49 - Antoinette Jones
Singer. Loves people. Loves connections. Passionate about love, and inspiring people.
With the infinite possibilities of gender identity and expression, when did you know…
“When I was about 15. I was going to high school, and I saw this girl… she looked real man-ish, but I knew she was a girl… she was just so beautiful to me. I kind of had this moment where I just looked at her all the time. That’s when I knew that there was something different [about me]...”
On her coming out experience...
“I guess around the time that I got more comfortable with it (around 16), I told my mom… I didn’t really tell her, but I more said, ‘Yo, mom… everyone’s doing this ‘thing’, well not really this thing, but…’ and my mom said, ‘Well I hope you’re not doing it…’ I figured okay cool. Later on, I tried to tell her by wearing rainbow here and there, and dropping little hints. It was cool at first, but then she dropped me from that school and put me into a school where my cousin was the assistant principal… They sat me down before school and said, ‘The gay stuff is over with now… you’re going to start over… new leaf… get good grades… you’re not going to embarrass us…’ They were really particular about appearance and how we looked in our community…
I ended up going to that school. Did really well. I had a 3.8 GPA. Then, I met this girl. She was really cool, and we became best friends. I used to get to go to school early, because my cousin was the assistant principal… and when I’d go early, I would meet that friend. So, we would meet at the park across the street, hang out at the swings, nothing serious… she was my best friend… and she just happened to be gay and looked like a boy. One day, another teacher saw us talking and told my cousin… then [my cousin] made a really big deal about it. Threatened to expel her, and saying that it was an embarrassment. She made it to a point where she would say, ‘If you see each other in the hallway, I don’t care if you’re late… I’ll write you a pass. Just walk the other way. You don’t know each other.’
Anytime I would be around anyone that was ‘that way’, it was a lot… she would pull me to the side and have these weird emotional conversations with me… about ‘it doesn’t look right’… and ‘it’s an embarrassment’… and ‘it wasn’t how they raised me’… She would say stuff like ‘she wanted kids before she had the experience of raising me’… it was just a lot coming out.
I ended up finding a girlfriend, but we were super low key. One day, I was in after school tutoring, and I just went to the bathroom and another girl happened to be in there with her girlfriend… I left the bathroom so I wouldn’t get into any trouble for being around them. But another teacher saw the interaction, so she went and told my cousin. She came in and pulled me outside by my hair, they packed all my stuff up… maybe 2 weeks later I was in Georgia with my Dad. I was living in Louisiana, at the time that all happened.
When I was in Georgia with my dad, I had to start all over. I had to redo 11th grade. I ended up going back to Louisiana around 19 because my grandma got sick. I took care of my grandma until she passed… even though a lot of things weren’t accepted.
When I was 24 I went to my cousin’s house - I see them, but there’s nothing emotional there - and she was like, ‘What are you doing with your life?’ and I told her I was figuring things out because I was doing things on my own… and she responded with, ‘You should do what your mom did… just go find a nice man and have a couple of kids… put yourself through college… and then maybe you can see a little better things like me, I'm working on my doctorate…’ ”
Frustrations within the community…
“Labels… I think that has to be my biggest frustration because it's always… ‘Oh, if you're feminine, you're supposed to put yourself together like this... If you're a stud, you're supposed to put yourself together like this...’ I just left a box, I don’t need to be put in more… The world is a box… Why more boxes?”
Favorite part about the community?
“Pride, and things like pride… Just because you see so many different walks of life and so many people who are that way… no matter the religion or the label or how they look… It's interesting to see what love can put together.”
What is something you would tell a younger you? Advice for anyone out there who feels like they can’t come out, or they don’t have a community to be a part of?
“As long as you feel like you're ready, be yourself… don't go find yourself in boxes based on other people's perspectives, because it's gonna drive you crazy... Just love yourself. Learn how to accept love. It’s normal. Even though people make you feel like it’s not so normal. You got it…’”
What in your life are you most proud of?
“Honestly, graduating high school, because I did it by myself… and I have a lot of more accomplishments… But that's the one thing I really did by myself, because I didn't have anybody. Even though that's not a thing, I mean I did have people around me… not family, but I had to make my own family… I did it by myself, and I'm really proud of that. The ability to do it by myself… and love myself enough to do it and give other people support, even when I didn't have it…”
With the state of the nation and the world in its current state, what’s one thing you would change if you had the power?
“I'd put everybody under hypnosis, and make them all kids again… not like mentally… But make them all kids again… where everything was OK to question… and everything was okay to talk about and laugh about and figure out a solution to… Just because you're kids and you embark upon this simple little magic that adults seem to always complicate…
I work security, and my favorite customers are the children… because they’re innocent, but all they know is love… That’s all they want. They keep me so humble… kids and old people…”