Trans author Rowan Jetté Knox: ‘We need our allies to stand up and shout down hate’

Author and advocate Rowan Jetté Knox wears a blue shirt, dark blue tie with a paisley pattern and medium toned blue jacket as they pose for the camera during their tour around the UK to talk about trans rights and the power of allyship

Rowan Jetté Knox, a transmasc speaker and author, knows firsthand the power of allyship and having someone in your corner to fight for you. 

Recently, Jetté Knox and his partner were walking in downtown Toronto – which he says “tends to be overall a very safe space for queer people” – when they accidentally walked through a gender critical protest. 

A group of about 20 people were “yelling things about genitals” and “started to yell extra loud as [they] walked by”.

Then, one of the gender-critical protestors recognised them.

“At that point they started to try to get me on camera and was like, ‘[Rowan], say hi’,” he tells PinkNews. 

“I just kept on walking. Then, they took [a] picture, posted it on Twitter to make sure that was me, get me identified, and then went on to tear apart my looks, my weight, everything you can think of – just tore me apart.”

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Jetté Knox’s partner has lived in Toronto for 25 years, and had never seen an anti-trans protest in that time until then. The experience was unpleasant – immediately afterwards, they stumbled upon a World Naked Bike Ride day, which was a distraction, at the very least.

Author and advocate Rowan Jetté Knox wears a dark shirt, blue tie with a paisley pattern and light jacket which they are holding up by the labels as they tour around the UK to talk about trans rights and the power of allyship
LGBTQ+ advocate and author Rowan Jetté Knox “influx of hate coming in” from the US and the UK has impacted trans people living in Canada. (Rowan Jetté Knox)

For a long time, he hasn’t wanted to say trans people are “losing”, but it’s certainly clear the scales are weighted against the community.

Jetté Knox thinks the only way for trans people to tip the balance is to tell their stories and get allies to fight in their corner. 

“We’re going to stop it by dispelling that disinformation, that misinformation and getting our allies to actually stand up – not just quietly, be supportive, but actually actively stand up,” he says.

“What should have happened when that group of protesters in Toronto was there should have been a whole group of cis people around them blocking their signs, shouting that down, protesting saying, ‘No, not in our city. You’re not doing this.’ 

“Until we get people to feel that strongly, we’re in trouble.”

In August, he’ll release his second book, One Sunny Afternoon: A Memoir of Trauma and Healing.

It follows his first, Love Lives Here, in which he shared his family’s story, and how his child and partner came out as trans one after the other. The book’s success made Jetté Knox a target for abuse on social media – his new memoir covers how he was pushed to the edge, and how he found himself facing up to their own personal reckoning.

Often, it seems as though the anti-trans movement is concentrated in the UK and US, but Jette Knox says that the “influx of hate” has also reached Canada.

“Canada is home to some of the largest transphobic names in the world, and that needs to be acknowledged,” he says. 

“We are overall, I think, a friendly country. We have overall decent human rights, but we also have a long history of issues surrounding the mistreatment of indigenous peoples and immigrants to our country.  We definitely have had our hands bloodied and some of that remains today.”

That said, Jetté Knox is very concerned about what’s happening in the UK right now. When PinkNews met him, he was on a week-long visit to Britain, where they met with trans groups, LGBTQ+ organisations and people in the community about the impact of misinformation and lies. 

When he announced he’d be visiting the UK online, Jetté Knox received an “unbelievable” amount of hostility. While here, he refused to spend time alone outside his hotel and had security at many of his events.

But ultimately, he’s more concerned for others in the community.

“If it’s that unsafe for me, then it’s really unsafe for trans people who live here,” he adds.

Rowan came out publicly as a trans man following the publication of this article, which has since been edited to reflect his new name.