Healthy Relationships and Love Talk with Activists, Jari Jones and Corey Kempster by Francesca Tysse
Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the love in one’s life, but the hetero-normative scripts in the world surrounding this holiday, are the opposite of just that, which creates an exclusive, toxic space and challenges for individuals who identity within the LGBTQ+ community.
On Valentine’s Day, it is important to have discussions about healthy relationships, and how the intersectional factors of one’s identity, impact the relationship. On February 5, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, University of Michigan Spectrum Center, and the Center for Education of Women Plus in Ann Arbor, Michigan hosted an event called Love Beyond Bounds. The event created a safe space to discuss important healthy relationship factors and personal experiences with the LGBTQ+ activists, Jari Jones and Corey Kempster.
Jari Jones is a black trans femme actress, Curve model, Creativ and activist. She is making groundbreaking strides across the entertainment and fashion industries. She started her career in theater, and has shifted into television and film. She is currently featured in Primetime Television’s, POSE, as well as the film “Adam” which is her first Sundance nominated film. Through her hard work of being a trans model and activist, she has been featured in an array of publications such as Allure Magazine, The New York Times, PAPER Magazine, and Teen Vogue! Jones is the first Transgender model of the Universal Standard brand, which is an inclusive fashion empire.
Corey Kempster is a trans femme community builder, and an activist and counselor for LGBT youth. She assists those who are experiencing homelessness and hardships in New York City, New York. Kempster has had her fair share of walking down runways, modeling and acting.
Jones and Kempster’s relationship has not always been romantic. The couple discussed their evolving love, support and passion for each other throughout their keynote speech. The foundation of their relationship has been grounded in friendship; a friendship that started after meeting in college. They were overjoyed to find another to share their journeys with, as well as someone who understood. The friendship prolonged for five years, before realizing the love they shared for each other was deeper than platonic.
Through the couple’s reflection of their relationship, they emphasized how important it is to have communication, trust, boundaries and respect in order to have a successful and meaningful relationship.
The couple discussed the importance of having respect and autonomy in a platonic and romantic relationship. Having a healthy relationship entails maintaining your own space.
The couple is able to maintain their individuality and uniqueness. Jones stated, “Corey is reading a book and I’m texting–we’re in our worlds, but we’re in each other’s spaces.” Being able to do your own thing, all the while spending time together, is what adds to a healthy relationship. Love and life is all about cherishing the moments spent together.
Throughout Jones and Kempster’s relationship, the communication styles have changed and evolved. The couple lives together in New York, but their work schedules make it difficult to be in the same place. The importance of understanding each other’s work load, and schedules, is critical to communicating effectively and lovingly. Jones and Kempster have recently been in different time zones for work and have learned to coordinate phone calls, face time calls, and texting around their available and free times. In the end, healthy relationships stem from understanding, and trust, especially when distance is a constant factor.
Jones and Kempster proceeded to discuss how their identities as trans femmes play a role in how they navigate the relationship together, and how they take on individual roles within their relationship.
The identity of trans femme describes one who was assigned as male at birth, decided to transition, and felt a closer connection with their feminine side, and the female side of the gender spectrum.
The marginalized identities affect the relationship with regard to safety. Jones discusses her privilege to pass as a woman, and how it has worked in her favor when in times of conflict. She proceeds to discuss her role as the protector in heteronormative public settings and places.
Jones explains, “Us as trans people is a huge part of our relationship,” Jones said. “I am very comfortable speaking outwardly in public, that’s just part of how I navigate my gender … Corey is a woman with a deeper voice. When we’re in public, I know to step up in that moment … stepping up for our safety is super important to me.”
The couple continues to exclaim that they understand each other well enough just by a look, or a glance, when to step in and speak up for one another, due to their effective communication skills, including verbal and non-verbal communication.
The label of Jones and Kempster’s identities being trans femmes is moving. Jones continues, “[In general], labels can play to our favor, but [they can be] restricting.”
Kempster adds, “Labels help us to understand ourselves in a world that does not acknowledge us… Creating a label for yourself in a world that is trying to table and pull out expectations of you is [a form of autonomy].”
Living in a heteronormative world that creates labels for each individual, as well as one’s relationship, it is important to understand that one has the autonomy to take on labels, as well as decide to detach them at any given point.
The heteronormative expectations of not only the holiday, but the world at large, shapes how one views relationships, love, gender, labels, boundaries and communication. Without inclusivity, it is difficult and frustrating to create space for those with marginalized identities,which potentially results in isolation, and a decreased sense of self and worth.
Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate all forms of love in one’s life, not just the love of those that society deems acceptable and valuable.
Stay in the know with the latest achievements, photoshoots, runway shows, articles, and adventures of Jari Jones and Corey Kempster.
Follow Corey Kempster’s Instagram handle is @corey_meets_world, Tune into her Snapchat show, Sweet’s Dressing Room Challenge!