This Inspirational, Out and Proud Spotlight brought to you by Miss Hazel Jade
Ethnic Origins: African American, Guatemalan, French
Romantic Identity: Queer
Gender Identity: Female (of trans experience)
- Creator/Writer/Producer of “Queer: A New Musical”
- Queer Activist of #ResistMarch (An LA Pride Project)
- Princess Sleia in Mary Lambert’s “Known Your Name”
Contact this Inspirational Soul here:
When did you know?
I first knew that I was queer when I was four years old; I knew that I was a girl who liked people; it didn’t matter their gender: I loved them. Period. And although that was my truth that I knew within me, I didn’t begin to explore the complexity of the girl I was until I was 7 years. My grandmother had passed away just a few months before, and there were all of her old clothes lying around the house while my mother was trying to figure out what to do with them. I vividly remember my first time dressing in her clothes. I wore an ugly maroon skirt with fringes at the bottom and an ugly argyle textured print. The dress was hideous. But when I looked in the mirror, I felt my late grandmother and the Goddess together both looking down at me telling me I was beautiful. And I felt in that moment the validation of my gender: I was a girl, who had been given the incorrect gender assignment.
To whom did you come out first?
Throughout my life, I’ve kind of always been a “lonely person who’s never alone.” But in high school, I had a girlfriend, whom I was very secretive and discreet about, named Hazel. I loved her for the person she was. But I was not in love with her. I remember after school, telling her, that I was a girl and I needed her help becoming me. And being her lonely yet loving partner that I was, she was compassionate with me. Gentle even. She promised me to take on her name when I fully transitioned; she was the only person who directly knew by my own admission from the time I told her in my sophomore year until the time she passed. I wouldn’t disclose my identity to my mother and closest friends until years later, at which point I kept my promise and took on her name along with the middle name my mother had named me with, and made: Hazel Jade.
How did your closest friends and family react?
At first, my closest friends did not care one bit. They supported me and, loved me, and stood by me. But as a normal human reaction would have it: when they began to see certain parts of me die while others developed, it scared them. And they distanced themselves. At first, my extended family was not kind; but over time, that has changed. I will admit that some are still very unkind and nasty.
How has your life been enriched by the LGBTQ Community?
The LGBTQ community has always been there for me. One of my closest friends in high school, Jordan, was a gay boy. And we fought like cats and dogs because I was a bit of a Bible-toter and a conservative ass, as a way of protecting my true soul. But no matter, he always loved me and was there for me. And still is. The trans community was there to embrace me when I officially withdrew from my stable job on June 3, 2016 to fully live as myself. The Trans Chorus of Los Angeles became my home, which lead to my queer activism.
What are the common misconceptions about being LGBTQ?
For me, in my experience, the common misconception is that I’m lonely with no support, and that I have it tough finding someone to love me. That could not be further from the truth! I have tons of support from all of the people in my life. And I am thankful for those people. And I proud to be openly LGBTQ.
Describe the first time someone else read you (for better or worse) as LGBTQ.
The first time I was read as LGBTQ was in high school, when Jordan, one of my close gay friends, made a reference to me being “such a girl”. I was almost terrified that he knew that I identified as and was a girl.
Who was your first LGBTQ role model or elder, and how did they impact you?
My first LGBTQ role model that I could physically access was Jazzmun Crayton, who is a fierce black trans woman. I met her at LA Pride right after I went full time; she was a tall beautiful woman, and I kind of heard the song “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” (from Hairspray) playing in the background. And I remember her looking at me and asking me my name, and then telling me, “Hazel Jade, just be you!” I felt the Goddess bless me in that moment. And I proud to have role models like my Auntie Jazzmun and Auntie Chandi and Miss Major in my life.
What is the biggest external issue or challenge facing the LGBTQ community?
In my opinion, the biggest external issue facing specifically the trans community is the number of trans women of color who are murdered each year for simply their truth; and I believe it stems from the way trans folx are represented in white cis-heteronormative male-dominated entertainment. I need my fellow writers, filmmakers, and producers to understand that by casting a cisgender male — PERIOD. Masculine or not — enforces the rhetoric to the rest of society that trans women are men who present female. I wish that they could understand that no cisgender person can play the life of a trans person better than a trans person! Cis people can play the transphobic view of cis creators perspective, but not the authenticity or struggle that many trans women go through. And because of that misrepresentation, people misunderstand trans women and thus find ways to justify the actions of our perpetrators with transphobia and misgendering.
The biggest internal issue or challenge?
The biggest issue that I fight for as an activist is for LGB people to respect and love and fight for our Trans/Queer siblings as we have always fought for them. Many fail to pay homage to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera or will make light of what they did at the Stonewall in 1969. And quite frankly, the majority never acknowledge when a trans woman of color is murdered. It doesn’t bother them, the rate at which my sisters are being murdered.
Are there any LGBTQ nonprofits whose work you especially admire?
There are two organizations who’s work is exceptional: the first is GLAAD, which is a media advocacy organization that helps correct the way LGBTQ narratives are told in the media. The second is, TransCanWork, which is an organization that provides resources for trans and gender diverse jobseekers, as well the training and certification of inclusive employers who hire them!
Who is your personal Queer Hero?
My personal Queer Hero would definitely have to be Alexandra Billings. I thank her for paving the way for me as a queer trans artist, especially being in the theatre. She took a lot and had to navigate the difficulties of what it meant to be an out and openly trans woman in entertainment, and I appreciate the grace she did it with the mission to correct how trans narratives were told. From our trans-professionals to our girl who actually have to resort to sex work to survive and live in their authenticity. She has well-accomplished the responsibility of representing the narrative of fierce, proud everyday trans folx. As many others have! And yet, she doesn’t hesitate to say “I was there” in the faces of lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals with the mission to erase trans people from queer history.
Do you have any advice for young queer folks who may still be defining their identity, coming out, or learning how to be their authentic selves in the world?
For all my queer folx seeking that strength to explore the depth and complexities of their queer identities, I’ll tell them like my queer elders told me: Take. Your. Time! Be true and authentic to who you are; you don’t have the be the epitome of social constructs of beauty or masculinity. You can be fluidly and beautifully you! Don’t try to compete, don’t make decisions without meditating or asking your soul about it, and surround yourself (even if it’s just one person) with people who love you and want to see you be your best version.
Transitioning into authenticity is a very difficult period in your life, and especially as trans folx, we have to take the time to fully learn ourselves again; we are working with newfound respect and dignity for our exteriors, but also for how we view ourselves. We meet so many new people who are either like us or don’t understand us, and the best we can do is develop tolerance, and love and respect, for those individuals. Make a positive difference in everyone you encounter.
How are you involved in or how do you give back to the LGBTQ community?
I am very involved in the LGBTQ community, having most-recently served as a one of the only trans founding committee members of #ResistMarch in Los Angeles. My next big queer project is QUEER, a brand new LGBTQ musical that I’ve created and that I’m writing with my fellow activist, Kasey Bryant, with Daniel Sugimoto and Lulu Malaya completing the music/lyrics to the show.