Growing up in a working class family in the heart of south London, Kai-Isaiah Jamal never saw people that looked the way he felt as a young black trans man, either close to home or in the media. “It meant I never had the language or access to openly address who I was,” he explains. But it also led him to become the role model he so desperately needed, working to broaden our dangerously narrow conceptions around masculinity.
A spoken word poet and trans visibility activist, today Jamal dedicates much of his time to writing about his personal experiences with manhood, discrimination, and dysphoria. But importantly, he also works to educate others on how to be a better ally to trans people. Over the last 12 months, he has penned a poem for and appeared in a Stella McCartney campaign encouraging men to talk to women about breast cancer, as well as becoming the London ICA’s first poet in residence, using the platform to make poetry accessible for young POC and LGBTQI+ people – something he feels passionate about.
Currently, Jamal is putting together his first poetry anthology, working with a black-run publishing agency that spotlights writers of colour. As a longstanding member of the QTPOC collective BBZ, he is also collaborating on their Alternative Grad Show, which uplifts the work of marginalised artists. “Iʼm so lucky to have the queer family around me that constantly push me to be whole and unapologetically myself,” he says. “Sometimes it feels like the elements are all against you, but somehow you continue to stand through the wind. I think Iʼm proud of that.”