Trans activists Dani St James and Kenny Ethan Jones on making a career out of campaigning

Dani St James is wearing a black Tshirt and looking off to the left. Kenny Ethan Jones is wearing a white tshirt and looking straight to camera.

For Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV) on Friday, (31 March), PinkNews speaks to trans activists and campaigners Dani St James and Kenny Ethan Jones to explore the evolution of their careers into activism, and how finding a niche topic is the best place to start.

There are dozens – if not hundreds – of charities dedicated to LGBTQ+ activism and awareness in the UK. From large organisations like Stonewall, Mermaids and Trans in the City to smaller, local charities, these groups exist to support and improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.

With the community experiencing a near-constant barrage of harmful misinformation on social media, LGBTQ+ charities are needed now more than ever.

In 2022, nearly a million people were working in the third sector in the UK – about three per cent of the nation’s workforce.  

Many find their way into activism through their own experiences, which can lead to a rewarding career that brings its own stresses and strains. Such is the case for Kenny Ethan Jones and Dani St James. 

‘It was just more of a feeling that I was following’

For Kenny Ethan Jones, a career as an advocate evolved from his days as a model. Jones’ first significant gig was a campaign for Sky that celebrated different identities within the queer community. The campaign included a brief interview where Jones shared his journey as a trans man. 

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Kenny Ethan Jones is wearing a white t shirt with his arms folded. He has visible tattoos and is standing in front of a blue background.
Kenny Ethan Jones made history in 2018 by being the first trans man to front a period campaign. (Eve Appeal)

The experience ignited his passion for advocacy and activism: “That was my first real taste of activism or, you know, advocacy and right talking about my experience as a trans man,” he said, “and I really enjoyed it.

In 2018, Jones made history as the first trans man to front a global period campaign. His decision to participate wasn’t an easy one. “Our anatomy is the one thing that’s kind of used against us to insult and invalidate our transness and our genders,” he says.

The response from that campaign solidified Jones’ shift to full-time advocacy and activism. “I wouldn’t say it was an intentional career,” Jones continues, “but it’s definitely one that I’ve fallen into and I fell in love with.”

These days, Jones’ activism is rooted in trans rights and gender equality. He uses his social media platform to raise awareness of trans issues, encourage conversations about gender identity and provide support to trans people.

For Jones, visibility is key to trans acceptance and trans people need to be seen and heard to break down societal stigmas and stereotypes.

‘Our place is just to give people joy, that’s it

For Dani St James, CEO of the UK-based charity Not a Phase, her journey into charity work also wasn’t intentional. She’s run nightclubs all over London, taught make-up, modelled and even worked in recruitment for a short time. All of those other experiences helped shape her into leading the charity she created.

“I feel like every one of those jobs gave me a really distinct set of skills that make me perform the job that I have now,” she says, “which is by far my favourite job that I’ve ever had.”

Dani St James is wearing a black t shirt with the words "Not a Phase" written on the right side"
Dani St James founded the UK Charity Not a Phase which is dedicated to bringing joy to the trans+ community. (Jordan Rossi)

Not A Phase aims to uplift the lives of trans+ adults throughout the UK through pure joy. “It’s just about giving people nice places to go. Nice things to do that are not specifically focused on their identities and continuously putting the microscope on themselves.”

St James believes that charity work has the potential to reach people by setting positive examples. “I think that’s something that we have really focused on now is putting out a really three-dimensional image of trans people that we’re not these beings lurking in the shadows.”

‘Find your niche

When it comes to getting into charity and advocacy work, both St James and Jones agree that finding a cause or niche that relates to you is the best place to start.

There are so many issues and ways to support the trans+ community, and focusing on all of them at once could get watered down. Advocacy and charity work can still be about empowering everyone and advancing social justice if it’s focused on a specific issue. 

“I think the most important thing is picking a niche,” says Jones, “pick that one thing that you really want to focus on in your identity or your experience.”

“I know that my voice is loudest in a room when I am speaking on trans issues and trying to create change for trans people,” St James concludes, “and that’s how I use my voice.”