JAKE GRAF – PAVING THE WAY FOR TRANS VISIBILITY ACROSS THE GLOBE
BY NAOMI BENNETT-HALL
2015 was quite a year for Jake Graf. Not only is he a sight for sore eyes, he is also a writer and director, actor, and a trans role model.
Following hot on the heels of his first three award-winning short LGBT films: XWHY (premiered at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and nominated for the Iris Prize), Brace (which was selected for 55 film festivals and is soon to be released on the latest Peccadillo Pictures’ ‘Boys on Film’ collection),
and Chance (award-winning and screened at 35 festivals); he had the only male role in the UK’s first LBQ web series She’s in London. In the second half of 2015, he wrote and directed his latest short, DAWN which is due to be released later in 2016. Jake is currently writing and starring in web series Spectrum East.
Graf became the first trans man to be on the cover of QX Magazine in 2015 – making
history yet again. In total, Graf appeared on four covers in 2015. He has even recently written an article for Cosmopolitan, ‘17 things you should never say to a trans person.’
In December, Jake released a collaborative project video called What It’s Like Being Transgender in an attempt to break down stereotypes. This video had over 250,000 views in a week, with demand for a second video in the series.
The year ended with a visit to The White House by invitation of President Obama to take part in a Q&A and special screening of The Danish Girl for ‘Champions for Change’, the first ever trans specific event in Washington. Jake appears briefly in The Danish Girl so keep an eye out for him!
He has started 2016 by being featured in G Zone magazine, Turkey and the Middle East’s LGBT Magazine, and is one of the official faces of FTM Magazine – again proving that he is a global success, pushing boundaries for trans visibility around the world.
Of course, we are only in February, and there are a good few months of 2016 in which Jake no doubt has lots of plans, so our friends over at Planet Nation sat down with him for a quick chat to find out more.
PN: 2015 was quite a year for you; what would you say were your 3 biggest achievements?
JG: Last year was phenomenal. I still can’t really believe it all to be honest! Obviously, winning a part in The Danish Girl was a huge thrill, and certainly beyond all expectations; and being asked to appear on the cover of FTM Magazine in May was an honour, and seemed to start the ball rolling. But I would be lying if I said that being invited to The White House didn’t top the list. It truly was the stuff of dreams, and even now when I think back, it brings a huge smile to my face. I think doing a Q&A panel in front of hundreds of LGBTQ campaigners and activists, alongside Tom Hooper, Alicia Vikander and Rebecca Root would be up there for anyone!
PN: Why is it so important for you to be such a positive role model?
JG: Growing up, I had quite literally no-one trans to look up to and reassure me that things might be alright. It was lonely, isolating, and terrifying to think that I was the only one out there like me and, as a young trans kid, you end up feeling like a total freak. I think that all the trans folk these days putting themselves out there and being visible, from Rebecca Root to Laverne Cox to myself, we are just giving a glimmer of hope to the next generation of trans children that they are not alone, which I think is half the battle.
PN: What can we expect from Jake Graf in 2016?
JG: Hopefully another busy year! I am very proud of new short DAWN, starring newcomer Nicole Gibson and my lead from Brace, Harry Rundle; which features a trans female lead character, and will hopefully resonate with audiences – so fingers crossed. The web series Spectrum East launches in late spring, and I am also working on a feature script about the first queer republic. I am doing more editorial writing, and may be advising on several other projects, if all goes well! I am also starting shortly my Stonewall Schools Role Model speaking, and looking forward to attending my first Mermaids charity retreat, which helps parents and families of trans children to see that trans is normal too! So, lots to look forward to.
Jake Graf is certainly ensuring that the trans rights movement goes down in history from 2015 as having taken a real step forward and for all the right reasons.
He is a real example that being trans is not something that should stop you from doing what you enjoy.
Of course he is not alone in his efforts – and we are hoping to see a few trans women also getting such exposure to help further both the trans and women’s equality movement in 2016 and beyond.
To find out more about Jake Graf, visit his website www.upandupproductions.com or follow him on @jakegraf1 or on Instagram: @jake_graf5
Like Jake Graf on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jake-Graf-420417278137180/
Watch Brace online: http://www.planet-london.com/live-streaming/video-demand/brace-queer-short-film
View the Chance trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0DhMLCpDzc
View What it’s like being Transgender: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlwZt5Jwexs
Images: © Paul Grace – www.paulgrace-eventphotos.co.uk