Kenny Ethan Jones believes it is “powerful” when LGBTQ+ people do not try to gain acceptance from those who reject them.
“Teachers weren’t very supportive, they just didn’t really understand it,” the activist shares. “I don‘t think it’s that they were necessarily transphobic to any degree, it’s just that they didn’t get it and they didn’t get how to support me or what I was going through.”
Despite this, Jones is “very grateful” for his experience at school as it helped him understand himself from a very young age.
He adds: “Although it wasn’t the best place for me to be, I feel like I don’t think I would’ve understood I was trans so early on in life if it wasn’t for that conflicting feeling of being surrounded by girls and being told that I am a girl.
“I think in that moment I became very strong because I was consistently having to go against what everybody else was telling me my future would be. And I don’t think I would have this strength today if it wasn’t for that.
“So as much as it wasn’t the perfect situation, I’m very grateful for going to that school and I feel like it’s a strong part of my story.”
As a trans man, Jones has worked to drive much-needed awareness around trans inclusion in period campaigns.
When it comes to his family, he tells Just Like Us that his mother has always been “number one supporter”.
“My dad on the other side was quite different – my dad was born and raised in Jamaica, Kingston, and so his understanding of transness was very different,” he explains. “It was an unacceptable kind of thing, which is unfortunate but it is what it is. So when I came out to him he was like ‘no, this is not acceptable, this is not happening’ and just kind of ignored it.”
With time, this began to change, which continues to mean a lot to Jones even after his father’s passing.
Jones says: “He started to slowly come around – surprisingly – I just thought that was going to be it but I guess my mum had talked some sense into him and he wanted a relationship with me.
“I remember having tears in my eyes when he introduced me to one of his friends as ‘my son’. Just before he passed – he loved motorbikes and so did I – we had this real bro moment around talking about bikes and our love for cars.
“That felt very much like a father-son moment and that was a very good way to hold his memory. It was tough but we got there in the end.”
For trans people in the process of transitioning, Jones thinks it is important to remember that the process also impacts those closest to you.
“Although you are transitioning, it’s a journey for your family as well,” he states. “It’s important to bear in mind that your family is still processing things as well. I think I was quite single-minded when I was growing up – I didn’t think about how it was affecting my family. I’m just really grateful for how my dad came around.”
One of the most valuable lessons Jones has learned over the years is that you cannot please everyone and that, sometimes, it is not worth trying.
“I think there’s something powerful with just being like ‘I don’t need your acceptance, I’m going to be me – you can be angry but at the end of the day, I’m Kenny,’” he says.
“If you are showing me that you care and you are trying, I’ll stay here with you and we’ll work on this. There are many people out there – chosen family, specifically, that will love me for me – so I’m not going to waste my time with people that don’t fully accept me.”
You can listen to the new podcast series from Just Like Us below or by clicking here, including Kenny Ethan Jones’ episode.
If you’re LGBT+ and age 18 to 25, click here to sign up to become a Just Like Us ambassador.