Braving age-old identity issues in a digital world


Jo Jackson came out when she was 16 years old. Her family and close friends supported her, but the writer noticed the distinct lack of visibility of the gay community online. Instead of receiving recognition and understanding, people still felt they had to hide their queerness in digital spaces. When she returned to South Africa after travelling and studying in Europe, she overcame her initial fears about the reaction she would receive and began to create digital content that openly acknowledges and celebrates her identity.

“By making a brave space for myself, I hope to make space for others,” Jackson says on her blog, Call me Koeksisters. Together with other local creatives, Jackson uses new media to tackle age-old problems that queer women still face today. In particular, she creates bold, eye-catching GIFs, many of which accompany Hard Earned, a series of coming-of-age stories Jackson wrote that depict issues relating to objectification, queerness, vulnerability, and body image. She is also a talented writer, holding a Master’s in Creative and Life Writing from Goldsmiths.

By starting public conversations around topics that others may consider shameful, Jackson is contributing to a fairer representation of the queer community. Determined to tell these stories in as many ways as possible, her GIFs have been featured in digital exhibitions and local online publications. Jackson’s decision to reclaim a space designed for interaction and connection is deliberate. In doing so, she is building a platform that connects queer South Africans and allows them to feel seen, and safe.