Interview with Jordan Raskopoulos: Comedian, musician, advocate and digital content creator
Jordan Raskopoulos is a comedian, musician and digital content creator. She is a director of Press Start Productions, host of This is About, and is the lead singer The Axis of Awesome. In 2016 Jordan came out as transgender in a viral video called What's Happened to Jordan's Beard? Since then Jordan has become an inspiration to young LGBTQIA+ people by living her genuine life. We caught up with Jordan to talk about her career and using her platform to promote awareness and understanding to a broad audience through humour.
It is just over a year ago since you publicly revealed that you are a transgender woman. Can you tell us how the last year has been for you?
The last year has been pretty crazy. There was a flurry of press and public interest initially, but I was always pretty focused on maintaining continuity with my life. The band continued to tour, we put out a new album and things eventually normalised.
Has it has an impact on your work?
I was quite aware that things would change for some of the work I do. The opportunities I have for acting, or voice over work, have shifted. When I was presenting as a guy, I'd go to a lot of castings, there's a lot of roles out there for a ‘30 something portly white guy’. Now I don't really go to castings that often. I still get acting work, but it's generally because they want me specifically, or there's a transgender character.
I've always created my own work and opportunities in the past and I am fortunate that I can continue to do that.
You’ve also become a strong advocate for the representation of transgender people in the Australian media. How does that responsibility sit with you?
I'm aware that I'm very fortunate to have the opportunities I do, and I acknowledge that there were opportunities I was able to take advantage of, because I presented as a man for the first 32 years of my life. I feel like I would not have had those opportunities if I had transitioned earlier.
I don't feel guilty about this situation, but I do want to acknowledge the inequity that exists, and I do feel a responsibility to use the position I have to raise awareness, and to help open the doors for other transgender performers.
Do you think the Australian media can improve its representation of transgender people in the media?
Without a doubt. We can start by actually hiring transgender actors for transgender roles. We can also make sure we create trans roles that are interesting and go beyond existing tropes. Transgender people are severely underrepresented in the media, and when we are represented, it's often pretty clichéd.
There's historically been two trans tropes in media. There's the sad trans woman who is failing at being a woman - she is old, she doesn't pass or dress well and she trips in her high heeled shoes - this character type is generally portrayed by a cisgender male actor.
The other trope is "the trap", usually played by a cis woman, a character who is presumed to be a cisgender woman and has a romantic relationship with another character but is revealed to be trans during the course of the story causing distress for her lover. This character is often humiliated or meets a violent end. Transgender men are rarely represented.
We also need more trans representation in mundane roles. There seems to be this excuse going around that cis actors are hired for trans roles because there aren't any good trans actors. If that is true then it is because trans actors aren't given the opportunity to hone their craft. We need more trans actors playing minor roles and roles where their trans status isn't relevant to the plot.
When you came out as transgender you already had a huge following as part of The Axis of Awesome. Many artists can lose control of their image when the media takes control of events so coming out as transgender and keeping control must have seemed like a epic task. Can you tell us about how you planned to take hold of your own narrative and has it worked for you?
It was important for me to try and tell as much of my story myself and I was lucky that I had the platform to do that. Our YouTube channel has over 300,000 subscribers so it was the ideal place to make the announcement. I made sure that I came out with a piece of content that reflected the nature of the work I'd made in the past. I was well known for putting funny videos on the internet. So I made a funny video on the internet called What's Happened to Jordan's Beard?
I knew that I couldn't completely control how the media reported on the story beyond that so that video had to be like a press release in a lot of ways. I made sure that I included a lot of information in the video that I was happy to be redistributed. For example, I predicted that the media would want to publish before and after photos so I made sure that the video included photos that I was happy with. So when those articles come out they included my photos and not unflattering screenshots from an old of comedy routine.
In the end, the majority of the coverage was really positive.
You’re also a Screen NSW Diversity Partner, can you tell us about that?
I was asked to come on board late last year. There's a severe underrepresentation of women, queer people and people of colour in our industry and I want to be a part of making it better.
I feel like I have a fairly unique perspective because I've experienced the industry, as both a cis man and a trans woman, and I think my voice can contribute a lot to the debate.
You’ve been doing a lot of production on your YouTube channel for gamers, Insert Coin. You previously mentioned that it was three years in the making and now it's a fully sleek production with professional cast and crew. Can you talk us through how you built it up to what is now?
Lee Naimo and I started working on Insert Coin a few years ago. The Axis of Awesome has a song about the Nintendo Wii Fit. We found that this song got a baffled response from our mainstream audiences but brought the house down when we performed at gamer or pop culture conventions. So we decided to create a space where we could share our nerdy passions with an audience that would appreciate it.
You also have a popular podcast on ABC National Radio called This is About. Can you tell us about it?
I was brought on board to host This is About on RN last year. It's a narrative, non-fiction storytelling podcast. It features a wide variety of stories told by those who loved them. There's a story from a meteorologist who worked on the Apollo 11 mission, another from a deep sea diver speaking of his search for sunken treasure in Myanmar, and one of our most recent episodes is on surrogacy and egg donation in Australia. There's new episodes released every fortnight.
How do you come across the subjects for the podcast and how do you know which will make good stories?
Jesse Cox and Belinda Lopez are the producers of the show and are the ones responsible for sourcing and producing the stories. I come in quite late in the process. I get to listen to the story with fresh ears and then construct a narrative framework around it. It's a nice position to be in. I can come in and say, "ok we need to set this kind of tone for the piece and maybe we need a bit more back ground info here, this bit is quite dark maybe I should come in with a joke to link it to the next segment". I'll then record that and the episode is cut together.
You’re also started your own channel on the online video channel, Twitch. What is that about?
Yeah look, I'm a massive dork and I play lots of video games, I figured if I did live streaming then I could pretend that I'm at work.
It seems like you are a real advocate for ‘geeks and gamers’ too. What do you love about the gaming platforms?
I've always been a gamer. I got my first Nintendo in 1989 and haven't looked back. I think gaming has become a really interesting way to tell stories and it's remarkable what can be achieved.
I'm a big fan of the Mass Effect trilogy of games - a huge space opera with a canon on par with Star Wars - but the remarkable thing about the series is that the decisions you make in the early games have an affect on the later ones. So two people can play through this story and have vastly different experiences. Characters who, for me, died early in the first game are heroes who save the galaxy for another player.
Where do you want to go in the future?
I'd love to keep creating interesting comedy content and being an advocate for the LGBTIQ community.
I've also never been to Japan. I'd like to go there too.
For more Jordan check out these links:
Watch the youtube video