Alex Jenny discusses healing in keynote

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Monday, April 2nd, 2018. Alex Jenny presentation kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Monday, April 2nd, 2018. Alex Jenny presentation kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

Tasman Mattox

Alex Jenny spoke softly, but every word they said hit with intention in the Kirkhof Center Monday, April 2. Jenny is a therapist, model and actor who runs various social media with their partner, Effee Nelly. They came to speak at Grand Valley State University for Sexual Assault Awareness Week. Jenny was brought to GVSU by Campus for Consent, an organization that is holding various events throughout the month. 

“Campus for Consent is a sexual assault peer education group,” said Jessica Goodwin, Campus for Consent vice president. “We do educational events and present for organizations on campus. I joined two years ago and really just wanted to get involved with something about sex assault.”

Goodwin said she had actually heard Jenny speak before and was motivated to bring them to campus.

“I actually saw them speak right after I joined Campus for Consent at a sexual violence conference, and they were fantastic,” she said. “It was really inspiring. I hope that feeling that I got after I heard them speak will encourage other people to get involved. They work as a trauma therapist with a focus on queer and trans youth and people of color. They have a perspective that doesn’t get shared so much.”

Jenny accepted the offer to speak with enthusiasm.

“I couldn’t say no. What an amazing opportunity,” they said. “It’s humbling every single time. There’s a lot of cognitive dissonance. I feel like a trash human, but all these people seem to really admire me. I was particularly excited because it was my hometown. My family came to see me. That was a first time they had ever seen me be that raw and authentic.”

The keynote resonated for each person uniquely.

“I think the best part of the event was when Alex talked about their feeling towards healing, how they were going through healing, and afterwards how they addressed other people’s questions about healing and said it’s more of a process than something that’s going to happen right now,” said Kelly McCormack, a GVSU freshman who attended the event.

Jenny said being able to share with an audience is very meaningful.

“It’s exhilarating for me, and I love being able to connect people,” they said. “It’s such a visceral way of feeling everything I’m saying. Even though it’s scary to say out loud, I feel like people are receptive and open and celebrating it. And then in my own way, I’m able to see other people’s pain and acknowledging their struggles. We’re sitting in this magical sacred space together.”

The keynote itself focused on healing from trauma. 

“Alex did a good job connecting your own healing to healing as a community and as a society, but still focusing in on yourself and how to work on that before talking about the big picture,” McCormack said.

Jenny hopes students start to cultivate love in their lives.

“Just get to know one another and take care of one another,” they said. “Why did we spend all this time trying to get other people who do to acknowledge us? Those people do not matter at the end of the day. We have to cultivate connection and growth. If I were to go back, I would have shifted the focus of organizations to create community, and be intentional with what that means and what community can look like. “

Jenny is still trying to heal and wants others to know that the path is there, too.

“Honestly, the reason why I’m a therapist, modeling now, creating this blog, is because I so desperately am trying to heal, and these things help me heal,” they said. “It’s me pushing myself to be the person I fantasize about. Despite this hyper-polished brand, we are still imperfect and can be toxic. 

“We’re not infallible. We wanted to create the representation we so desperately needed. It’s possible to create a path to a healthy relationship to others and to ourselves.”