Islington CEO shining a light on trans issues
- Credit: onEdition
Islington social entrepreneur Jay Stewart’s work has been recognised in a national competition. Jon King meets the CEO of Gendered Intelligence in Pentonville Road.
For Jay Stewart, arguing at the head of a supermarket queue about his identity is just one of the challenges of being recognised as a transgender man.
When the physical changes brought about by Jay’s hormone therapy happened before his name change, eyebrows were raised by a shop assistant checking his debit card. “I was standing in the queue which was getting bigger and bigger pleading: ‘This is me! This is my bank card!’” he says.
Increasing understanding of the transgender community is something Jay now helps schools, families and businesses with through his Pentonville Road non-profit firm Gendered Intelligence.
He said: “Some people don’t know what it means or what is expected of them. But there’s more visibility now. Trans people are feeling more empowered.”
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For Jay it hasn’t always been this way. Jay grew up in Birmingham and was attending a girls’ school when he started identifying as a lesbian. After completing an art degree he emerged depressed and uncertain about the future.
“There was a lot of confusion. There was shame about how I felt about my body. But finding other transgender people was a light bulb moment for me.”
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Asked about how his family felt about his transition Jay said: “They were really loving. It was affirming for me. There was love and support, but lots of questions.
“It’s a very particular thing in your life when you share with others who you love and who love you that you are going to transition. You think to yourself: ‘This could go either way. I could be rejected and shunned.’ For that not to happen and to be overwhelmed with love and affection is lovely.”
Now with seven-year-old twins of his own and in a long-term relationship with partner Catherine, Jay is pleased by recent progress towards meeting the needs of the transgender community.
“It’s no longer seen as shocking, but it can take time to get used to.
“My own children are very intelligent about gender.
“In our community parents are diverse. However, there’s an invisibility around parents who identify as LGBT. It’s about challenging norms.”
Jay is now one of five people in with a chance of winning a £10,000 Social Entrepreneur of the Year prize to support their work. Vote at the-sse.org/SEYA