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Travis Alabanza: Trans people are torn to shreds for entertainment

Amy Ashenden June 8, 2018
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Travis Alabanza, who has criticised PressGazette for awarding Janice Turner the prize, speaks to PinkNews in June.

Travis Alabanza convinced Topshop to implement a gender-neutral changing room policy. (PinkNews)

There’s a media witch hunt against trans people, and Travis Alabanza will not stand for it.

Artist-and-performer Alabanza spoke to PinkNews about the “epidemic of violence against trans people” and how dangerous it can be to use public transport while trans.

They told PinkNews: “What we’re finding particularly in the UK is a really well-organised media attack on trans folk.

“There’s this false dichotomy that trans people, particularly trans women and trans-feminine people, are abject to feminism. As if we’re separate things.

“What’s core to a trans politic is autonomy, consent and freedom over our body, which to me is the most feminist thing.

“The difference between [being trans] and how cis women experience harassment is that ours is coming from all sides – we are often harassed by not just men, but also women and children.

Alabanza has previously spoken out about media attacks on the trans community and being refused entry to changing rooms.

“Conversations around transness gets so quick to bathrooms and changing rooms that it’s never actually talking about what it means to be trans.

“There’s this kind of pretend that we’re creating a good space of visibility but actually what we’re creating is this kind of lion pit where we throw trans people in and watch them be torn to shreds for entertainment.

“All these pertinent issues get washed away in this fake fear created by transphobic people, TERFs and so-called feminists.”

Alabanza, originally from Bristol, is a performer and author of a chapbook that documents their experience of being a visible trans person in public.

“For me, my art was always a way of reclaiming the space that I wasn’t allowed in public,” they said.

Alabanza opens up about being harassed on public transport (PinkNews)

“People often talk about being a different person on stage, but for me going on stage was about being the person I couldn’t be on the streets.”

Alabanza opened up about the constant harassment trans people face using public transport – including their experience on a bus the day before our interview.

“What happens when we see gender non-conforming people outside is we victim-blame them for the violence we experience.

“It permeates into your whole life – many trans people I know suffer [from] severe anxiety, mental health issues, spend loads of money on private transport just to feel safe.”

What transphobia ignores, Alabanza explained, is that liberation for transgender people would be a win for people of all genders.

“We need to start realising that at the core of trans liberation, is liberation for all of us,” they said.

Alabanza told PinkNews they had been laughed at on public transport (PinkNews)

“When we create a society where trans people are free, people of all genders and gender expressions – cis and trans or neither – will be free.

“Gender is a violent construct that has been assigned to people without consent.

“When we liberate trans people, we’re actually giving people autonomy and it benefits all of society.

“I often think about the moment where boys painting their nails when they’re younger stops being cute and starts becoming an offence – when it stops being something clapped at the dinner table, and starts becoming something that we should hide.”

Alabanza felt uncomfortable being labelled a boy or a man from a young age, and finding the terms non-binary and genderqueer gave them a sense of freedom to play with gender.

They explained: “I really appreciate these terms because it really leaves things open for me, it tells me that some days I can be full of gender and other says I can be empty of it.

“There’s so many more possibilities than just man or woman.”

Playing with gender isn’t just about identity politics, it’s fun, too, Alabanza added.

Playing with gender is fun, said Alabanza (PinkNews)

“Clothes and my way of fashion is about me making a joke of gender.

“For me, personally, my gender can be a freaking pineapple earring one day – it’s about saying if the world is going to laugh at me when I go outside, let me have a laugh too.

“It’s funny because I’m often compared to a drag queen as if that’s some kind of insult – I know for some people that comparison is a really starch line – but for me I see it as we’re all performing when we go outside, so I’m just going to put on the best show.

“I love patterns and I love colour, and it’s so funny because cis straight people say we’re the ones who are oppressed but if you look at their fashion, they’re so boring.

“I can’t believe they think ‘woe is us, trans people,’ when actually trans aesthetic is the most exciting thing happening on the streets.”

More: gender fluid, non-binary, Trans, Transgender, Travis Alabanza

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