Election 2024

Sen. Kim Jackson gets real on anti-trans legislation: “It is killing kids”

Sen. Kim Jackson gets real on anti-trans legislation: “It is killing kids”

State Senator Kim Jackson of Georgia was sworn into office in January 2021, becoming the state’s first openly LGBTQ+ senator. She’s running for a second term this year.

Jackson, 39, also serves as Vicar at the Episcopal Church of the Common Ground, where she “co-creates Church” with people who are unhoused in downtown Atlanta. Her wife is an imam at her local mosque.

The couple lives on a small farm on the outskirts of Atlanta with their three-year-old son, whose current obsession is trucks. “The boy could say excavator before he could say, like, ‘Hello, my name is Rhys,'” Jackson says.

She spoke from their farm in Stone Mountain, a place she called “so incredibly diverse,” with “people from all over the world,” even as it lies in the shadow of its namesake monolith, bearing the images of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis, all heroes of a defeated Confederacy.

LGBTQ Nation: You co-chair the Georgia House Mental Health caucus. What effect is discriminatory legislation like gender-affirming care bans aimed at LGBTQ+ kids in Georgia, and across the country, having on their mental well-being?

Sen. Kim Jackson: Well, I just talked to two young people today who are impacted by this legislation. And I asked them, “How does this impact you?” And their response was, “Well, some of us go out of state to get the medications that we need. And others of us have tried to kill ourselves.” Just flat out. It is killing kids. That’s how it impacts people.

In a speech to your colleagues about systemic racism, you said, “It’s obvious that no one would say there’s something inherent about Black people” that would produce negative statistics about them. Was that sarcasm? Isn’t that exactly what racists believe?

I don’t think anybody in that building would say it out loud, right? So it wasn’t exactly sarcasm. It was a nod to my colleagues who would never say that… out loud.

Georgia, and Atlanta in particular, have a reputation in the U.S. as the capital of a New South. If you only knew about Tyler Perry, and the massive hip-hop scene, and Stacey Abrams, and even Herschel Walker, you’d think that Black folks have an outsized influence in Georgia. Is that portrayal still accurate?

I mean, this is still the Black mecca, like, particularly the Black gay mecca of the South. One hundred percent. I think that Black queer folks are represented quite well, particularly in Atlanta politics. But even more broadly speaking, I think that Black folks in Georgia have more power than they would, say, in Mississippi. I guess it’s all about where your bar is. But yeah, I think that there is real political power in the hands of Black folks. But there’s still more political power in the hands of cisgender white folks.

Which leads to my next question: what’s something funny about the overwhelmingly white male majority in the Georgia legislature?

They all look alike.

(Laughing) You’re not only a state senator, but you earned a Master of Divinity, and you serve as an Episcopal priest. What’s the difference between you serving both the Church and as an elected official and Christian conservatives trying to model government on Christian principles?

I try to be the same person as a pastor at the church as I am at the Senate, which is to be a person who leads with love and compassion and kindness. And I think that is actually a core difference from my colleagues who have a more conservative view. They are not leading with love, compassion, and kindness. Instead, they are leading with exclusion. Oftentimes, hate and dismissal. Or trying to make people invisible.

But because they know I’m an ordained pastor, their ability to manipulate scripture has been thwarted. It makes it more difficult. I’m finding my colleagues are using less clearly religious language to talk about their religious objections because they’ve got a trained theologian who can rebut it.

People may be surprised to learn that you have at least one thing in common with Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. Sadly, it is that you were both swatted over the holidays last year. Can you share what happened and if you know why?

Yeah, sure (laughing). I was like, “Where are you going with this? I don’t have anything in common with Marjorie Taylor Greene!” Yes, so we were swatted the day after Christmas. My wife and I, along with our son, were just enjoying the next day after Christmas and playing with our little boy’s trucks when we got the kind of police knock that you recognize.

I looked out the window, and there were at least six cruisers lined up on our street. I knew what was happening immediately because other people had been swatted the day before, so I went out with my hands up and said, “My name is Senator Kim Jackson, we’ve been swatted.” There are guns pointed at me. It was really horrible.

Is there any follow-up on who did it and what their motivation was?

No. But I was swatted within 15 minutes of me tweeting out that swatting is, you know, every elected official’s worst nightmare and that nobody deserves to be swatted. Because my seatmate, Clint Dixon, had been swatted the day before. He’s a Republican, so perhaps that was a piece of it. I don’t really know. But I’m sure that the tweet definitely brought my name to people’s attention.  

In 2019, before you were elected, you served as chaplain of the day for the Georgia legislature and shared a moving homily about Jesus and the power of changing your mind. In her introduction. Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, a Republican, graciously called out your wife, Trina, in the audience and shared some facts about your life together. What did that acknowledgment mean to you?

I mean, that meant the world to me and to so many people. It may have been the first time in the House that they’d had a clearly out queer couple. After my homily, we do the receiving line, and I was anxious. Trina was there, I didn’t know these people. But they were so gracious and welcoming and warm. It was as if they’d never had a problem with queer people before.

You come from country people, as you shared in a speech from the well of the Georgia Senate, and you and Trina live on a small farm on Stone Mountain with Great Pyrenees dogs, goats, bees, ducks, chickens, and a cat. How do you divide your animal chores?

So, I often do the early morning feeding of the animals before I’m going to work, because when I’m gonna get home is super-unpredictable, and I do a lot of the more physically demanding chores. But my wife would argue that she does the more dangerous thing, because she tends all the beehives. So, one of them is more likely to hurt you than the other (laughing).

I was going to ask who is the beekeeper, and do you have a pic of one of you covered in bees?

(Laughing) No, we do not. We do not do that. I think that’s crazy (laughing). I don’t know why people do that. There are no pictures of one of us covered in bees because we do not allow our bees to cover us like that.

You’re also running a business out of your farm, as well, right?

If a business has to make a profit, then no, we don’t have a business (laughing). If you just have to have a license, then yes, we have a business that we continue to maintain. We sell eggs, duck eggs, and chicken eggs to our local neighborhood. And our newest adventure is we just installed 100 blueberries to create a “you pick” blueberry experience for our neighborhood.

How important is the small farm to America’s food ecosystem?

Everybody eats. And without farmers, you don’t have food. Food brings people together. Also, connecting people to where their food comes from is important, particularly for younger people. Being able to, like, open up the coop and show some curious teenagers the process of a chicken laying an egg has led to some very interesting conversations about ovulation and the reproductive system, which has been really fun.

The American farmer in general, particularly small American farmers, have had a really hard row to hoe, if you will. Because corporate farming is putting a lot of people out of business. And so we have a real responsibility to protect our family farms, if we want to make sure that we have local, sustainable food.

What is the single most important thing that we can do to address climate change?

I have to pick one? Hmmm. We have a responsibility to lower emissions, all of us, across the world.  

How did you and your wife meet, and who proposed to whom?

We met in seminary. My wife is an imam, a spiritual leader for her mosque, and she was getting a theological education at the same time that I was getting my Master of Divinity degree at Emory University. So we met there. And, I don’t know, she was cute, I was cute, we got together.

There wasn’t really a proposal at first, we just decided we wanted to marry each other, but my wife went and picked up the rings while I was at work, and she came to my office and got down on one knee and said the most beautiful words in the whole wide world, and asked for my hand in marriage. So, I will say that she proposed.

You ran for office and were elected in the midst of efforts by election deniers to prove Georgia’s vote was rigged, and you gave a speech with the homespun advice you learned from your father, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Has Georgia moved on from MAGA’s election denial scheme?

No, We have not moved on. We are still very much continuing to pass legislation to address a non-existent problem.

What’s an example of that?

Oh, we have a bill that’s being heard right now in committee, as we speak, that seeks to allow people to continue to challenge whether or not people are truly registered to vote. Because, you know, election deniers believe that dead people are voting, and non-American citizens, and I don’t know who else — I don’t listen to the conspiracy theories. But anyway, they are trying to make it really easy for anybody to challenge whether or not somebody really should be able to vote or not.

And what are the implications for 2024 for that kind of legislation?

The implications are that people’s names get scrubbed off of different voter rolls if they aren’t available to defend themselves, right? So somebody challenges it, they send you a notice, you don’t get the notice, or you don’t realize that the notice is real. And so you don’t go and defend yourself and prove that you do actually live where you live and that you are who you say you are. And so your name gets scrubbed, and then you show up to vote, and you’re not registered anymore. That’s what this does. Every time we pass one of these bills, it just continues to seed doubt into the minds of voters about whether or not our elections are secure.

Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss came to the public’s attention at the January 6 hearings when they testified about being election workers in Georgia on Election Night in 2020 and were accused by election deniers of trying to subvert the vote. One charge was they were passing a thumb drive that turned out to be a mint. Have you met them and how does the horror of their experience illustrate the corrosive effect of MAGA?

I haven’t met them, but since Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss went public with their story, you’ve had two things happen. One is that there have been people who have been intimidated and afraid to work at the polls. And then you’ve had other people who have been like, “Hell, no. I’m not gonna be intimidated.” And they have volunteered to come and work at polls, and we are really grateful for those folks who have refused to let the MAGA people win.

But also, it’s still really sad that we’re living in a world where election workers are afraid to go home at night because they don’t know if somebody’s gonna follow them. They don’t know if somebody’s going to accuse them of passing drugs. That was one of the other allegations, that they were passing vials of crack. It’s just wild and absurd.

I have some would-you-rather questions for you. Who would you rather be locked in a tiny bathroom with on a Mar-a-Lago reality show? South Carolina Senator Tim Scott or South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Mark Robinson?

Tim Scott.


Because I have a lot of questions for Tim Scott, particularly about who he loves.

Who would you rather have record your outgoing voicemail message? Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, or drunk Rudy Giuliani?

(Laughing) Definitely drunk Rudy Giuliani.

Who would you rather take confession from in a Georgia State Prison? Donald Trump or Mark Meadows?

Ooh, I think Mark Meadows. I don’t think that Donald Trump is capable of confessing, so that would be a very boring confession.

Who would win in a race to the bottom? Marjorie Taylor Greene or Herschel Walker?

Marjorie Taylor Greene. Herschel Walker is not smart enough to win any race.

Last question: what’s the best thing about serving the constituents of Georgia District 41?

I love that my district made history by electing me. They looked at me and said, “We don’t care that you’re a lesbian who’s married to a Muslim. We think that you can represent us well and we’re gonna step out for you.” Not only did they take a chance, but they voted overwhelmingly for me. I won in a four-way primary, which never happens without a runoff. Because my constituents said, “Yes. Let’s do this together.” And we made history together as a result of it. 

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