Being human, being inclusive and being respectful; these were the major themes of actress and activist Dominique Jackson’s LGBTQ+ Pride Month keynote speech on Oct. 16.
The presentation drew a small crowd which Jackson actively engaged with throughout the event, giving the evening a feeling of casual conversation and light humor to offset the more serious elements of the speech.
Jackson, a transgender woman, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and plays Elektra Abundance Evangelista, a former house mother, in the FX series “Pose,” which focuses on the underground ballroom culture of New York City during the 1980s and 1990s.
She opened by describing her experience growing up on a Caribbean island with a wealthy grandmother. Jackson said she enjoyed the privilege provided by her grandmother but did not truly appreciate how it affected her until after she moved to the United States and experienced poverty.
She continued to speak about privilege and how people created labels for others. She argued that people often view others only as a collection of labels and they use preexisting ideas about those labels to form opinions about people.
“When your car breaks down on the side of the road and someone stops to help you, the first words out of your mouth aren’t, ‘Are you gay?’ They’re, ‘Thank you for stopping!’” Jackson said.
She springboarded from this idea of excessive labeling to talk about the importance of being human and viewing others not as an amalgamation of stereotypes, but as real people with their own ambitions and experiences.
Sophomore Michael Chapman, member of the Inclusive Excellence Leadership Scholarship and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, supported the idea that people should get to know others before judging them.
“The biggest impact that I took away was that before we make instant judgments and before we classify people’s personality based on who we are, we should, in turn, get to know who they are as an individual human first,” Chapman said.
Jackson then moved on to speak about the importance of being inclusive.
She addressed the sentiment that some people feel the acronym for the LGBTQ+ community was getting too long and including too many niche groups. She turned this idea around and emphasized that everyone should be able to find a group they fit in with.
After discussing inclusivity, Jackson continued to the final pillar of her speech: being respectful.
She explained there was a key difference between being accepted or tolerated and being respected. She said a person claiming to accept or tolerate another implied a kind of power over them by suggesting the approval of that person was needed for the other to have value.
“Understand that we are not looking for acceptance or tolerance, every human being should be accepted inherently,” Jackson said.
Instead, she prompted everyone to respect others as human beings with their own experiences and aspirations.
Senior Bryn Lankowski, a transgender man, agreed with Jackson’s distinction between respect and acceptance.
“I liked her talk about how LGBTQIA people should ask for respect and not acceptance because they don’t have that power over another person,” Lankowski said.
After concluding her speech, Jackson held a brief Q&A session in which she answered questions about her role as an activist in the LGBTQ+ community and offered advice on how others in the community can make their voices heard.
She pushed members and allies of the community to band together into a single unified group to speak loudly and safely with a unified voice.
She went on to explain how her position gives her an opportunity to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in relative safety, though she made a point of the fact that even she felt threatened at times. She encouraged people who want to take an active role in pushing for LGBTQ+ rights to be safe above all else and pushed the people who can make their voices heard safely to do so on behalf of those who cannot.