Jake Graf talks to AKT Jake Graf is a great supporter of The Albert Kennedy Trust, and joined us recently at our Young People's Conference in London. A trans actor, writer and director, Jake has always been vocal about issues facing young LGBT people. Jake was recently married to his partner Hannah Winterbourne. We were thrilled when Jake recently agreed to be interviewed by one of AKT's young people. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing trans actors today? I definitely think that things are improving for trans actors, but it’s fairly slow progress. At the moment, much as lots of people are writing trans parts and wanting to cast trans actors, there are still relatively few of us out there. I know from experience that it can be a struggle to find the right trans actor for the role. I really think that it’s up to us as trans actors to make sure we’re taking classes, doing amateur theatre or even just shooting films with friends to make sure we’re the best we can be, so they have no option but to cast us! The other challenge is that casting directors at the moment mostly only want us for trans roles, instead of the thousands of cis gender parts out there that a lot of us could definitely play, but I think that will also start to change. What we’ve all got to remember is that acting is a really tough and competitive industry regardless of being trans or not, so I would suggest getting some friends together and writing, directing and casting your own web series or films. That’s how I started out and you really learn a lot that way. If the mainstream isn’t quite ready for you, there are lots of queer directors who are, so don’t give up! Do you think trans representation is improving in film and television? Trans representation is definitely improving. When I was a kid there was no trans representation on screen at all and over the years that has evolved until now we finally have happy, positive trans characters on screen. I know how important it is to be able to see yourself on screen so you have something to relate to. Of course when we’re out there and visible then people finally begin to realise that we’re really not that different to anyone else, which is one of the biggest ways that we all become a part of everyday life. Who is your LGBT hero and why? I think I’ll have to say my new wife, Captain Hannah Winterbourne of the British Army! There are lots of folk that I very much admire, like Laverne Cox, Linda Riley who runs Diva Magazine and Sir Ian McKellen, but Hannah is one of the most vocal, active, visible and giving people I know. Not only has she taken on the role of trans rep for the entire Army, but she is also a patron of the Mermaids charity, an ambassador for LGBT Sports Wales and takes the time to answer all the young folk who message her daily. She’s truly a hero and I’m very proud to call her my wife. I have several friends who have been very much rescued by the amazing team at AKT and it’s absolutely humbling to hear them speak about how much the charity has done for them. Many happily say that AKT saved their lives. What advice would you give to yourself when you were a teenager? I would say to have hope, to try not to hate myself so much and to remember that I haven’t done anything wrong. I really felt that it was my fault that I was different when I was growing up and that led to a lot of angst, unhappiness and isolation. I wish I had known back then that the world would one day start to accept us, that I would find friends and a huge, loving community and that one day I would be able to reach out and help other young folk just like me! Why do you think AKT is such an important charity? AKT offers not only a place to sleep and much needed support, but also hope and a sense of acceptance and family to young folk who really need it. I have several friends who have been very much rescued by the amazing team at AKT and it’s absolutely humbling to hear them speak about how much the charity has done for them. Many happily say that AKT saved their lives. We have recently launched inter-AKT, an online support and mentoring service for young LGBT people. Do you think inter-AKT could have helped when you were younger? When I was younger there was no internet! Seriously though, I remember when I was coming out as trans with no trans friends at all, finding the FTM Youtube community and feeling in some way like I had a new family. All of the guys would really lay themselves out there and talk honestly about their hormone injections, top surgery and adjusting to their new place in society. They were real inspirations. I think that younger people today are all about the internet and are much more likely to get online than pick up the phone. The thought of having someone there for you, to talk you through the tough times and show you that everything will be okay would be amazing, possibly life changing. I certainly would have jumped on anything like that when I was a kid, and the world might not have seemed so lonely. Did you have any mentors throughout your career? My collaborators have served as my mentors! I have learnt so much from my amazing editor Giorgio Galli, and my super talented composer Justine Barker, and every film we make we work together throughout, giving notes and talking things through. I’ve had some really great people support me, like the lovely team at BFI Flare, the London LGBT film festival and some really great directors, and I try and learn from everyone that I come into contact with. That can also mean learning what NOT to do, which is sometimes equally important! Our sincere thanks to Jake for his time, and support of AKT. Image of Jake, copyright Paul Grace.