Jett Jonelis (they/she)


Sioux Falls


ACLU of South Dakota

June 2021 marks decades of celebrating LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit Pride Month in our state. 

Yet we know Pride isn’t just about the parades, glitter, and festivals. Hear from Jett, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager, on what Pride is to them.

Then share what Pride means to you online with #PrideIs or fill out the form below to share your story. 

Share your story 

Jett is a recent addition to the ACLU family and is dedicated to working in community with activists, organizers, and changemakers across the state to create a more just and equitable world for all South Dakotans. 

Pride is ______. Fill in the blank.

Pride is powerful! 

How does working at the ACLU help you show your Pride year-round?

Whether I’m testifying against anti-trans bills at the legislature, having one-on-one meetings with advocates across the state, or preparing a presentation for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit allied faith leaders, my work at the ACLU keeps me on my toes and keeps my identity central to my work year-round. Being nonbinary and working in advocacy in South Dakota is challenging, but my work can be so restorative because it keeps me deeply engaged with a beautiful community of LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit folks and the people who love us.  

What is your go-to song that gets you ready to take action?  

“Body Was Made” by Ezra Furman is one of my favorite songs of all time! Ezra describes it as “a protest song against the people and forces that would make me ashamed of my body, my gender, and my sexuality. It's a declaration of freedom from false authority and self-appointed social police who have given me grief all my life.” I listened to it a lot during session this year because I find it really healing.  

What do you have to say to politicians who support anti-LGBTQ+ legislation?  

Your support for these bills is doing real damage to people you have been elected to represent. Many of these bills are targeted at young transgender people specifically, causing unimaginable pain and trauma for these children and their families. Despite what you may have heard, we are just people who want the same things as every other person – to live freely and authentically, to be supported, accepted, and loved for who we are. We need bold leaders who will fight for the freedom and prosperity of all South Dakotans, including LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people. 

What businesses do you see supporting Pride month that should be showing up outside of these 30 days to support queer folks year-round?  

Businesses wield a lot of power when they decide what areas and what people to invest in, and how they choose to use that power in purported support of the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community can be complicated, contradictory, and even harmful. For example, Amazon and AT&T can participate in pride parades and even sign onto letters like this saying they are against anti-trans bills while still having corporate PACs that donate money to supporters of anti-trans bills. Walmart can have a full pride selection during June while refusing to take action against anti-trans bills that are driving trans kids and their families from their home state of Arkansas and using their corporate PAC to donate to supporters of anti-trans bills. Many businesses choose to support the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit community in rhetoric rather than action and we need to come together to demand more – divestment from politicians who support anti-LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit bills and investment in LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities.  

Why is visibility, whether it be in government or pop culture, so important?  

It is so essential and so powerful for LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit folks to see people like us in every role and in every space. Having queer representation empowers us to envision our future, sometimes in ways that we never even allowed ourselves to dream of before. Many young LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit people have a hard time seeing the pathways ahead of them because of the discrimination they are experiencing in their families, schools, and communities. However, when they see people like Mauree Turner, the first nonbinary state representative, or Lil Nas X, a chart-topping gay musical artist, or Elliot Page, an Oscar-nominated transgender actor, they see those pathways illuminated. 

What advice would you give to your younger self?  

Be kind to yourself. You don’t need to have everything figured out now or ever. Try as they might, nobody can ever tell you who you are, so trust yourself and follow your heart.  

Join Jett's work to make South Dakota better for everyone my taking the Pride Pledge today! 

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