Structured support and individual understanding: what I learned from Jake and Hannah Graf
By Louise Scodie, NABS Senior PR and communications manager
Jake and Hannah Graf are high-profile LGBTQ+ activists and trans parents to daughter Millie – with another baby on the way. I was delighted to interview them for a NABS Talk during LGBTQ+ History Month 2022, where we discussed working parent life, how best to support parents going through the surrogacy journey and the lack of trans representation in advertising.
Summarising my key learnings at the end of the talk was quite the challenge. We had such a rich conversation, during which Jake and Hannah were wonderfully open about their experiences in their personal and professional lives. However, if I had to narrow my takeaways, this is what I’d go with:
Mental and emotional help is vital for working parents, especially for new parents.
As a working parent myself, I know this to be true – and NABS is passionate about providing this kind of support. It was interesting to hear from Hannah that enabling seemingly small conversations about parenthood can be a great way of providing support. These chats can validate people’s feelings, normalise the journey and provide a much-needed outlet for venting, sharing and understanding.
I knew very little about surrogacy before speaking with Jake and Hannah. By sharing their experience, they really opened my mind to the unique nature of the surrogacy journey and the need to provide tailored support to those going through it. Your organisation may have parental or adoption policies. But does it have a surrogacy policy? Hannah pointed out that there is generally less understanding and knowledge around surrogacy. Luckily, she could rely on the goodwill of her employers when she explained what she needed in the lead-up to Millie’s birth. But structured support is what’s needed for all. It was also fascinating to find out that there is a whole community of potential surrogate mothers, as well as people wanting to become parents via surrogacy, on Facebook – which is where Jake recommended that people start their search if they would like to embark on this journey.
I found it particularly interesting to hear about how the lack of trans representation affected Jake and Hannah, especially when they were growing up. Any representation that did exist was generally negative and other than that there was nothing. The mental and emotional ramifications of that continue to weigh heavily on many trans people to this day, as representation, although improved somewhat, is still not where it could be. The narrative around trans people, the pair pointed out, is still extreme:
89% of people in this country have not knowingly met a trans person, and what they’re likely to read about trans people in the media won’t necessarily be positive.
It’s no wonder that Jake and Hannah recommended that we have a critical eye when reading about trans people, as a way to better support trans colleagues. They also recommended that we take time to understand trans colleagues as individuals, and when creating work, to ask where the trans voice is – a way forward into authentic representation.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in this blog, call the NABS Advice Line for confidential support on 0800 707 6607 between 9am – 5.30pm or email firstname.lastname@example.org