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Skyler Jay opens up about his feelings on Queer Eye’s trans makeover episode

Skyler Jay opens up about his feelings on Queer Eye’s trans makeover episode

Skyler Jay, a trans man, and Queer Eye's Tan France discuss transgender issues

Skyler Jay, the trans man the Fab 5 helped on season 2 of Netflix’s Queer Eye, has opened up about the experience.

Responses to the episode

Jay appeared on episode 5 of the new season, titled Sky’s The Limit. He recently spoke to them.us about his real feelings on the episode.

Though some have responded positively to the episode, the broader trans community tended to have mixed feelings about it. Critics said the episode felt too much like ‘trans 101,’ and that the Fab 5 seemed to ignore parts of Jay’s life that were essential to his identity as a trans man (such as his Pride decor, his beard, etc.).

Jay’s life since

‘It’s been almost a year since we did the original filming for the show and when I had my initial surgery, which was aired in the episode,’ Jay explains.

‘I’ve had some procedures since then as well. So really, between filming and the show airing, my life has been focused on paying for those additional surgery costs and recovering. I just got off my medical restrictions yesterday, so a good portion of my year has been spent healing.’

What wasn’t shown

‘One of the things that makes me saddest about what viewers get to see is that you see so little,’ he says. ‘It makes me so sad for the world, because the questions I keep getting asked are “Are these guys really that nice? Are they really that awesome?” My response is always “No. They’re even better than what you get to see on TV.”’

‘We spent a week and then some filming, they crush it into less than an hour, and there’s so much that’s left out.’

Education of the Fab 5

According to Jay, some members of the Fab 5 were more informed about the trans community than others.

‘Bobby and Karamo were actually very informed on the trans experience,’ he says.

‘I know people have come at Bobby for the “transgendered” comment at the beginning of my episode, and I re-watched and re-listened, and I really honestly can’t decipher whether he said “transgender” or “transgendered.” I know the subtitles say “transgendered,” but also, the subtitles in general in the episode are really off-kilter — they called my cat “Roma” instead of “Robot,” they spelled things incorrectly… and I know that’s something Karamo is bringing up to the Netflix people now, to rectify the kinks so people who are deaf and hard of hearing aren’t having these compromised viewing experiences. I don’t know whether that was a slip on Bobby’s part, but he and Karamo were both really informed. So was Jonathan.’

‘Really, it was Tan and Antoni who hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with transgender individuals. I really wish this one line would have made it into the show, because it’s something I say to every person I interact with who says “you’re the first trans person I’ve met.” I always come back with, “that you know of.” And then I always explain that I may be the first openly trans person they’ve met, but we’re everywhere.’

‘To watch both Tan and Antoni’s — and many, many, many other people’s — eyes… it’s like their brain explodes for a second. They go “uh, what?” and then their whole perception of reality and how they perceive those around them shifts. I wish that had made it in there, because I know Tan has gotten a lot of flack. I felt like that entire week, I spent it with my community, with my brothers. I feel like I’m a part of this really beautiful thing.’

‘I think people feel like I was being studied because I was educating the Fab Five during filming,’ Jay says. ‘That is how I do my work. That gift was given to me by another visible, open, activist trans man who saved my life and helped me figure myself out. So of course, I took full power knowing that the show was going to be targeted at middle-America housewives, because that’s what the first season was geared toward.’

‘I was like — “Cool, I’m going to teach some middle-America housewife moms how to care for their transgender kids when they come out by being open and understanding their kids better.”’

Editing

Jay also said that the editing is why the episode came out looking very ‘101.’

‘That conversation Tan and I had was about two hours on the couch. We talked about pronouns, we talked about the different transitions that trans men and trans women can go through, we talked about non-binary and genderqueer individuals, and people of color in my community who are trans and nonbinary and the additional difficulties they face. We also talked about Russia and Jamaica and how trans people that live in those countries have refugee programs directed to them, because they could get murdered and dragged in the streets. We got really, really deep.’

‘There’s a distinct cut in that conversation with Tan and I where he’s very composed — he’s really composed all the time — and then after I laid some really deep knowledge on him, he was crying. He did come from a very sheltered upbringing and his getting into the queer community basically started with this show. So I don’t blame him for his lack of knowledge. Instead, I very much thank him for his willingness to seek out that knowledge through me, from someone who is willing to teach.’

‘My goal was to make him so motivated that he would go forward and be a megaphone to help our community. That’s what we need — not just trans folks standing up, we need other people to have some bit of knowledge on even a basic level of what kind of issues we face. I wish the show could be two hours. But I’m really proud of the outreach they’re already doing with trans youth. I hope that they can carry it forward and continue to help out other trans individuals in the future.’

Still friends with the Fab 5

Jay mentioned he is still in touch with the Fab 5, and actually speaks to Bobby quite frequently.

‘Through my second surgery, I was having issues with a caretaker not being able to come, and I freaked out and was crying and I called Bobby,’ Jay recalls. ‘He started contacting friends in the area to try to figure out what he could do — all the way from Asia, where he was at the time — to help me out because I was freaking out.’

‘I’m really attached to these guys,’ he says. ‘I also hope that I continue to see Queer Eye and Netflix in general produce content with visible trans people that aren’t demonized, or othered, and are just celebrated. I feel like that’s what they did with my episode and I’m really thankful for that.’

What’s Jay up to now?

Now, Skyler Jay is hard at work on a lawsuit. He is suing the University system in the state of Georgia for allowing trans healthcare to be cut.

‘I also went back to school in May to finish my undergraduate degrees, and I’m in the middle of my classes and trying to do my day job as well. And now this new additional job of managing the love and support — and also the sheer outcry from the community of people reaching out looking for resources, seeking validation and seeking help, or reaching out to say thank you — it’s been really overwhelming, honestly,’ he says. ‘But in the best ways.’

‘I feel super honored and blessed that Queer Eye has gifted me this level-up in platform beyond just the cool stuff that you guys got to see on the show.’

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