Jackson Bird

Jackson Bird, Director of Wizard Muggle Relations at the Harry Potter Alliance

“My core passion is for inclusive, responsible media representation. It’s what we’re exposed to in the media that drives our culture’s narratives and, fortunately, new media is allowing all sorts of methods for people to take control of their own narratives.”

Pronouns: He/Him

Meet Jackson Bird. Jackson is a media creator and activist working to amplify the stories of transgender people of today. As a media creator Jackson hosts his Transmission podcast, and a YouTube series on LGBT history, Queerstory. Jackson is also known for his work with the Harry Potter Alliance, a nonprofit that activates fan communities towards social action. He is a writer, pub quiz host, runs social media for FRESH Speakers, is a 2017 TED Resident, and a Civic Hall Organizer in Residence. You can follow Jackson on Twitter and everywhere online @jackisnotabird.

What Does He Do?

As the Director of Wizard Muggle Relations at the Harry Potter Alliance, Jackson is in charge of partnerships, and he also does a fair amount of public speaking, fundraising and — in his own words — “schmoozing,” on behalf of HPA. Jackson makes videos, podcasts, organizes fan activists, speaks at schools and conferences, and is working on his first book. Most of his work is centered around spreading awareness of transgender issues and raising up LGBTQ+ voices.

How Did He Get Into This Work?

Jackson has been noodling with words and images for as long for as he can remember. “I started writing stories on the family typewriter before I could spell anything.” Jackson recalls messing around with his brother’s video camera when he was five. Acting came soon after, and while he enjoyed performing he realized in retrospect that playing roles gave him the excuse “to stay out of activism, politics, or even responsibility.” Jackson had the opportunity to study at Cambridge University for a summer abroad during high school, and it changed him: “I met professors who were outspoken about the Iraq war, religion, yet they were successful and respected.” When he returned home a newly minted liberal, however, one of his best friends stopped talking to him.

As a transfer student to NYU, Jackson joined the campus chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance (HPA) where he began living his values, finding “punk activist role models who spoke up, took action and incorporated their beliefs into every aspect of their lives.” At the same time, Jackson was coming to terms with his identity as a queer transgender person and learning everything he could about the queer and trans communities and histories. After first volunteering for HPA, Jackson later became head of social media, and then its spokesperson and communications director.

In parallel, he started gaining an audience online through his YouTube videos and social media presence. When he finally came out publicly in 2015, it was with a commitment to use his platform for good – to speak his truth, to lift up more marginalized voices, and help people not just tolerate but truly understand and care.

“My core passion is for inclusive, responsible media representation. It’s what we’re exposed to in the media that drives our culture’s narratives and, fortunately, new media is allowing all sorts of methods for people to take control of their own narratives.”

How Did He Come to Civic Hall?

Jackson had a glancing relationship to Civic Hall over the years through his good friend and former boss, Andrew Slack, Civic Hall’s inaugural Imagination Fellow. This year, he was fortunate enough to speak on a panel at PDF about how progressive organizations can be using platforms like Tumblr and Snapchat to recruit passionate young people.

It was a neighbor, Civic Hall member Rachel Dougherty of Rhize, who encouraged him to apply for the Organizers in Residence program. “As is my usual MO, I had to be pushed into taking the amazing opportunity because I thought I wasn’t good enough. I’m working on that.”

Nearly one month in the residency, Jackson reflects that, “We’ve all been in our little bubbles. We’re starting to connect, bridge those gaps and help one another.”

What Project Is He Working On?

Jackson aspires to amplify the voices of transgender people from all different walks of life. He recently launched a podcast called Transmission in which he interviews a fellow trans person each week so they can tell their stories and discuss personal challenges and issues they’re passionate about. For LGBT History Month this upcoming October, he’ll be relaunching his Queerstory web-series, which reclaims LGBTQ+ history.

Jackson is currently flirting with the idea of starting a collective by and for trans creators – a community for them to support each other, collaborate, share resources, and more.

What Is His Ask of Civic Hall?

Having been raised in Texas, Jackson had the following perspective to share:

“Perhaps because I grew up in a conservative area there was a lot more work that you had to do in figuring out what exactly you believed in, why, and what you’re gonna do (with these beliefs). While I find it very natural to find the humanity in someone who has very different beliefs from me, I haven’t seen that as much from liberals and progressives up here. It may be the current political climate, but too often anyone who’s conservative is seen as the absolute, worst person.”

Jackson is currently working on finding resources to take Queerstory on the road with a heightened production quality so he can share the stories of even more diverse folks and have a larger impact. Reach out to him if you’d like to support these efforts.

“Remember you never know who’s in what space so you should always make spaces as inclusive as possible. Don’t assume you know everyone’s story. And if you don’t understand something about someone’s identity or experiences, try Googling before you ask them or just assume. Why are we all so good at stealthily Googling a band we’ve never heard of under the table while people around us talk about them, but can’t do the same thing when we hear a pronoun or queer identity we’re unfamiliar with.”