“JAC Stringer is a charming hurricane of glitter and big ideas, so cute you can’t help listen to the smart things he says (and so smart that you can’t help think about them). A brilliantly accessorized example of how flexible the ways of gender can be, and how tender.” – S. Bear Bergman
JAC Stringer, also known as Midwest GenderQueer, is a trans-genderqueer femme, (dis)abled, Cherokee two spirit, radical activist and performance artist. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, JAC strives to create visibility, community, and resources for trans and queer communities, particularly in the Midwest. He has lectured and performed across the USA and Canada with his work focusing trans and queer education, social justice, femme identities, accessibility/(dis)ability, and trans/queer artistry. JAC is a life-long dancer, poet, musician, and rabble-rouser seeking to generate unity, action, and empowerment through education, art, and many other forms of revolution.
JAC describes himself as “a student of grassroots activism,” acquiring the majority of his knowledge through his work in the community. Coming up as a trans activist in a conservative area lacking a visible trans community, JAC describes his process as “learning how to swim against oppression while trying not to drown.” He now uses his academic background to assist him; a Bachelors in Psychology, Gender Studies, and Sexology and a Master’s in Social Work with a specialty in counseling, group work, and education. JAC is a well known activist in trans healthcare advocacy as well as the movement against gender identity pathologization. In 2008, he founded the country’s only regional trans health advocacy organization Heartland Trans Wellness Group, where he served as director for seven years – six of which he was the only full time organizer. JAC has a strong passion for creating community spaces and, among other projects, founded the well-known Cincinnati Trans Community Group. His model for trans community group programs has been used in multiple Midwestern cities by non-profit organizations and community lead initiatives alike. In the community, JAC is a strong advocate for accessibility and anti-ableism work, two spirit and indigenous activism, and combating trans and queer sexual and partner violence. JAC enjoys mentoring high school GSAs, including spending six years working with his own former high school, Walnut Hills in Cincinnati, Ohio, is an Advocates for Youth Alum, and has been an organizer on several local and national organizing boards including The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, The Femme Conference, The International Drag King Community Extravaganza, The Greater Cincinnati LGBTQ Youth Summit, and GLOBAL Anti-Globalization Conference. JAC has received several awards for his work including the National Association for Social Work’s 2014 regional and state level Emerging Social Work Leader Awards and the American Counseling Association’s 2013 Joe Norton Award for outstanding service to LGBTQ communities.
As a performer, JAC has done genderfucking dance, poetry, prose, music, and drag everywhere from grand scale theaters to dive bar broom closets. Primarily self-taught, he combines a speckled arts education of living room dance lessons, classical training, and mimicking old movies with identity focused messaging to create an empowerment focused artistic repertoire. In addition to being a solo performer, JAC founded the Gender Queeries Genderqueer Performance Tour and served as the co-manager of the nationally recognized drag cabaret troupe, The Black Mondays for eight years. JAC is lovingly devoted to the drag performance community, seeing it as an important and unique venue for trans and queer self-expression and community building. He is a national gender performance showcase producer of shows such as the University of Cincinnati GenderFuck Show, Fabulously Fluid!, Philadelphia Trans Health Conference’s Blender!, and Mind the Gap. JAC’s community-focused shows rooted in radical activism and social justice ideologies have gained international attention in cities around the country. He uses radical activism, hot pants, poofy skirts, and gender theory to create an intriguing space centered on bodies, ability, androgyny, and beyond.
JAC currently works at a social justice non-profit as a therapist for trans and queer youth and is a freelance trans educator and professional consultant.
For as long as I can remember, I have aspired to be an artist. My urge to create is fueled by a lifelong preoccupation with the inherent beauty of what I see. Beauty often confined to normalcy, or what is recognizable. From childhood I have found it impossible to uphold a state of normalcy due to the differences I embody or have embodied through my relationships with ability, sex, size, gender identity, sexuality, race, and gender expression. My differences have caused a lack of acceptance, both from myself and others, resulting in loneliness, confusion, and self-hatred. As a genderqueer transguy, a femme, a disabled person, a survivor, a Native, and an activist I strive to root out the beauty beneath oppression to find empowerment. As a genderqueer transguy, a femme, a disabled person, a survivor, a Native, and an activist I strive to root out the beauty beneath oppression. My body is my most essential instrument. Its lack of normalcy has influenced my navigation of society. I have come to realize that I am fundamentally a freak. Through my art, I strive to humanize difference and demonstrate that identities are complex and bodies are malleable. Much of my work, particularly my writing, is centered on my experiences as a trans and queer Midwesterner. I describe the Midwest as my spiritual geography. It is the ancestral home of my people, it is a culture full of expectations and contradictions, and it is an isolated and devalued environment pegged as the “fly over zone.” As a Midwestern genderqueer, I feel driven to create a visible testament to the beauty of Midwestern people who live outside of cultural expectations and the struggles that may be experienced as a result.
As a performer, my style is peppered with influences from childhood lessons and play time, classical performances, and old movies. My adaptations of “traditional” dance, poetry, and performance styles are intended to present a contrast between historically legitimized expressions and a post-modern exhibition. Through a process that I call “promoted androgyny,” I encourage audiences to focus on the humanness of my body and voice, instead of what my gender or sex may be. Many of my performances are created by way of jovial clowning because humor can increase my sense of safety and security as well as be a more digestible mode of conversation between myself and the audience. I feel more able to be raw without feeling exposed. I frequently use language, costuming, colors, dance, and music to abstractly represent elements of a story-line. The costumes I create may represent a response to environment, a sense of time, gendered experiences, or personal emotions. Colors and materials indirectly set a tone and create further commentary. I use recognizable elements often hidden within trans experiences such as ace wrap or duct tape to speak to the realities of gender non-conforming people who are similar to me, promote body empowerment, and raise a veil from trans experience for non-trans people. Life cannot exist in a vacuum and I have found that the stage is no exception. While my performances are generally specific to me, my experiences are not wholly unique. I hope that sharing my voice will help raise my peoples’ communal voice and that my voluntary vulnerability on stage will educate viewers on the involuntary oppression of my communities off stage.