26 Instagram post by the episode’s director, Ryan Case.
“This is Jackson Millarker,” Case wrote in the post with a picture of the two. “He’s 8 years old, from Atlanta, and just happens to be transgender. He plays Lily’s friend Tom in this week’s Modern Family and he’s wonderful. One of the many reasons I love being a part of this show.”
National and international headlines followed, with interview requests for the Millarkers from all over, including for an Oct. 7 New York Times story on young transgender actors.
In the episode, married couple Cam and Mitch (Stonestreet and Ferguson) allow their daughter Lilly (Anderson-Emmons) to have her trans friend Tom—played by Jackson— over for a play-date. Their pride in raising an open-minded daughter diminishes when Lilly insults her new friend, which they use as a teachable moment. It’s a brief appearance by Jackson but he’s part of a storyline that is central to the episode.
“I think the way they did it was perfect,” Jen says.
‘Elf’ and a keynote speech next
As for what’s next for Jackson, he’ll be playing Fake Santa in the Decatur Community Players’ holiday production of “Elf.” And he’s already been named the keynote speaker of THEA’s Family Symposium next May.
There aren’t many 8-year-old keynote speakers out there, but there’s no reason for concern on Jackson’s part—he just gave a speech in June in front of 400 nurses at the Georgia Convention for School Nurses. He stood on a chair so he could reach the podium microphone and talked about his experiences as a transgender kid in the Dekalb County school system.
“I know there’s lot of talk about which bathroom kids that are transgender should use. People are worried about what their kids will think, see or hear. But I have the inside scoop, and it may not be what you think,” he said.
He talked about identifying as a girl in kindergarten before identifying as a boy in second grade, and how his anxiety over it disappeared because of the support from his family, his school and his peers.
“My hope is that you can provide the same support to your students. Please remember that we are all human. We must treat each other with kindness and love, and please continue supporting your children through their journey. Thank you for being a part of mine.”