He went from being a Planned Parenthood patient to a digital organizer helping you take action.
Jack Knoxville is an artist, writer, and entrepreneur. He’s the first trans man to run for office in Tennessee. And as Planned Parenthood’s new digital organizer, he’s also the person who writes those text alerts that you — and thousands of others — receive about how you can take action to protect our care.
Jack’s helping lead Planned Parenthood’s digital organizing efforts at a time when historic numbers of people all across the country are fighting back against relentless attempts to strip us of our basic rights and access to health care.
We spoke to Jack about how he became an activist and how others can join him in fighting to protect our health and rights.
As a trans Latinx man, why is fighting for sexual and reproductive rights important to you?
Reproductive rights are at the core of our existence as humans. [But] too often that conversation is centered around cis men and cis women, and we have do better than that. As a trans man, too often I feel like our existence is invalidated by not having a seat at that table. I’m here to increase visibility and make sure that voices like mine are heard.
Jack volunteering at a 2017 Planned Parenthood event in Knoxville, TN.
Before you started working at Planned Parenthood, you visited a Planned Parenthood health center as a patient. What was that experience like?
In late 2014, early 2015, I was fired from my previous employer because I began my journey toward medically transitioning. With less than two weeks before my insurance ran out, I frantically called around to make an appointment to get on testosterone. To my horror, every single doctor I called — from primary care doctors to endocrinologists — would ask what I needed to be seen for, and when I told them that I was a trans man looking for help, too often the response was “Oh, I’m sorry, honey! We’re actually not taking new patients right now.”
I was stunned at the lack of regard for my care as a human being, let alone as a trans individual. But every one who gave me that answer only made me fight harder to find SOMEONE, ANYONE who would see me. That’s when I came across this wonderful website for the Planned Parenthood in Asheville, NC. It was so welcoming and humanizing for folks all over the southeast.
I called and made my appointment — even though they were over 100 miles away — and within two weeks, I was holding my very first vial of testosterone. From every person that I encountered to their forms and intentionally gender neutral bathroom, I felt like for the first time in my life someone was seeing me as the man I am, rather than the woman they perceived me to be.
What advice do you have for people who want to become activists? Where can they start, and what can they do?
Just after starting working at Planned Parenthood’s national office, I heard about this great program called #IDEFY. The #IDEFY campaign asks young people to use social media to tell the world what they defy — discrimination, intolerance, slut-shaming, abortion stigma, subpar sex ed, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and other forces that obstruct justice and block individual opportunity.
The group is mostly a very large following of folks under 30 who are looking for ways to get involved and gain some control over their lives and their futures. I immediately felt it! Sign up for through defynow.org to join us!
Text “I DEFY” to 22422!
Join the Planned Parenthood Action Mobile Network and get text updates on how you can take action.
You can text STOP to quit anytime, or HELP for more info. Data and standard message rates apply.
Right now, we’re fighting like hell to stop Brett Kavanaugh's dangerous nomination to the Supreme Court. How can people take action?
Right now, our senators are gearing up to vote on whether to confirm Kavanaugh. During times like this, it’s so easy to forget that elected officials work for us. If an elected official isn’t working for you, then you have a right to fire them and hire someone else; voting allows you to do that. Other ways to get involved can be as simple as picking up a phone or a pen and contacting your reps to let them know how you feel about all of the work they’re doing.
Issues like sexual assault (Ed. Note: Read Jack's story here) also present opportunities for both education and support. Arming yourself with education on how to combat assault, or learning how to be an ally for survivors, and practicing self care as a survivor are also very important ways to take action, as we work together to create a more positive tomorrow.
What other fights are looming?
The administration's proposed gag rule is detrimental to the care of communities everywhere. The gag rule would block Title X funding from Planned Parenthood health centers and prohibit them from being able to offer free or reduced costs for basic needs like STD and cancer screenings or hormone replacement therapy.
Trans people are especially at risk. For trans people like myself, it can be really daunting to even find a provider, let alone one that is affordable. In many cases, it’s already difficult to keep a roof over our heads or even have a meal today let alone afford a doctor’s visit and hormone therapy out of pocket.
All of these attacks on our rights are a lot to take in. What’s your pump-up music to help inspire you to keep fighting?
I listen to A LOT of groups like A Tribe Called Quest, Arrested Development, Rage Against the Machine, and Riotgrrrl bands like L7, Babes in Toyland, and Bikini Kill. When I need a break from the fight though, I put “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus on repeat.Listen to Jack’s Spotify playlist
You’re helping lead Planned Parenthood’s work to register young people to vote. In just four words, what's your message for people?
MAKE NOISE. BE HEARD.