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In My Shoes With Jamie

Our latest In My Shoes feature delves into the power of diversity and self-discovery. From finding his voice, style, and tribe to how spending five years at Clarks gave him the confidence and community to truly be himself, read how artist and trans man Jamie finally feels like the person he's meant to be.

As an interdisciplinary artist from Tayport in Fife, Jamie is based in Edinburgh and expresses his trans experience through his artwork to inspire and support others on their journey of self-discovery. We caught up with Jamie to hear all about his honest and courageous trans experience, supporting him on his mission to help other people be authentically and unapologetically themselves.

Tell us about yourself… what makes you tick?

I’m an interdisciplinary artist from Tayport in Fife, currently based in Edinburgh. My art practice explores the topics of the trans experience, mental health, and growing up. As a trans man, I want to share my experience of finding myself through my artwork to help others find themselves too. I want to spread positivity and authenticity into the world because there has been a lot of hate and misinformation about trans people in the media lately. I want to set the record straight and prove that trans people just want to live their lives just like everyone else - being authentically and unapologetically ourselves.

As well as being an artist, I have also been working for Clarks as a Sales Assistant for 5 and a half years. Clarks means a lot to me because it helped me to find a community and transition to be myself. I think it’s important for me to mention this because we don’t often hear stories of queer people doing “normal” things. I wish I had that kind of representation growing up and I hope to be that representation for kids growing up today.

@voices_x_by_jamie(opens in a new tab)

How does art play a role in or influence your life?

For me, art has helped me to express myself before I had the words to describe how I was feeling. Growing up I was a very quiet child, but I always felt like I could find a creative outlet to express myself. When I was 6 years old, my family and I moved out to Bangladesh, where I attended school for 2 and a half years. The school I went to was very arts-oriented and we were encouraged to be creative. But when I came back to live in Scotland, I felt like I had to conform to a set criteria and I lost my voice in a way.

Fast-forward to my second last year at school, when I sat my higher exams, I remember doing this painting for my Art class of a girl looking in a mirror and a boy looking back. Although, the photos I used for reference weren’t of me and I didn’t know what ‘trans’ meant, the fact I came up with that composition is just wild to me. I clearly knew I needed to express something I couldn’t yet put into words.

With my practice now, I use it to tell my story of finding my voice, in the hope that others will see themselves in my work and find their voice as well.

Tell us about your journey to become the person you are today?

The turning point for me was when I finished high school and applied for a summer job at Clarks in Dundee - which I initially didn’t get. Then my mum told me to call them back, which wasn’t something that was within my nature to do. So that’s what I did, and they gave me the job.

This was the first time I had done something that was just for me, and it was so liberating. Over the summer, my confidence grew as I got much better at speaking to people, which previously I had struggled with.

The job also helped me to discover how I wanted to present myself as it was the first time I could buy my own clothes and choose what style I wanted to wear. For years, I had wanted to present in a more masculine way but didn’t have the confidence to do it.

This also gave me the courage to cut my hair short. When I looked in the mirror after I got my hair cut short, it was like I was seeing and recognising myself for the first time. It was like I was both physically and emotionally finding my voice.

I came out as a trans man at work in 2018 and everyone was so accepting, especially my manager. She asked me how they could help me and immediately ordered a new name badge for me with my chosen name on it. It felt so amazing to finally be myself at work and to be surrounded by such accepting people who were willing to listen.

Today I am the happiest I’ve ever been due to transitioning to align myself to how I’ve always felt on the inside. Although I’m not quite where I want to be yet, I’m getting closer every day. Without my job at Clarks, I don’t think I would be the person I am today.

“Clarks means a lot to me as it helped me find a community and transition to be myself. It felt amazing to be at work, surrounded by people that were so accepting and willing to listen. Today I am the happiest I’ve ever been, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my job at Clarks”

What inspires your art?

My art practice is inspired by my life experiences - including my experience as a trans man, my experience with my mental health, and growing up living in Bangladesh. All these things have made me the person I am today.

Recently I have got back into making stop motion animations like I made when I was younger. I was, and still am, obsessed with the work of Aardman Animations - especially Morph. I remember making my own Morph animations when I was a child and dreaming that I could work for Aardman one day.

One of the pieces that I made for my Degree Show was inspired by this Morph animation I made when I was 13, but with my own characters - The Inner Voice and The Inner Child. It represents how I feel about myself now. I feel like I’ve come ‘full circle’ and I am the happiest I’ve been since I was a child, due to transitioning to aligning myself to how I’ve always felt on the inside.

This shows that I’m still the same person I’ve always been, but I just feel like I can authentically express who I am now. A lot of cisgender people (people who are not trans) think about transitioning as a “before and after”, but that’s not true. I believe it’s about alignment. Every trans person is going to have a different way of aligning themselves, whether that’s socially or medically.

Talk to us about the Clarks collaboration?

I was a mentee on the One Month Mentor programme in July 2021, where I got to connect with some amazing people, including my mentor, Tara.

For the Clarks Pride Campaign, I wanted to focus in on the concept of “Family”, because family is at the heart of Clarks’ heritage. The concept of “Family” is also important to the LGBTQ+ community because it is crucial to have representation of different kinds of families.

For example, chosen families, two mums, two dads, non-binary parents, trans parents etc, but also how blood families are becoming more accepting of their LGBTQ+ family members.

I’ve come up with three stories that show different LGBTQ+ narratives. I am using the medium of stop motion animation to bring these to life with tiny plasticine Desert Boots! The first one is about standing together as a community to fight the discrimination the LGBTQ+ community face.

The second one is kind of based on my own story of finding myself and surrounding myself with people who were accepting of me no matter what. Lastly, the third one captures snapshots of what different families can look like.

I’m so excited for these videos to be released and to see how people react to them!

Photography Connor Egan @connertegan, Matthew O'Donnell @thejumperguy and Fiona Gray @fiogray.