Dominique Jackson is no wallflower. She’s been modeling for more than 20 years (with credits including Vogue España), and has had a dynamic life. That is to say: Dominique has seen it all. Her childhood was blemished with abuse and assault, but through the 13-year-long cleansing process of writing her autobiography, The Transsexual from Tobago, Dominique rose above the pain to be the self-possessed woman you’ve come to know on Oxygen’s Strut, a show about the first all-transgender modeling agency.
Now an LGBT and human rights activist as well as model, the Tobago born Dominique is full of wisdom. We spoke to her about her 18-year-relationship, the strains of balancing career and love, her tumultuous childhood, and what it meant to be one of the first-ever trans people to ever have a wedding ceremony on television.
You've been modeling for more than two decades. What unique challenges did you face at the beginning of your career? Do you think anything has changed in the modeling industry for the trans community since then?
At the beginning I faced fear of my truth being discovered! I was extremely fearful of going to the after parties and being hurt or for that matter leaving the show and being attacked by someone who figured I was transgender and believed it was their solemn duty to rid the world of me. Yes a lot has changed, actually almost every show has a transgender person working at some level, whether it be hair, make-up, event planning, designing and/or modeling.
You had a difficult childhood, which you wrote about in your autobiography. Can you tell us about some of the hurdles you had to overcome? My childhood had extremely difficult moments and some trauma but there were also amazing moments and times of pure happiness. However, I did have to overcome bullying, sexual molestation and rape.
What was the process of writing about your life like? What did you learn from putting your autobiography to paper?
Writing about my life was a 13-year process where I had to face my demons as I wrote and take the time to understand them, then defeat them. There were periods of time—sometimes years—where I was afraid to write anymore because I knew my goal was to tell the truth of my life and in those periods I myself could not face my own truth. There were times where I felt so ashamed and embarrassed for the things I had to do in order to survive and writing about them would scare me. However, I was determined to tell my truth because I knew I was not the only one that suffered the fate I endured.
I learned that there is an inner strength that blossoms when one cleanses themselves by processing and attempting to comprehend their situation and/or experience. Writing became my therapy! As I read what I wrote I began to appreciate that I didn't give up on life. I learned that I have purpose and my experiences no matter how horrible taught me heart, strength and forgiveness!
What do you hope you can impart to the other models at Slay? Do you feel any responsibility to guide the younger models?
I hope to teach the models at Slay diplomacy, perseverance, resilience and strength! I hope to impart on them that "If you want something, you must work for it!" I do feel a responsibility to guide the younger models because lately models have forgotten that they bring the vision of couturiers and designers to life and have become quite uncompromising when it comes to clothing and delivery that they believe doesn’t fit their said imagined brand.
What did the wedding ceremony with Al that was featured on Strut mean to you?
The ceremony was confirmation that my husband was willing to take this journey with me! It meant that we had completed one more traditional step, which for some reason I really desired!
How was it different from getting married the first time around?
The first time we got married at the court house was mega fold. The laws had just past and we felt included on humanity, we felt that it would help with my fear of deportation and if one of us were to get ill, like in 2002, when he almost lost his life, I would be able to have a say and vice versa, with the privilege of being able to visit him without being made to feel horribly judged amd blatantly rejected.
How does it feel to be one of the first transgender people to have ever had a wedding ceremony televised?
I never really thought of that. I just feel like I waited a very long time to actually walk down an actual aisle wearing a beautiful wedding dress with a veil and seeing the man I love waiting for me. I was totally lost in our vows. I seriously forgot about the cameras. I do desire that people find hope in our story and especially that people can stand up and claim their relationships openly whether they are gay ,msm, transgender, portly, or of a different race etc.