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Don't You Want Me – a photo series exploring the relationship between queer owners and rescue dogs

Don't You Want Me Project
(Image credit: Jack Jackson - Don't You Want Me Project)

A transgender photographer has been documenting the relationship between queer people and their rescue dogs in a photography series called Don’t You Want Me. The project follows a group of queer people who have found strength, purpose and unconditional love by giving a home to a rescue dog. 

Don’t You Want Me is the brainchild of Jack Jackson, a photographer and trans man who co-founded the project with Deb Klein after experiencing transphobia. Originally from a small island in the English Channel, Jackson relocated to Toronto, Canada in a moment of spontaneity. He left behind his job in finance and a life of heteronormativity to pursue a new adventure. After a few months of unemployment and worried about money, Jackson took to photography to document his surroundings.

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Working with dogs, fashion and the queer and trans community, Jackson founded the photography page alljackedup (now @jackjacksonto) in 2014 but shortly after, experienced the devastating effects of transphobia. Jackson found himself with no secure income, no support and the threat of homelessness. 

All over the world, there is still a huge problem with hate crimes against queer and trans people. In 2017, there were 52 homicides against LGBTQ+ people in the US – that’s one every single week. Jackson hopes that this project will open up the eyes and minds of a more mainstream audience and make them realize the simple truth: we all deserve to be loved. 

Transgender Awareness Week takes place every year between 13 - 19 November in the lead up to Transgender Day of Remembrance which memorialized victims of transgender violence. This project has particular significance this week as both founder and subjects have experienced violence and hate crimes due to their identity.

After living in terrible circumstances for over a year, Jackson was given the number for a boxer puppy advertisement and was told to call it as if his life depended on it. By February 2017, thanks to his new dog, life started looking up and he founded Doggy Dates Toronto – a dog walking and photography company.

Inspired by his own experience and transformation, Don't You Want Me was created to share the stories and photos of queer people all over the world who have found a new zest for life through owning a rescue dog. So far, the project has included people from Brighton (UK), Melbourne and Toronto and Jackson has no intention of ending the project any time soon. 

By documenting the relationship between queer people, their rescue dogs and the transformation both owner and animal have gone through, Jackson has created a topic of discussion: who rescued who? These symbiotic relationships are much more than just an owner and their pet: they played equal parts in bringing each other a new meaning to life. Many of the queer people Jackson has documented struggled with social anxiety, depression, identity, self-worth and didn't have any direction of purpose. Similarly, the rescue dogs had been abandoned, mistreated and were desperately in need of love.

Reuben, a transman from Brighton, UK spoke about his dog Luna, “I do think that a part of me was trying to heal myself by taking care of someone else that was broken and forgotten, our new skinny, sick, terrified Lunie-bear. Going from being so scared to be left alone, not having a name or knowing how to walk on a lead to being her happy, balanced, wonderful self has been nothing short of a joy to behold. Taking a lead in her rehabilitation gave me the purpose and connection that I was craving. I'd say that Luna has been my most significant driver for continuing on even when things feel too much.”

We already knew that pets hold a special place in our hearts, but the rescue dogs featured in these stories really did save lives and vice versa. For queer people, dogs offer judgment-free, unconditional love in a world that is often all too quick to criticize and for the dogs, they've found a loving, forever home with people who can give them the time and attention they need. 

If you'd like to read more stories of queer people and their rescue dogs or if you'd like to take part in the project yourself, head to the Don't You Want Me website where you can see the full list of participants. 

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Hannah Rooke

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specialises in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylised product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.