Naked with Jake
In our latest interview from the Naked Series, we sit down with Jake to discuss camming, gender and growing up in the South.
JACY: Alright, I’m going to have you start with your name, your preferred pronouns, and a little bit about you.
JAKE: My name is Jake and I like all pronouns. I’m gender queer so it doesn’t really matter to me which pronouns you use.
I grew up in Alabama but moved to Nashville when I was eleven. And to me, Nashville is like the best of the worst.
JACY: Can you tell me a bit about your upbringing?
JAKE: We were a pretty tight-knit family. Being homeschooled, we didn’t really go anywhere or see anyone, which I found really isolating. I'm not really close with my family anymore.
My parents are really homophobic. So when my older brother came out, and then I came out, and then my sister came out… That's three out of five children in a house where queerness isn't welcomed.
JACY: Is your family religious?
JAKE: YES. My dad’s a pastor, and his dad’s a pastor… And my mother’s dad is a Principal of a Christian school.
JACY: That’s wild. I have so many questions right now! Would you say watching your older brother come out first was kind of like a test run?
JAKE: Oh yeah. After seeing him go through it I was like ‘I’m never telling them.’ We would have sit downs after he came out to discuss all the reasons being gay was wrong.
JACY: Was he kicked out of the house?
JAKE: No, but they threatened he would be kicked out if he told anyone.
JACY: So what made you change your mind and end up telling them?
JAKE: It wasn’t really me telling them. My mother asked me ‘Why are you defending your brother, are you gay too?’ And I just said yes.
It was terrifying.
JACY: So being gay in the South, with a religious family, is that what motivated your move to Portland?
JAKE: Yeah. I mean - I moved out of the house the week after graduating high school. I wanted to move out as soon as I could. Things were better once I moved out, but it was still the South.
JACY: At what age were you aware of your sexuality?
JAKE: I was aware of my sexuality from an early age. I watched a lot of porn as a kid. I knew I was gay but I definitely didn’t consider my gender at that time. That was relatively recently. I started doing drag before I identified as gender queer.
JACY: I’m still so stuck on your family. I mean your father’s a pastor, your grandfather’s a pastor, and then you have strong religious influences on your mother’s side… It just doesn’t get more intense than that.
JAKE: For sure. I started volunteering at a wildlife rehab center when I was about sixteen as a way to get out and that was the only place I had. Since I didn’t go to school and I didn’t have friends, it was the only place to go to get away from home.
JACY: So did the interest in animals kinda start as a means to get some space?
JAKE: I’ve always been into animals. I think animals are the most beautiful thing in the world. Like people are okay, but animals are great.
JACY: So let me ask you, when did you decide to make this big move and come to the other side of the country?
JAKE: I’d never been to Portland before but I was just like... I’m going. I took a bus for 54 hours to get to Portland. The decision to move came from a lot of things, but the complicated relationship with my family certainly made it easier.
JACY: Do you think your siblings will do the same and move away when they turn eighteen?
JAKE: Oh yeah. My sister’s tried to runaway five times.
JACY: Did you?
JAKE: I didn’t. I was just depressed and in a closet. I shared a room with one of my siblings and there was a walk in closet that I stayed in, so I was literally and physically in the closet for a long time.
JACY: Oh my god. That’s so full circle. What was life like when they did find out?
JAKE: My mom didn’t say anything, but they tried to fix me. They truly think that’s something they can do. See? Animals are great. Animals will never try to change your sexuality.
JACY: I mean... you’re not wrong. Do you speak to your family now?
JAKE: Well, my sister had messaged me and said ‘I need to let you know, I attempted suicide.’ She’s okay, but I’m so angry because my parents didn’t do anything. They’re not talking about it and they just don’t want anyone to find out. And this is kinda what happened to me and my older brother. We were both severely depressed. I told them I wanted to kill myself and they didn’t do anything.
JACY: People are willing to hold onto this hatred or judgement about an element of a persons being but at what cost? Are you really willing to risk your child’s life?
JAKE: Yeah. I only got away because I started camming for money. Now I can make like $300 in an hour and a half.
JACY: What the fuck? Show me the way (haha.) Amazing that camming was a gateway to freedom for you.
JAKE: Totally. Having money can create freedom. I got into camming and it’s the only reason I could move. Before that I was working at Target.
JACY: And what’s minimum wage in Tennessee?
JAKE: It’s like eight dollars. I was literally losing money. I didn’t save any money working at that job it was like throwing away my time.
JACY: Let’s talk about drag.
JAKE: I love drag. I started drag even before I moved out of my parent’s house. There’s only like three gay bars in Nashville and there’s one I went to a lot. And just from watching their drag shows I was like… This is the shit.
JACY: Was it nerve racking when you started?
JAKE: Yeah. The moment before you step on stage… you think you’re going to die. But once you do it’s amazing.
JACY: The success of drag is so based around confidence. Do you think that just came naturally or does it take a while to learn?
JAKE: I think it’s something you have to learn, but I’m pretty confident at this point.
JACY: Why do you love it?
JAKE: … I’m trying to find the words. I love it because it’s no one elses but yours. Your makeup, your music, every move you do - you own that. And it’s queer too. You get to play with gender and be like - 'I’m whoever I want to be, so fuck you.'
I think drag also had me ask the question what am I? I pretend to be a woman on stage, who do I want to be when I go home?