Founder of VideoOut; LGBTQ+ Storyteller; Google News Initiative Partner; Shared Humanity Advocate
Jordan Reeves (they/she/he) is a queer trans nonbinary community organizer who leads trainings and creates learning opportunities that guide people to a place of expanded understanding of the LGBTQ+ experience.
Jordan has worked for over 16 years to make education accessible to the masses. They now center LGBTQ+ identity, history, and culture, but it was a long journey to this work — a journey that started in one of the hardest places for LGBTQ+ people to live in the United States.
Jordan grew up in Hueytown, Alabama, in a devoutly religious, deeply conservative family. From a very early age, Jordan was taught that being LGBTQ+ was an abomination — so Jordan’s early years were a soul-crushing practice of repression. Countless nights of crying themself to sleep and praying they wouldn’t wake up the next morning, they felt broken and alone. Jordan often says the great work of their childhood was to construct a version of themself that was pleasing to other people.
Jordan had always poured into the conservative Christian church, which in their experience was the most adamant opposition to queerness. After an incredibly intense experience left Jordan feeling despondent, they simultaneously had a crisis of faith and a moment of personal clarity. They denounced Christianity, the faith they had practiced their whole life, and admitted for the first time to themself that they were in fact queer.
One day, Jordan’s college professor, Cliff Simon, shared his life’s story. It was the first time Jordan had ever heard anyone talk openly about being LGBTQ+. Cliff’s story saved Jordan’s life.
Coming out was a tremendously freeing experience, despite the adversity it surfaced. It catalyzed the most monumental period of change in Jordan’s life. At 25 years old, they left Alabama, the only home they had ever known, and moved to New York City. Everything was different — geographic location, culture, community, family, and most importantly, Jordan’s sense of self.
Shortly after moving to New York, Jordan started working for TED. They helped start TED-Ed, TED’s education initiative. At first, Jordan led ideation, compiling a list of 1,000 ideas, many of which turned into the animated content for which TED-Ed is now famous. To date, TED-Ed content has been viewed over 3 billion times online.
At TED, Jordan saw firsthand the power of digital content to reach people. If Cliff Simon’s story saved Jordan’s life, what is the power of hundreds of LGBTQ+ stories to save lives all over the world? Jordan left TED, and started VideoOut in 2016. They traveled all over the United States, and have built one of the world’s largest libraries of LGBTQ+ narratives.
Most recently, VideoOut partnered with Google to build the Language and Media Literacy Program, a deep exploration of LGBTQ+ language as it evolves into (and sometimes out of) mainstream culture.
VideoOut has also worked with partners like Marriott International, Hulu, Verizon, P&G, Airbnb, and the AARP. VideoOut is currently building the world’s first comprehensive database of educational resources that delve into LGBTQ+ identity, history, and culture.
In 2020, Jordan co-founded VOE to tell stories that are too often missing in the canon of television and film. They have worked with HBO to develop a television project, and they are currently building a diverse slate of LGBTQ+ entertainment content.
The Evolution of Language
Over thousands of years, humans have created a wide variety of languages, and almost all of them have one thing in common: they evolve over time. The words that make up our languages can be imperfect, incomplete, and complicated. They can be messy. But, when wielded correctly, words can also help us define ourselves, understand the world around us, and find our chosen family.
Understanding the origin, evolution, and current usage of words before you add them to your vocabulary is a way to unveil something deeper about the people the words describe.
For instance, words have been weaponized against the LGBTQ+ community—words like "faggot," "dyke," and "queer." But do those words still hold power over LGBTQ+ people?
In this comprehensive presentation, Jordan Reeves creates a platform for conversation.
Even as some of these words are being reclaimed, mastering their usage will transform the way all of us write and talk about the LGBTQ+ community, exponentializing empathy and fostering a world that's more like home for everyone—including queer and trans people.
The Expanse of Identity
Every single interaction most of us have had in the world has been limited by a massive assumption: there are only two genders.
A whopping 78% of people say that when they hear the term LGBTQ, they associate it with sexual orientation—but that leaves out core components of gender identity and expression.
Legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community—from censorship in classrooms to book bans to bans on evidence-based healthcare and access to school sports—is at a record-breaking high, with over 300 bills introduced in statehouses across the nation.
An overwhelming majority of this legislation targets Trans youth.
In a world where more than half (54%) of transgender and nonbinary people feel unsafe walking in their own neighborhoods, we must see gender is way more expansive than a binary.
How do we create a world where trans and nonbinary people have what they need?
In this custom presentation, Jordan outlines practical ways to incorporate gender inclusion in our daily lives, but it starts with breaking the binary and celebrating every gender—all 7.753 billion of them.
The Culture Rewrite
The story of the LGBTQ+ community's struggle for equality can be traced back to the way the cis-het majority treated queer people, from sentencing us to hard labor to legislation like "Don't Say Gay."
Even the stories that were told about LGBTQ+ folks were inaccurate and harmful, such as the designation of mentally ill predators.
And it's not just queer and trans people—every marginalized community has been the target of this kind of cultural discrimination.
So much creative energy and human power has been tied up in the effort to survive. So many lives depend on winning the war against injustice. But there are a quadrillion injustices. How do we fight them all? And is fighting really effective in a world where all the systems and institutions that allow society to function like it does are built on upholding the very things we’re battling?
What would happen if our collective focus was wielded to positively change our basic understanding of humanity?
Join Jordan Reeves as they explore these topics, creating an open forum for discussion, ideation, and problem solving that leaves audiences, motivated, inspired, and ready to act.
"Jordan's speaking and storytelling ability is incredible and truly a work of art. They captivated me with their ability to blend vulnerability, honesty, and inspiration into a moving testimony, with a dash of humor and humility as well. I was struck by even the small things such as their ability to hold the entire audience with their appropriately timed pauses. I highly recommend Jordan!" - Josh Nadzam, Cofounder of On the Move Art Studio
"We worked with Jordan on two occasions, and both were seamless and joyful. First we coordinated with Jordan to help locate and set up LGBTQ+ folks to have their coming-out stories recorded. We also worked with Jordan when they provided video and still photography for a listening session with our community. In both cases, communications were a breeze. The Borderland Rainbow Center would love to work with Jordan again." - Brenda Risch, Executive Director of Borderland Rainbow Center
"From the first contact, Jordan was a joy to work with. They are both friendly and passionate. They spent two afternoons with our ElderPRIDE group and made a video of anyone who wanted to tell their story. Since our group was close-knit, Jordan encouraged them to ask each other questions to elicit stories that may have been forgotten. The resulting videos are a treasure, especially because one of the participants passed away not too long after. Jordan was knowledgeable, a great interviewer, and a great addition to our work at Brooklyn Community Pride Center. We would love to work with them again." - Jude Kamilhor, Brooklyn Community Pride Center