People

Inside Change with Pony Knowles

Mar 31, 2021

Fast facts about Pony:

  • I’m 41 and ¾ years old. Please don’t forget that ¾ because I’m loving my forties and I don’t want to miss out on any of them.
  • My life is currently managed by a fluffy cat who is 21 years old and loves to eat pizza.
  • Former jobs include: jumping out at people in a haunted house, being a carny at Coney Island, teaching 19th-century French literature, running an activist summer camp for young organizers.
  • The first 3 albums I ever owned were: Run DMC, MJ’s Thriller, and Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits.  I think they’re still some of the best albums ever made.
  • The last book I read: Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson. I can and will talk about this endlessly to anyone who will listen.
  • My favorite flower is gardenias. 
  • If I could outlaw one food, it would be raisins.

Does your identity inform your work? If so, how? 

Trans people are natural problem-solvers, creative organizers, and change-makers. In the face of incredible odds, we find small and large ways to thrive, to nurture each other, and to foster community. For me, I’ve found that the best way to survive and thrive is to work in deep solidarity with people and communities who have found ways to access resilience when the odds are against us. That’s a big part of why I came to work at Change.org.

What’s the best part of getting to work with petition starters?

As both a human and an organizer, I believe that any meaningful action must end up in creating more love and greater possibility in the world, and that starts on the personal level. I get to work with change-makers and petition starters from all kinds of backgrounds who just need a rooftop to shout from. Every single day, I help them build a strategy and then hold a ladder for them to get up there and to get heard. And even better, I get to help them win what they need to win, when they weren’t  even sure it was possible.

What does visibility mean to trans staff and petition starters at Change?

Visibility can be a pretty fraught concept for lots of tgnc folks. In many ways, we crave less visibility, because all of us have been terrorized by people who want to reduce us to a couple of choice body parts. But visible leadership of trans and gender non-conforming people is incredibly powerful. 54% of tgnc youth have considered suicide in the last year—but 80% of tgnc people of all ages say that seeing influencers, leaders, and celebrities who identify as tgnc has positively impacted their self image. 

I am by no means a celebrity to anyone other than my cat, but I want every single tgnc person out there to know that if you start a petition, you will have expert support from trans-identified campaigners who understand what it’s like to face what you are facing. I want to see you seize tools of power that we can help you grasp, and to help you forge the path ahead that you need in order to thrive. 

What is the most effective way to address gender equity? How should organizations support allyship?  

Like anything worth changing, there’s both an individual and institutional answer here. 

  • If you’re cisgender, fully and deeply recognize that being cisgender is a fundamental part of your gender identity. As long as being cis remains an invisible category, gender equity is impossible. If you’re trans or gender non-conforming, learn to expect more and ask for more. Nourish empathy and intersectionality. Dream bigger. 
  • On an institutional level, equity of any kind is about access to resources. Hire trans employees and give them room to bring their creative power to the work you’re doing. Hire trans contractors to do small things. Refuse to work with suppliers who don’t have any TGNC workers on staff.