Flex Jonez The Entertainer:Transgender activist, performer tells all
Featured photo by Jesse Wolfe
Entertainer, podcast host, vlogger, event promoter, advocate and motivational speaker are among the many hats that Flex Jonez, 56, wears. He is an avid transgender activist and a Renaissance man in the entertainment industry.
Jonez was born in Greensboro but was raised in New Jersey and New York from the age of 2. He moved to Laguna Beach California in 1983, only to return to New York in 1986, and then he moved back to North Carolina in the 1990s. He lived in various towns across the state before he settled down in Winston-Salem in 2009, where he now resides.
“Winston-Salem has got it,” he said. “When it comes to being safe when it comes to being very cordial, supportive, warming and welcoming, and very diverse, Winston is the town.”
In the early 2000s, Jonez said he appeared on the Maury Show in an episode, which he said happened to the be the very first American televised episode surrounding trans male narratives.
“We told them that we were willing to do this, but we are not going to talk about sex, and you’re not going to make this into a reality show, you are going to make this an educational show,” he said.
Jonez was willing to tell his story, but he did not want to be a spectacle. He said he was one of five others and the only person of color that would share his story. Jonez said he was excited to do the Q and A with the audience members because he wanted to help educate them about transgender people and what it is like to transition.
“The experience was what I needed to tell everyone I knew,” he said. “Prior to coming to North Carolina, I lived in New York and New Jersey, I began my life in the entertainment industry. So, I knew a lot of people.”
One person that did not know about his life-changing decision was his father, who he was very close with. About three weeks after the show, his father gave him a call and drove to visit him which was when he was informed of the transition.
“He got there, I hugged him, and I said, ‘have you noticed anything different,’ he said, ‘well, your voice is deeper.’”
Jonez said that he lied and said that his allergies were acting up, but his father called his bluff and then remarked on how “beefy” he looked. His father finally asked what was going on and Jonez told his father that he was in the process of transitioning from a female to a male.
“He said, ‘thank goodness ’ And I was like, ‘are you OK?’ And he said, ‘look if it is going to stop you from killing yourself if it is going to stop you from being an asshole,’ I mean, he just went down the line,” Jonez said. “He said, ‘if this is going to stop it, I don’t care. If you are going to live another day without all of this, I don’t care.’”
Jonez’s father told him that he loved him, that he would always be his baby, and to not let anyone take away his happiness.
“His support was so overwhelming versus the community and the people I knew,” Jonez said of his father.
Jonez started his transition when he was 16 years old. He said he did what he had to do to survive on the streets, and then he got involved with the LGBT and leather communities.
“The leather and older LGBT community, they helped raise me, they help me survive,” he said.”And I learned to respect that because the old saying back then was, ‘what is given to you now, you pay it forward back in the community.’ So, that is why I have been so active in the community constantly.”
To give back, Jonez has housed, fed LGBTQ+ folks in need and has advocated on their behalf so that they could get back on their feet. He has been a panelist at several different seminars at various local colleges and has even won an award for his service to the community.
Last September, Jonez won the 2017 Transgender Activist Award with Liam Hooper at the Transgender Health Conference held in Winston-Salem by Wake Forest and Dr. David Bathory.
Jonez said he was very pleased and honored to be recognized.
“It gave some awareness and knowledge, it helped educate a lot of people who have never dealt with the trans community,” he said of the health conference.
Jonez said he collected everyone’s business card from that conference because “something big was going to happen” and that community would be needed.
“And that is where the grassroots organization 5th Ave. Alliance/LGBTSAP came in,” Jonez said. “5th Ave. Alliance is an LGB-Transgender stability assistance project. What that does is what I have been doing for 20-something years.”
Jonez said 5th Ave. Alliance helps people through five avenues of success: education, housing, employment, health/wellness, and legal assistance.
“Many of us don’t go to shelters, doctors, or services that are very unaccommodating and uncomfortable,” he said. “And sometimes by looking at our community, they look at us at face-value as outcasts.”
According to the website, while waiting on its 501(c)(3), 5th Ave. Alliance is a “beneficial structured program geared toward the stability, success and survival skills of the LGB-Transgender community members.” Jonez said it is registered within the state of North Carolina as a nonprofit organization.
(5th Ave. Alliance is raising funds through a GoFundMe campaign.)
For Pride Winston-Salem this weekend, Flex will be making an appearance as “an entertainer aka king performer” on the community stage at the festival on Saturday and said he “has a big surprise for everybody.”
“I will say this, that this year there will be even more performers, and there will be dancers in my number. I come in with a bang every time,” he said.
To learn more about Jonez, tune in nightly to his vlog streaming live on Facebook (and then later added to YouTube) called “The Real-nez N Reality Talk Show.”
You can also visit his “about me” page at www.about.me/flexjonez or read an article in Drag Mag International to learn more about him, www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/971725.
Katie Murawski is the editor of YES! Weekly. She is from Mooresville, North Carolina and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in film studies from Appalachian State University in 2017.