her children for who they are.

“I cannot stand for [that rejection], and I don’t want that for them,” Lowery said.  “It hurts me.” 

 Jackson has been an inspiration to Lowery’s  children simply for being comfortable with who she is, she said.

“I’m just proud and want them do what she’s done –insist on being who they are and go for it,” Lowery said.

For Lowery, the work does not stop at accepting her children for who they are. She said she constantly looks for new ways to support the siblings.

“I still sit and stress over what I’m not doing,” Lowery said.

Jackson pointed to Lowery during her talk. She told Lowery to stand up and tell the audience why she came to the event. When Lowery said she came with her two children, Dominique led the audience in a round of applause.

According to Jackson, trans allies can do a lot to support the people they care about. She said it often starts by sticking up for transgender people when it might be dangerous for them to fight back. Jackson cited the recent violence against many transgender women, including 26 murders in 2018. She said there are many times when it is not safe for her to educate those who do not accept her identity.

“When we speak up to them, one of us may die,” Jackson said.

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