I’m originally from Jamaica.
My mom knew I was definitely different from her other kids and that Jamaica wouldn’t be a safe place for me. Unsafe to the point that if you were out in public and you’re known to be gay, you would be killed on the spot.
Being in the LGBTQ+ community, what was the process like for you getting out of challenges such as homelessness and PTSD?
The only thing I would say is to just trust undoubtedly. During the time I was homeless, I didn’t know where I was going to lay my head or where my next meal was going to come from. But I trusted the process and others who wanted to help me. Now, I have family everywhere. I met people who let me stay in their home when I was traveling from city to city and state to state. So, it was a good reminder that there is access to love and trust out there. There are people out there who will help catch you when you fall. It’s just a matter of you being willing to take the next step.
What does support from your mom and others mean to you?
It was and still is the foundation for me. Without her, I wouldn’t be alive today.
I’ve had people such as family members who have given me ultimatums and made me feel so defeated because of who I am. But I’m so thankful for my mom because she’s been like a maternal roar in my honor. And she’s also showed me some tough love.
The amount of tears I’ve cried by myself and in front of strangers. I had to make the decision that I needed help.
What advice do you have for those who are struggling to come to terms with being their true authentic selves?
Find comfort in the discomfort. Find the comfort in the uncomfortability, so you will become unbothered with any and everything that comes your way. I had to think of ways to soften the approach of tough love to thyself. You have to learn how to be with yourself. Literally learning how to sit with yourself through the lows and the highs. If you don’t, then you’ll fall into the category of FOMO (fear of missing out), which this generation and others have that disease of.
Did it come naturally to you to embrace who you truly are?
It took some work, but it wasn’t much of a challenge as I thought it would be. Even when I was in the military, I still found little loopholes to add to my personality.
How have your experiences allowed you to help others?
Because of my own experiences, I’m able to recognize some similar challenges I’ve gone through in others. There was a recent incident when one of my fellow military veterans was having a very aggressive, manic episode in class. Nobody else knew how to cope or understand it. They just thought he was being loud and annoying. I was able to help my instructor deal with the situation and get the support the student needed to get back on track with school and everything. So, if I didn’t go through my own trenches, I wouldn’t be able to see it in someone else.
It’s important to take a gentle approach, not with a harsh stick. That’s how we cause more problems.
How have you been empowered by Dallas College to be your authentic self?
It all started with Timothy McDuffie at the El Centro Campus. He was able to break down my “ice queen shield,” as he put it. He took a consistent and gentle approach with me each time. I had never gotten that from a male figure in my life before. At first, I was waiting to be set up for a jab.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to open my own business called Beauty in the Chaos. It will be a warehouse that is a space for the arts such as fashion design, dancing, acting and musical theater. I want it to be a space where it’s a one-stop shop for those areas like shooting videos and photos. I want to have everything in-house.
The name came to me during the pandemic. I was sparked with creativity and thought how we all were trying to create beauty in that chaotic moment in our lives.
And then Beauty in the Chaos grew into creating my own clothing line called JT Skyline, which is a gender-neutral brand using soon-to-be biodegradable fabrics coming out Fall 2024. But for now, I’m using sustainable and recyclable materials.
What is something you’d love others to know about when it comes to Dallas College programs such as fashion design?
Even if you’re working towards a two-year degree, you will be getting firsthand experience of the industry. Note to the wise, the program is fast paced. But don’t let that discourage you because it will push you to grow and kick your skills up a notch in the real world.
When it comes to fashion in the LGBTQ community, what does it mean to you?
It means unity. Just like how we try to separate elements such as earth, air, fire and water. It looks separate but it’s all working together in harmony. We need to remind ourselves that we need to be unified. Everything we do in some shape or form unifies us. For example, similar upbringings or common battles we’ve had to fight. With others, we may not realize it, but we most likely already share an upspoken bond. Why must we deny or keep refusing the things that we share in common with others who may not look exactly like us? That’s why I keep my focus on gender neutrality because I want everyone to feel like they belong without losing their identity in the process.
What legacy do you want to leave?
Chaos is only chaotic because we don’t take the TLC (tender loving care) to understand the beauty in our struggles.
A lot of people try to be like others, like celebrities. But we should think about how some of those people we look up to got to be where they are today. By looking like somebody else? No. They may take some inspiration from others, but they remained true to themselves.
When did that confirmation come to you when you felt like you were in the right place when you came to Dallas College?
That moment came to me when I was living in Florida and thought that was home for me. I was dealing with the pressures by others to be somebody I wasn’t, so I had to leave and came to Dallas.
This story and others like it can be found in the Student Newsletter. Check your Dallas College email to see the latest edition.