Have you ever met a queer, non-binary, autistic, veteran, comedian and anthropologist? Well, Jacci ticks all those boxes, but they won't let you put them in a box!
Did those pronouns confuse you just then? Then keep reading because to celebrate PRIDE month this year Jacci is here to help you understand why ‘they’ choose to use the pronouns they/their/them.
Jacci came across Modibodi a few years ago to tackle their bladder leaks, and now won't go on stage without them. "Modibodi took away the worry of leaking while making people laugh or laughing and leaking "
“I turn 50 this year and I was feeling a bit limited by the onset of some LBL in my late 40's. Modibodi has really helped, they also appeal to my desire to lower my carbon footprint and be able to be on the go during festival season. As our bodies change, our lives shouldn't have to, in fact, our awesomeness should increase.”
Jacci was meant to be performing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival this year (before COVID-19) and was going to be the first person to appear on stage with a support dog; Pepper the rescue greyhound.
What is your preferred pronoun?
There doesn't have to be just one :) I prefer Jacci/they/them, but I am okay if you use she/her and will work with you on mutual understanding. But I would prefer you use Jacci to be honest. I don’t get too worried when people use she/her, because that might be about how they see me at a given point in time and my look moves from quite masculine to very feminine. There have been times when I have been confused for a man and got called he. That didn’t bother me either, because I don’t think the distinctions HAVE to exist. In contexts where I wouldn't expect people to know or where I think people might misunderstand, I model what I would like in conversation and gradually get more direct. In some contexts I know I can introduce myself and my pronouns straight up.
Why and how did you decide to go by ‘they/them’?
I first started to use non binary language around two years ago. I had been using she/her and wondered if the emotional labour of dealing with people's reactions was worth it. I know now it is worth it, but not for the reasons I thought it would be. It isn't about other people, it's not an imposition on them at all, it's literally one letter difference from she to they. But forcing me to conform to a societal idea that hurts me is an imposition on me and is harmful. It's about being myself and not feeling like I have to perform a gender role for others. I've never fit any category of experience society gives people assigned female at birth. Not girly. Not emotional. Not passive. These are myths about females anyway! Yet I also didn't feel what people associated with masculinity either. About three years ago I was working with other queer identifying artists and was first introduced to non binary language - how gender fluidity is talked about and it matched my experience. It felt like coming home.
Is this something that you knew from a very young age?
Yes. While people assigned female at birth who get called "tomboy" are not necessarily gender fluid or trans, it is was definitely how I was described. I also remember my mother trying to understand what clothes I liked and asking me to "make my mind up" or perplexed I wasn't interested in feminine ideas of what to wear or how to act. I just didn't identify with "girl". In recent years I have had some funny conversations with family members about my haircut choices as a pre-teen...just remember that me having a really short hair cut in the early 1980's was a big deal in a small town in Australia. My "Flock of Seagulls" inspired haircut attracted a lot of high school bullying. I ended up being the only girl with an undercut and 80's men style haircut (that was a big deal in the early 1980's) in year 9 and people did make a big deal about it.
What was your childhood like?
Non traditional in some aspects, but also filled with contradictions. My father was retired for medical reasons when I was born, (he was 47 when I was born and my mother was 27). My Mum and Dad had totally different ideas about gender. We lived a typical 1970's hinterland Queensland life and I was most comfortable around horses and dogs, rather than people. I'm autistic (late diagnosed) and I need time away from people and often joke about preferring the company of animals. That might seem like a stereotype, but it's often true. Autism is a spectrum and the common stereotype is not the reality. I have major sensory processing differences to the general population and solitude and quiet is important to prevent health and well being in real terms. I think I spent a lot of my childhood trying to hide from the world and had trouble maintaining friendships. In hindsight there was very little about the role model from my parents that made sense to me. I knew I wasn't heterosexual, but I didn't really know what else there was. I remember around 13 trying really hard to be like the girls at school, growing my hair long and dressing in dresses and failing miserably.
Were your parents accepting?
Dad and I were close because he didn't inflict gendered ideas upon me. Mum was constantly frustrated by my failure to meet her ideas of what being assigned female at birth meant to her. I often say my family of origin was a family of opposites. Dad encouraged me to do what I enjoyed, rebuilding cars with him, how to shoot a rifle and would tell me stories about the women in his family doing non-traditional roles. His younger sister was one of the first women to service in the Royal Australian Navy and his mother fought for women's rights. Mum came from a family with very limited ideas about what those assigned female at birth could do in life. My father taught me my primary function was not to be a wife and mother but a person right up until his death in 2002. My mother seemed to resent that I have had a career and not prioritized motherhood. I spent a large part of my life repressing who I am - repressing my rainbow. That meant a life of mental health problems and suicidal thoughts. I've only found a sense of self love and acceptance since turning 45 and embracing my queer identity. The blog post I wrote here that probably explains this best.
In your industry do you find people are more inclusive?
I work largely in community service and community arts, so yes and no. Community service is still limited and that depends on the organisation. Community arts production - which I am hoping to do full time in the next 5 years - is the most inclusive working experience of my life.
Do you correct people when they use the incorrect pronoun?
Not so much, but lately I am getting more likely to start conversations with my pronouns. I tend to let it go when people are being unintentional and raise it in conversation and model it and gently reinforce it. I know what it's like to be constantly corrected for not knowing what I cannot possibly know - it's not entirely fair. This is new for all of us. I still get it wrong.
Do you take offence or do they get uncomfortable when you do?
I don't take offence unless they are being deliberate in their misuse of pronouns. Then I will call people out. Some people get uncomfortable and pushy for my reasons. I'd say about half the time interactions about this are uncomfortable. In my personal life I tend to aim to be around people who are accepting for the most part. However often in workplaces and general interactions that is not possible.
If someone is unsure, do you prefer they ask you first?
Yes. It's lovely when someone asks.
How can Modibodi become more inclusive?
I think you are on the way to this already. I love the new products for men and disability content. We need to stop shame in its tracks. I think a high level of shame exists around body functions that are natural and that perplexes me - so the presence of these products in prominent ways is exciting. Sure beats the hush hush about menstruation when I was growing up. I think more gender diversity would be awesome.
What is your relationship with Modibodi?
They are the only underwear that I own now, even when I don't need the absorbency! I am on buses in your underwear for the brand, so I like its good relationship based on mutual trust.