Transgender Fairytale Marriage, Happened During Trans Month of Visibility
By: Chris Gilmore/TRT Reporter—
The names Jake Graf and Hannah Winterbourne may not ring a bell to some, but inside the transgender community, LGB and allied circles it more than makes up for it. Graf, actor, writer, and director, and Winterbourne, the British Army Captain, are also, to many trans people, not only solid social influencers, but a newlywed couple that has made headlines all over England because of their “royal” transgender wedding. Their transgender visibility has placed them in the limelight of mainstream media, which still struggles with posing appropriate interview questions in an inoffensive and informed manner. But Jake and Hannah rise above it. They are in this to teach others that being transgender isn’t different, but normal indeed.
Jake and Hannah decided to live under the public scrutiny to depict what trans love and lives really look like, from the outside in. Both have enchanted non-trans and trans spheres in London, America and the world because of their decision to live authentically in their attempt to shatter social mores of stigmatization and prejudice against the community they both belong to.
“It is, of course, vital that everyone who has a voice and a platform use it to make a safer world for those that don’t,” said Jake to The Rainbow Times. “Hannah and I are truly lucky that we are able to be out and proud in our everyday life as many trans folks sadly aren’t and it’s important to us to always acknowledge that.”
Jake, whose love for Hannah, the highest-ranking officer in the British Army, is unmistakable via almost every social media post he shares. He has stated that before knowing Hannah, he truly couldn’t “imagine” spending the rest of his life and “starting a family with anyone else.” The Londonian first heard of Hannah, Cardiff, from a story she was interviewed for that talked about her transition while still on military duty. And thus, the scene was set that led to the fairytale ending of this trans love story.
The Rainbow Times caught up with the couple, right after their nuptials on March 23 to see what the charismatic duo was up to.
Q: When did you meet? What attracted you to one another?
Jake: I mentioned to a mutual friend that I thought Hannah was cute and a few days later heard that she also thought I was attractive and so I reached out to her on Facebook and we just started talking. She was funny, beautiful, sweet, really bright, had an impressive military career and was also open to having kids. Basically, my ideal woman! We had our first date after chatting for 10 days, lasting 11 hours, and we’ve never looked back.
Hannah: We met on 30 December 2015. I’d seen a fair bit about Jake online, where he was doing quite a bit of activism and I thought he came across as intelligent, articulate and fun! I also found him very attractive, especially as he was doing a lot of topless shoots!
Q: How long have you been together?
Jake: An amazing two and a half years.
Q: Why such a public wedding announcement through social media?
Jake: For Hannah and I, it was really important to us to get a happy, hopeful and positive story of trans lives out there after all of the recent negativity in the right wing Press in the UK. We are very lucky in that we have huge support from the LGBT community and specifically the trans community, where some perceive us a beacon of hope. We both get hundreds of messages every week from trans people old and young telling us that following our story helps them believe that they too will find love. That’s really important to us, particularly as ending up alone was mine, and Hannah’s biggest fear pre-transition, so to help with that means a lot. I also think it’s great that cis folk, LGB or otherwise, see that we are just like everyone else: we fall in love, we get married and if we’re really lucky, we have kids and a family.
Q: What did you want others to know about you, about your love for Hannah?
Jake: We wanted other people to know that we were just like them or anyone else, with all of the same hopes, fears, and aspirations. My love for Hannah feels like the most natural thing in the world and it’s something that I want to nurture and protect as love should never be taken for granted, regardless of the ring on her finger!
Q: Some people may view or think of your wedding as the top/main wedding for trans visibility, how do you feel about that?
Jake: From the reaction that we’ve been getting since announcing our engagement, we’ve realised that our relationship really does give hope to a lot of people and that is a responsibility and an honour that is not lost on us. I know that there are many trans couples who marry and that they’re all equally special and amazing, Hannah and I are just incredibly lucky to have a platform and visibility that allows our voices to be heard.
Q: How many people did you invite to the wedding?
Hannah: 38 – For us, it was the perfect number as it allowed all our close family and friends to be there but still kept it intimate (as well as keeping the costs down!)
Q: In a previous interview (with Lorraine) you’d said that Hannah wanted a “July” wedding, yet you’re getting married in March, what was behind pushing up the date?
Jake: Because Hannah is a Captain in the Army, she has always lived in barracks, while I live over an hour away in London. The only way that we could finally live together was for us to get married quarters through the military and, as we were marrying anyway, we just brought the date forward a little bit. Besides, March weddings are a lot less expensive than those in July!
Q: What was running through your head when Jake popped the question? Where in NY were you?
Hannah: We were on the rowing pond in Central Park, where we had spent a really romantic day the year before. When he asked I pretty much just broke down in tears! The only thing that ran through my head at that moment was just how much I loved him.
Q: When did you meet Jake’s family? Were you afraid to meet them?
Hannah: I met Jake’s family quite early on in our relationship and I was very nervous as, of course, as I wanted them to like me! But they were so welcoming and kind and I got on with them straight away.
Q: If you could describe your wedding theme, what would it be?
Hannah: Simple, elegant and full of love!
Q: What color scheme did you choose and how about party favors for your guests?
Hannah: We kept the wedding fairly simple and so we didn’t do any favours (although we gave gifts to specific people like best man and maid of honour). The colour scheme was pink, blue and white to represent the transgender flag! We didn’t want to make the day all about us being transgender but it seemed like a nice, subtle nod.
Q: Many people consider you a role model for the trans community. Do you think of yourself as one?
Jake: As someone who grew up feeling very much like an outsider, being bullied at school and turning to some pretty destructive behaviour because I had no one to look up to, I’m really aware of just how important it is to have visible role models for younger LGBTQIA kids today. When I hear and read daily about the continued and relentless bullying of gay, bi, trans and queer kids in schools it just makes me more determined to do anything I can to help make it stop. Whether that’s being visible, making films that help people better understand us or just being someone that younger folk can reach out to and talk to, then I’m happy to do it. Calling myself a role model feels a little arrogant as I’m also just trying to feel and find my way, but if I can help even one kid then my job is done.
Hannah: I never set out to be a role model, but I kind of became one by accident. I think my personal story is one of real support in all walks of life; from family, friends, and employer and so my transition has been very positive. I think people warm to that, as there are so many negative experiences in the trans community and people look to my story for comfort, to know that it is possible to be transgender and happy.
Q: What do you say to other trans folk about life, transition and the world out there?
Jake: I receive hundreds of messages a month from trans folk across the world, some asking for advice, others for financial help and others still just saying hi. I try not to tell people how to live their lives, whether they should come out and so on, as I don’t know always know what their circumstances are, but I would always say that to deny who you are is a life half lived. Life can be tough for us and we do often need to develop a slightly thicker skin than other folks just to get by. That shouldn’t for a second stop you from being you and from going out in the world with your head held high. You will find your tribe, your people and a family that accepts you regardless of how you choose to identify and live your life.
Q: Do you plan to have children (own/adopted/foster) or not?
Hannah: We both know we really want kids and are considering surrogacy, but it’s still quite early to work out exactly how we will make it work. I think a child coming to us in any way would be a true blessing.
Q: What do you say to other trans parents out there who may think that their children coming out as trans may mean that no one would ever love them?
Jake: That was certainly my biggest worry when I transitioned, that I would end up alone and unloved. I think that trans people are often made to feel ugly and unattractive and undeserving of love, which is most definitely not the case. I tell those parents not to worry, that it’s a brave new world out there and that as long as they are giving their child love and support, then they will grow up to become healthy, happy humans who can’t help but be loved by others.
Q: You’ve mentioned before that Hannah helps you with producing your films. What does she bring to the screen?
Jake: Aside from the fact that Hannah had a starring role in last year’s ‘Headspace’ and whose scene in which she is repeatedly misgendered over the phone resonated most within the community, she also appears in my last short, ‘Dusk’. Not only is she great onscreen, but she runs a set with military precision, for obvious reasons! She is organised, precise and loves planning things down to the last detail, so her contribution on set is absolutely huge and truly invaluable.
Q: What do you think is the top priority relating to transgender rights today?
Hannah: I think its fighting misinformation, there is a lot of hatred and bigotry masquerading as “debate” and “discussion” and we really need to hold individuals to account for their actions.
Jake: In the UK there has been a huge amount of negativity from the Press of late because of an upcoming review in the Gender Recognition Act, which would give folk the right to self-determine as transgender. That has a lot of the right wing and conservative Press really rattled and as such the backlash has been truly vile and vitriolic, with everyone, including trans children finding themselves in the firing line. I think that one of the biggest problems is that trans people still remain a largely unknown entity and people have always feared the unknown. It very much feels like the trans community is playing catch up with the rest of the LGB spectrum. To the right-wing Press, we are still the murky figures hiding in the shadows and as many have never met anyone trans they don’t understand that we really aren’t so different. Across the world, trans rights vary wildly and I know that in the UK we are luckier than most. Hannah, in particular, realises just how lucky she is to be able to proudly serve her country, which really brings home the withdrawal of rights for trans folk in the USA under the new administration. That surely must be one of the most pressing issues to address and correct.
Q: Use just three words to describe yourself. Use three words you’d use to describe Hannah/Jake.
Jake: Intense. Driven. Caring. Hannah is kind, loving, and generous.
Hannah: Me – happy, motivated and lucky. Jake is loyal, affectionate and inspirational.
Q: Will you be making wedding photos available to the public post-ceremony? If so, where can people find them?
Hannah: I think we will pick a select few and publish on our social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. We want people to be able to share in our day but I also think it’s important to keep some just for us!
Q: Where can people find out more about your films?
Jake: Headspace and Brace are online for anyone to watch, just Google ‘Headspace 2017’ and ‘Brace short film 2015’ to find them. “Dusk”, “Dawn” and “Chance” all have distribution through Peccadillo pictures in the UK, and they are now launching in the US too, so the films should be accessible. More information can be found on my website, www.jakegraf.com or find me on Instagram at @jake_graf5 and Twitter @JakeGraf1.