Loud and proud trans trailblazers on thriving and celebrating transness in a cis-dominated world
Trans and non-binary people exist everywhere. Even in your workplace.
But this can be a challenge: a third of UK employers admit they wouldn’t hire someone who is openly trans, and one in eight trans employees report being physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the last year.
Trans and non-binary people are estimated to make up around one per cent of the UK population, a minority community made up of different communities, often overlooked or maligned by those in power.
This Trans Awareness Week, PinkNews has been speaking to trans and non-binary people about trans love, activism, community organising, mutual aid, and art. And now, we talk to three creatives about their working life.
Trans comedian Sofie Hagen.
PinkNews: What are your favourite things about being trans?
Sofie: I don’t think you need to be trans to enjoy the freedom that comes with transness. Anyone can benefit from the idea that there are no boxes, that gender is a construct and that you can decide yourself whatever feels good to you right now.
Being trans felt like a prison, a restriction, before I realised that I was non-binary. Now I realise that the idea of gender being binary, that was the actual restriction. And just realising who I actually am – that’s freedom. It takes you to a place where you’re forced to challenge everything you thought you knew about gender. And the world. And yourself.
Do you have any advice for other trans comedians, maybe on how to talk about gender or navigating a cis-dominated industry?
When I started out, I got a lot of advice on “how to be a woman in stand-up” and “how to be fat in stand-up”. The advice was always: Make sure you mention it first thing, or the audience will be confused. So I would open a show and make a fat-joke. Or a sexist joke. The idea was that the whole audience was thinking “oh no she’s fat” or “oh no she’s a woman” and by “calling it”, they would now be able to relax.
My instinct was to pass that advice on, but in a gender context. But I think that was the wrong advice to give. You tell your truth, you tell your story, you just be yourself who is a comedian. You’re not The Trans Comedian. You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to talk about. You don’t have to make the audience feel comfortable.
If you’re funny enough, they’ll laugh. Sometimes they won’t laugh because you’re not that funny that night. And other times they won’t laugh because they’re transphobes. It’s safest to assume that you just weren’t funny enough and then work harder on your act. Till you get so funny that even transphobes have to laugh. Then you know you’ve made it.
Who are the other trans creatives who inspire, inform and uplift you?
Jodie Mitchell was the next person I told. They really guided me through the process of me realising these things about myself, especially seeing their drag troupe Pecs do a show on masculinity.
Then there’s Crystal Rasmussen whose voice makes me cry. Amrou Al-Khadi whose book Unicorn is the best book on gender – and just the best book in general – I’ve read in years. Caitlin Benny did a podcast with Amrou called NB which also helped me a lot. Avery Edison was the first trans comedian I saw and she changed the way I thought about stand-up. Trans people really are the best.
How can people support your work while we can’t go to live shows?
The fact that you’re even asking that question makes me tear up a little bit. It means so much. So, I’m doing a big online show every month, on different topics. Afterwards I sell the recordings online for £5. I’ve talked about fatness, fatness and health, therapy, shame and gender and dating. All of that is on my website.
I have also started a personal Patreon just for me which I love so much. You support me with £5 a month and then I give you all the gossip and videos and live streams. Lots of photos of my dog. And of course, listening to my podcast Made of Human Podcast is free – and it’s a really heartwarming podcast, full of intense and interesting and kind chats.
Non-binary actor Ki Griffin.
My name’s Ki Griffin, I’m a queer, non-binary, intersex actor from London, UK.
I’m currently working on the Channel 4 Soap, Hollyoaks, playing their first non-binary character, Ripley Lennox. Previously, I was a DJ for events such as Harpies and Nite Dykes on the London queer nightlife circuit.
My favourite thing about what I do is that I get to represent a variety of people who are extremely under-represented within the acting industry. As a Black, non-binary queer from a working-class background, I rarely saw people like myself on TV so getting to be that representation is amazing.
I love that I get to tell a story I relate to so strongly through Ripley and hope that really resonates with others, too.
I think my biggest piece of advice to other trans or non-binary actors would be to realise that you’re so special, any time you put yourself forward for a project, know that you are worth so much to it.
In a cis-dominated industry, the best thing you can have as a trans actor is confidence in your trans identity and never let anyone stand in the way of you being a proud of it. Acting is an amazing skill that you can master, but if you’re comfortable in your identity, a whole new level of mastery opens up for you.
Model Jude Guaitamacchi.
I’m Jude, I’m a non-binary activist, speaker and model.
I am one of the faces of Harrods & H beauty’s ‘My Beauty’ campaign and I am also featuring in Vogue Italia’s first ever digital beauty week!
All dressed up and nowhere to go 😓 Wait for look 3 😍 thanks to the always stylish @julesg_uk
Not only seeing but being the first non-binary representation for such a major campaign was an overwhelming experience.
What made it even more special is the fact I was cast as myself and my tag line was “My Beauty is Being Myself”. I honestly have the utmost respect for Harrods for going beyond cis-normative beauty standards by actively embracing gender diversity as a part of this campaign. Being a first is amazing but does highlight how far we still have to go.
Trans and non-binary representation is still very minimal and as an activist it feels like I am making change just by being myself in an environment that has historically been exclusive of gender-diverse experiences.
My hope is that we continue to move beyond socially constructed gender stereotypes to a culture that encourages people to embrace who they truly are. On a personal level, it feels like re-writing the narrative with the relationship I have had with my body. It’s so empowering for someone who spent the majority of their life battling with dysphoria to be able to celebrate their first summer after top surgery for such a major campaign.
We are still at the very beginning of integrating gender diversity into the world of fashion and beauty industry. It’s important for non-binary people to see themselves represented and a crucial step in our fight for equality. Much of the journey for me was building my self confidence enough to believe in myself. It’s important that we claim the space and push for more inclusion.
My advice to anyone with a passion to pursue modelling would be to put together a portfolio, research modelling and casting agents and reach out to them. Trans and non-binary people deserve visibility, celebration and above all else inclusion.