Laughing with Jeffrey Jay

by Dillon Riley / Beacon Staff • November 13, 2013

At first glance, standing onstage in the Multipurpose Room, Jeffrey Jay seemed like most up-and-coming stand-up comedians. Blessed with a thin, reedy voice and an even thinner beard, Jay talked about his intense fear of ghosts, and the fact that he was once a woman. 

As presented by Emerson Mane Events and on-campus improv comedy troupe Stroopwafel, Jay’s stand-up show served as the second event of last week’s Transgender Awareness festivities. Jay’s off-hand storytelling and laid-back comedic style showcased a lighter side of the transgender identity.

“We were looking for something that would break up a bit of the seriousness that comes with this topic,” said Tikesha Morgan director of Multicultural Student Affairs and LGBTQ Resources. “We wanted someone to come in who could bring something different, so we really searched for transgender comics and Jeffrey kept popping up.”  

After a brief improv set from Stroopwafel, Jay stepped up to the mic and wasted no time dipping into his experiences as a transgender man. His story about his transition from a lesbian into a gay man, in particular, drew some big laughs.

“I went from a fully-formed, attractive lesbian woman into a 16 year-old boy,” said Jay. 

As a stand-up comedian first and foremost, Jay took strides to make his jokes relatable to everyone in the audience. However, he bills himself as a transgender comic, and much of his material is based on his life.

“It depends on the show, but I’d say about 50 percent is based on my experiences,” said Jay. “It’s definitely a good source of humor, since nobody else really has jokes from that perspective.”

It’s true: few comedians can make jokes about tracking their gender transitions through family photos, or about how embarrassed they are to wear letterman jackets from high school that still have female names on them. 

Jay’s show didn’t stop when the jokes ended, though. Immediately after his set ended, he opened the floor to the audience by holding an impromptu Q & A session about his experiences as a transgender person. Saying he is “un-offendable,” Jay was open to any question, no matter how crude. 

While the crowd was very respectful in its questioning, Jay was still sure to inform the audience that as a transgender, he is very unique. He explicitly warned the audience that most transgender people are not as open to discussion as he is. 

One particularly important question he broached was a definition of what’s called the “transition” from one gender into another; or how there is not one set interpretation. As he explained, a transition can be made up of whatever the person is comfortable doing, and not all transgender people go through invasive surgeries.   

Despite doling out some heavy information, Jay was able to maintain the flow of his set while taking questions from the audience, making for an entertaining lesson on a subject few in the audience seemed to be well versed in.

“I think that with this topic, it’s really something we don’t know a lot about yet, and people tend to have a lot of questions,” said Morgan. “So I think it’s great the way he did, since the humor still carried on in the question part with his answers.”

As a comedian, Jay has gained some notoriety in his native state of Texas in particular, helped largely by his specific comedic point of view. 

“When you Google ‘white comedian,’ you’ll never find who you’re looking for, but when you do ‘Transgender comedian,’ I’m like the first one to pop up,” said Jay. 

On a night filled with big reveals, none was bigger than the one he issued on his first joke.

“I’m gonna come out to you guys now. I’m from Texas.”