Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series during each week of June for Pride Month that features prominent LGBTQ+ residents in Juneau that have made a positive impact on the capital city.
Looking up to the top of the flagpole outside the Hurff A. Saunders Federal Building downtown Thursday afternoon, Jane Hale squinted her eyes as small rain droplets fell past the newly raised LGBTQ+ flag blowing in the wind above and to her and the ground below.
It was cloudy and dreary, but she was smiling.
She was Jane.
Jane moved to Juneau in 1995, and raised five children in the capital city, she said, thinking they’d only stay for a few years. However, fast forward nearly 20 years, Jane said somewhere down the line “I woke up one morning and it was home.”In 2011, she met her partner, CBJ Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale.
For most of her life Jane was known in Juneau — and everywhere else — as Jim, a man who very few knew was hiding a secret.
But that changed in February of 2022 when Jane came out as transgender in a Juneau Empire column at 69 years old with support of her children, wife and friends.
“I’ve never felt comfortable as a man,” Jane wrote in her story. “That said, I’ve been a pretty successful man for 69 years. But I’ve always hated having to act “like a man.” It seems like a joke that I pull it off, like some grand Mulanesque masquerade. But I don’t pull it off very well. So now I’m dropping the façade and coming out.”
The story became the first of a bi-weekly column series she began writing in the Empire called “Coming Out,” which for the last year and a half has tackled hard-hitting topics like identity, sexuality and religion — but also hit on lighter topics like poetry, riding horses and her love of mustard.
“My real agenda is just to show that it may be uncommon, but it’s not abnormal — what I wanted to do was write a column that was assertively normal,” she said.
Soon after her first column was published, Jane quickly became a public figure in Juneau for her openness to talk about her journey publicly and unapologetically. Jane said that was the point.
“It’s strange — I’ve gotten such nice comments from people who just stop me on the street and say they don’t know me, but know my picture from the paper, and thank me for writing,” she said. “More than anything it’s about the feeling — to be public and be unafraid to be public about who you are.”
Now, a year and a half later and dozens of columns in her “Coming Out” series published, Jane decided that her final story in the series would be released this week. Looking back on her experience and the things she learned along the way, Jane struggled to put it into words.
“I feel speechless,” she said. “For me it was just a way to explore things in public and to not be afraid of it — I’m just trying to be myself — and be open and free about the ways I feel about myself.”
Jane said she hopes her column helped people in Juneau see the joy she has found unapologetically exploring who she is — and who she will become. As Pride Month begins, Jane said she wanted to thank the community in Juneau for its acceptance and kind reaction to her coming out story, and she thanked her children, wife and friends for their support.
“I think the point is we’re just all trying to be ourselves, that’s all I am trying to do,” she said, still smiling.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807.