Jamie Raines and Shaaba spill the tea

Jamie Raines and Shaaba
From left, Jamie Raines and Shaaba.

When writing his book, “The T in LGBT: Everything You Need to Know About Being Trans,” Jamie Raines wanted to reach trans people who were navigating their own identities. 

But he also wanted to reach allies.

“I really wanted somebody to be able to read it — who are figuring out their own identity — and then be able to pass it on to people in their lives,” said Raines, whose book was released last year. “It could help both that person with their own journey, and then also [help] their friends and family understand what they were going through a bit better. [I wanted it to be this] one-stop book for information that can be helpful for both trans people with navigating their own journeys, but also how to approach it with their loved ones in terms of coming out, and then also making those educational points accessible for allies as well to learn about what trans people — [either the ones] they know or just the trans community in general — go through.”

Raines began creating content on YouTube under the name Jammidodger in 2011 to provide information on transitioning and to document his own transition process. His content has since evolved to covering broader LGBTQ+ issues as well as lifestyle videos where he reacts to internet memes, subreddits and general transphobia on the internet. He also frequently collaborates with his wife, Shaaba, another content creator. Raines teamed up with Shaaba when writing his book, which includes short sections titled “For the Allies.” These sections — some of which were written by Shaaba, herself — include tips for individuals to support trans loved ones.

Raines and Shaaba will be traveling from their home in the UK for a book tour, making a stop on June 7 at CSz Philadelphia in an event presented by Hive Mind Books. YouTube personality Jackson Bird will moderate a talk with the duo. Following the talk, Raines and Shaaba will meet fans and sign books.

Lessons learned

Though she is married to a trans person, Shaaba noted that she continued to learn more about being an ally while collaborating with her husband through this book. She noted the stories from Alex Woodhouse in one chapter, where Woodhouse detailed her experiences while dating as a trans woman. Shaaba found that exploring those sections reinforced the idea that fights for trans rights and women’s rights do not “need to be exclusive. We can fight for both. Rights are not pie.”

“[Woodhouse’s] experience is much the same as mine would be as a cis woman dating,” Shaaba said. “It really doesn’t need to be that different. It’s just a slightly different journey, a slightly different road, but we’re all experiencing the same views, if that makes sense.”

While “The T in LGBT” is part memoir, Raines also used his skills as a doctoral researcher in the writing process. In the introduction, Raines writes, “I hope my experience as a trans person, a trans creator, a doctoral researcher and an LGBT+ advocate assures you that I know my shit.”

However, like Shaaba, Raines learned about experiences that differed from his own. In addition to Woodhouse’s personal experiences, “The T in LGBT” includes short stories detailing individual trans journeys — including trans men, trans women and nonbinary people. Raines found it “heartwarming to see the range of experiences.” In particular, he said he learned more about the experiences of trans women, including aspects relating to hormones, surgeries, and navigating the world socially.

“I feel like often — because we will fit under this umbrella of trans — everybody assumes there’s so much kind of like shared knowledge, and we know everything about everybody else’s experience within the trans community,” Raines said. “But I found it really nice to learn a bit more about that transfeminine experience. It was definitely a positive learning moment for me personally.”

Advocacy efforts

Raines noted the current political climate for trans people, particularly relating to far-right politicians and individuals voicing transphobic views.

“The trans community is starting to gain recognition within society and making progress, and we always hear this really loud pushback when that happens to a marginalized group,” Raines said. “I think we’re going to come out the other side of it with so many strong trans voices within society. We’re seeing that growing at the moment, which is the positive side of the loud pushback.”

Shaaba also noted another “silver lining” to this pushback, adding that “this is the same recycled discrimination that we’ve seen time and time again.”

“The way that trans people are being treated and viewed and perceived is the exact same way that gay people used to be seen,” she said. “There’s a lot of homophobia around now. But it’s the exact same way that gay people were treated a couple generations before, and people of color a couple generations before that. These things [still] exist, but I love the fact that they can be a bit more normalized. The way that starts is by having those trickier conversations, and allowing that sort of active representation to turn into more passive representation.”

Shaaba added that if she was not in a relationship with Raines, she would not have been aware of the issues the trans community faces.

“It’s funny, because you just have these headlines, which sounds so scary, and if you don’t have any sort of personal experience [knowing trans people] to see otherwise, I can see why it’d be easy to get swept up in this,” she said.

Raines added that the “biggest group of people are neutral toward the trans community.”

“They’re like, ‘I’m not going to go out and actively fight for this group of people, but at the same time, let them live their lives,’” he said. “It’s really important that we have pushback [from this group] against transphobia. They can make sure they’re aware of the trans community’s feelings on things and where they’re coming from, and not just hearing the transphobia and the misinformation.”

The book cover of The T in LGBT: Everything You Need to Know About Being Trans by Jamie Raines

“Walking away”

In chapter 12, Raines writes “You deserve to live a life of free choice, including walking away from the trans fight whenever you need to. There’s nothing wrong with doing this. You’re not letting anyone down.”

“That was really important for us to include in the book, because I think a lot of trans people feel so much pressure just to constantly be educating people in their lives,” Raines said. “I think my advice for people is just, ‘It’s OK to not fight every battle that comes your way. It’s OK to not speak out at everything that happens. You can take those moments for self care.’”

Raines said that as someone who constantly speaks about the trans experiences for work purposes, he tries to “keep away from the conversation and have that switch off between. It doesn’t work very successfully some of the time.”

“I get a lot of comments from particularly transphobes, who are like, ‘Oh, you’re so obsessed with being trans. It’s your entire life. It’s all you ever speak about. Go do something else,’” he said. “My part in the conversation is the work I do, whereas we try to not have that come into our personal lives and make that distinction. Both of us forget all the time that I’m trans. Like, it literally just kind of comes up in conversation when it’s to do with work. But other than that, it’s very much —”

“You’d be surprised how much of a non issue it is,” Shaaba interjected.

“Exactly,” Raines agreed.

Potential future books and starting a family as a trans parent

Raines and Shaaba are in the process of starting a family. Shaaba said she is excited for Raines to “see more about what those chapters would look like” both in their lives as parents and in a potential future book.

Raines also said he would be willing to dive into other writing styles.

“I would love to get more into the fiction side of things and [pursue] passive representation of trans characters within fiction, literature,” he said. “And then [I want] the reader to connect with trans people and trans characters without realizing they’re trans. I want to humanize that and build that connection and parasocial feeling from the reader before they learn this person is trans, before they can make this judgment, and there’s not a snap, like, ‘Oh, no, I’m not interested because the character is trans.’ I’d love to get into that. And I would love to write another memoir-type book, in like 10 years time, about the experience of becoming a trans father.” 

“There’s a lot more for us to learn first about that experience,” Shaaba laughed.

“I’m not ready to write that now, obviously,” Raines said with a chuckle.

“Jamie and Shaaba Spill the Tea with The T in LGBT+ in Philadelphia” will be held 7-9 p.m. on June 7 at CSz Philadelphia — Home of ComedySportz, 2030 Sansom St. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://bit.ly/3V11rzV.

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