“JAAQ shows it’s ok to be trans and actually, you can thrive and have a very fulfilling life”

IMAGE BY TATE SMITH

I spoke to trans activist, Tate Smith, about his involvement with the groundbreaking new mental health platform, JAAQ (Just Ask A Question). 

Founded by War Paint Danny Gray, JAAQ is a free, AI-driven, platform which features world-leading experts in mental health, as well as those with lived experiences such as Tate. The platform has answers to over 50,000 questions across 50 different topics including depression, addiction and physical health. After launching as a limited beta version last year, in 24 hours alone, the site had received 13,000 visits, with 40,000 questions being answered across 60 countries.

You can check out JAAQ for yourself here

Why do you think there is a lack of trustworthy information available out there for LGBTQIA community?

Tate: I believe not enough platform is being given to the activists and the advocates who share trustworthy information and, as a result, misinformation spreads – leading to inaccuracy and misconception. We are all able to Google resources, support groups etc, but if these aren’t being amplified to the masses and in the correct way (media and signposting) then people don’t know that they exist. 

Why is it important to have a platform such as JAAQ available for the LGBTQIA community?

Representation is so important, and it’s really reassuring to see someone just like you speaking so openly and honestly on such a large platform amongst other lived experiences. JAAQ sends a strong message that LGBTQIA+ people can co-exist with others in the same space but then takes it one step further by addressing taboos such as navigating sexuality as a trans man, trans male menopause and the difference in experiences between trans men and women. What I particularly love is that it shows it’s ok to be trans and actually, you can thrive and have a very fulfilling life!

Can you speak to the importance of having a tool like JAAQ to help you during your transitionary period? 

I would have really benefitted from a tool like JAAQ during the beginning of my transition. To know that this resource will always be there for me and that I can easily share the information through “collections” with family and friends to help them better understand my experience, would have definitely made some awkward conversations a lot easier. JAAQ shows you that you are not alone in what you are experiencing.

Can you describe your own experience searching for information during your own transitionary period and why you felt it was important to sign up to JAAQ?

When I first realised I was trans my only resource was YouTube videos of American trans guys. I really struggled to find any British trans men, especially those navigating the private healthcare system and who were stereotypically feminine growing up. When I signed up to JAAQ I made an agreement with myself to be as open and authentic as possible and not hold anything back because I’m 100% sure that there will be a young working-class trans boy who will need to see someone like me to reassure him that he is not alone and everything is going to be ok. I want to be the role model that I needed at the start of my transition.

How do you think the platform will help people outside of the LGBTQIA community understand trans rights and the struggles they might be dealing with during their transition period? e.g friends and family.

People are scared to talk to trans people and ask questions for fear of getting it wrong. JAAQ provides that safe space to ask any question you like and have a conversation with someone you may not get to engage with in real life. A lot of the time family and friends fear that their loved one will be alone in their experience and have no one to turn to. They may not know where to start or already have a lot of questions of their own! This platform is going to help humanise trans people, debunk common myths and educate others on things they may not have even considered. In turn, this will equip cis-het with the tools they need to best support trans people and that’s what is most important!

How do you see the JAAQ platform evolving? Are there any experts that are on the platform now which you look to for advice and who would you like to see join in the future?

I can see the JAAQ evolving to capture all levels of intersectionality across all communities. 

 Katie Neeves, a transgender woman, has been a great show of support and advice for me especially as an activist and I am so inspired by the work that she does. I would particularly love to see Gareth Thomas CBE on the platform, I think he is a true trailblazer and is really inspiring!

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