Life + Arts Profile

The modern day Lady Liberty: Dominique Jackson

Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Niya Blair speaks at the center’s Fall Speaker Series. I Emily Hubbard/The Cougar

Each fall semester, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosts their annual Fall Speaker Serieswhere speakers can provide insight and knowledge on various topics that align with social justice and diversity issues.

The purpose of the panel is “to get people to think of things in a different way than they have before. Exposing them to this new information and/or to affirm who they are and their identity,” said director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Niya Blair.

When choosing speakers, the center asks the students who they would want to see — ones that will speak on issues relevant to them and who will bring light to issues that need to be addressed.

This year, the students chose Dominique Jackson, star of FX’s hit show “Pose.” The University of Houston was honored to have her come to campus and speak about the importance of sharing her story and her experience as a transgender woman.

Jackson wanted to communicate the difference between having tolerance for someone and having respect them. It is so important for us to understand that exposing one’s self and one’s truth is a scary thing, especially when it is met with tolerance. Nobody wants to be told they are tolerated, they want to be told “I respect you,” Jackson said.

“I believe that tolerance comes from a place of power and privilege,” Jackson said. “I believe that we’re constantly saying ‘I tolerate you’ because we believe that they’re better than, instead of saying ‘I respect you’ because you are my equal.”

Something many people don’t understand is how hard it is to be vulnerable. It is hard enough to be vulnerable with one’s self but even harder to expose that to others.

Jackson wanted to bring to light the fact that while the LGBTQIA community’s fight for equality and respect has improved vastly over the years, it is still in progress.

The goal is not for one to be seen as better than the other. It is for “equality across the board,” Jackson said.

“Why can’t I just be a woman, and why can’t you just be a man? Why do you have to be a gay man or a pansexual? We should evolve beyond that,” Jackson said.

A person’s identity is private, not something for which they owe an explanation. As a society, people are putting each other in categories because of how one thinks rather than looking past an identifying term.

We have to think of this from a larger perspective. Let’s not let what one does, what one thinks or how one lives be stereotyped by what one identifies with. People should not be belittled to just their identification because they are so much more than that.

“During the civil rights movement, the LGBTQIA community were not given the same rights. Women were not given the same rights. So don’t tell me you tolerate me because you don’t know me,” Jackson said. “You’re not in my struggle, and you’re not in my life.”

Discovering one’s self is a scary process, and in that fact we need to be patient with ourselves and others. Jackson discussed her own journey to self-discovery and how it can have an extensive impact on the individual socially, mentally and emotionally.

“By living in my truth, I believe I am empowering other women. And I’m not just a black trans woman, I am a woman period,” Jackson said. “I’m tired of people telling me how to live like a man, so now that takes me to the place of not how I respect people, but to how they respect me.”

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