Is Eddie Izzard transgender?
Most people know Eddie Izzard for his stand-up comedy, but he’s multi-talented – to say the least. He has performed on stage in French and German, run 27 marathons in 27 days across South Africa and he has appeared in numerous Hollywood films, from Ocean’s Twelve to Valkyrie.
Izzard has also long been engaged in political activism – particularly as a pro-EU campaigner – and this year was appointed to the Labour Party’s governing body, a move lauded by supporters of LGBT+ representation in politics.
The comedian, who has described himself as a transvestite in the past, identifies as transgender and has previously vowed to become one of the first trans people elected to Parliament.
Launching his bid for the Labour Party position, Izzard talked about coming out as transgender in the 1980s – and how his experience influenced his politics.
“I have always fought for the campaigns that I believe in, even when they are unpopular or I’ve been advised against it,” he said.
“I came out in 1985, joined the Labour Party in 1995 and I have now campaigned for LGBT rights, for the Labour Party for Europe and have run marathons for charities for many years.”
Izzard has frequently spoken about how coming out allowed him to tackle challenges head-on – whether it is running multiple marathons for charity, or launching a career in politics.
“I think coming out as transgender allowed me to put myself in other terrifying situations and work them out once I was in them,” he said in an interview with the Guardian in 2017.
“I knew I would get through the bad, terrifying bit – and there was a lot of that when I was a street performer – and eventually get to a more interesting place.”
“If you are coming out as transgender or gay or lesbian, it’s such a tough rite of passage and quest,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
“It assaults your senses because, back in ‘85, everyone said, ‘No, no. Hide about it.’ I just thought they were all wrong. The humiliation period, the initial period, is so tough. If you keep at it, it gets better.”
Izzard presents as male and female and has said he identifies as “somewhat boy-ish and somewhat girl-ish.”
He explained his identity further in the BBC Three programme Eddie Izzard: Marathon Man, which followed the comic as he ran 43 marathons in 51 days for Sport Relief in 2016.
“Being a transgender guy, I do like my nails and they’ve been knocked about a bit so I’m getting my nails re-done,” he said, speaking from a salon.
“I use it as a badge of identity. I am a transgender guy… I’ve got boy genetics and girl genetics.
“It doesn’t matter what sex or sexuality, how you identify or who you fancy – it matters not one whit.
“What do you do in life? What do you create? What do you add to the human existence – that is what matters.”
Izzard has also said he does not believe in calling dresses “women’s clothes.”
“Women have total clothing rights and I have total clothing rights, and I’m not wearing women’s clothes, I am wearing clothes,” he said as a guest on ITV’s Loose Women last year.
As an outspoken campaigner for transgender rights, Izzard has talked about standing his ground against transphobic abuse and harassment.
In 2016, Izzard told a court how he was forced to defend himself against a man who shouted abuse at him outside his London home.
Giving evidence at the trial of Jamie Penny, who was found guilty of two counts of using threatening and abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, Izzard said transgender people “have been aggressively attacked” for “hundreds of thousands of years.”
“I just thought, it is not going to happen – I am going to attack back with words,” he said.
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The comedian has also spoken about the gender-neutral toilet debate – an issue which entered the spotlight after the US government revoked protections allowing transgender students to use the toilets of their gender identity.
Going to the toilet is something lots of us don’t think twice about, but many transgender people are forced to choose between using a toilet that matches their gender identity or one that does not.
Denying trans people access to a safe toilet can trigger feelings of discrimination and segregation – as well as increasing the risk of harassment and assault.
“If you just take out urinals, then everyone can use them,” he told the Hollywood Reporter.
“You can solve it right now. Just rip them all out. Let’s share so everyone is equal. It gets rid of so many things in one fell swoop.”