15 Inspiring Trans People In The UK And Beyond
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15 Inspiring Trans People In The UK And Beyond

By Zeena Elhassan, Aziz Journalism intern 20 Nov 2020
Equality
A reveller wears the trans pride flag. Credit: Unsplash

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Trans, non-binary and gender-diverse people have long played a central role in the struggle for equality and human rights in the UK and beyond. In honour of Transgender Awareness Week, EachOther explores the achievements of 15 inspiring figures.

Transgender Awareness Week takes place each year during the days leading up to 20 November – Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), when we mourn the lives of trans and gender-diverse people killed worldwide.

Transgender people continue to face massive barriers and prejudice in the UK.

This week is dedicated to informing ourselves about how to bring about equality, end oppression and take action. It is also about celebrating the full spectrum of gender-diverse people, and acknowledging their rich and inspiring history and contributions.

And so, here is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of trans, non-binary and gender-diverse figures in areas ranging from community activism, performance art, healthcare, politics and policy-making, music, to the modelling and boxing world, and more.

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are best known for their involvement in the 1969 Stonewall uprising, which inspired annual Pride celebrations around the globe.

The pair were close friends and key leaders in New York City’s queer liberation movement.

They both co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a radical organisation set up to help homeless young drag queens, gay youth, and trans women.

They are often referred to as the ‘forgotten transcestors’, as neither received mainstream recognition until after deaths.

Marsha P Johnson. Credit: Dan Lacey / Flickr

Marsha P Johnson, who self-identified as a drag queen, was a disabled African-American gay liberation activist and sex worker. She died in 1992 at the age of 46.

Sylvia Rivera, also a drag queen, was of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent.

She was a noted community worker in New York, regularly participating in demonstrations with the Gay Liberation Front.

She identified as a drag queen, regularly participating in demonstrations with the Gay Liberation Front.

Sylvia was a passionate and determined campaigner against the exclusion of transgender people from the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York, as well as for the rights of people of colour, low-income queer people and trans people.

Angela Morley 

Angela Morley was one of the only openly trans composers in the world. Credit: Youtube

Yorkshire-born Angela Morley was one of the only openly trans composers in the world.

She won two Emmys for her musical arrangements, and was also the first openly trans person to be nominated for an Academy award.

Angela was a mostly self-taught musician, and left school at age 15 to tour with Archie’s Juvenile Band, earning a weekly wage of 10 shillings, and she also worked as a projectionist.

Her work was influenced by various styles and genres. She began by playing in British dance bands, before dedicating her career to composing music labelled as ‘light and easy listening’, as well as film scores and television soundtracks.

Morley died in 2009. Her story is now being dramatised in a BBC play starring Rebecca Root, who is believed to be the first trans actor to play a leading transgender television role.

Christine Goodwin

It was legal action taken by Christine Goodwin, a British trans woman, in 2002 which paved the way for the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

At the time, the Act was a huge step forward for the rights of transgender people.

Christine had been living life as her true self and had transitioned medically.

However she was considered a man in the eyes of the law, and felt unable to do things that would require her to present her birth certificate. It was also illegal for her to marry a man.

Christine took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that her right to private life and right to marry had been violated.

The Court said that the law conflicted with an important aspect of Christine’s personal identity, which was a serious interference with her private life. Her right to marry had also been breached.

Because of Christine’s case, an Act of Parliament, the Gender Recognition Act 2004, was passed to give legal recognition to trans people.

The Act allows them to obtain a new birth certificate and permits them to marry members of the opposite gender. Christine passed away in December 2014. She was one of the few transgender people to use her name in her application to court, because she “had nothing to be ashamed of”.

 

Travis Alabanza

Travis Alabanza. Credit: Flickr

Travis Alabanza, 25, is a trans feminine, gender non-conforming artist who grew up on a council estate in Bristol, south west England.

Their art speaks to the importance of safe spaces and communities for gender non-conforming and transgender people.

They wrote, directed and performed a show called “Burgerz,” which toured in the UK from October 19 to November 17 in 2018.

This piece of work was created in light of an incident in 2016, whereby a stranger threw a burger at Travis while they were walking down a bridge in London.

Travis began drafting personal poems as an act of resistance to public humiliation and the adversity they face as a Black queer person, before eventually taking their work public.

Fox Fisher

Fox Fisher

Fox Fisher is an award-winning artist. Credit: Sharon Kilgannon (@alonglines)

Fox Fisher is an award-winning artist, film-maker and campaigner.

They create colourful, unique and vibrant screen printed work, which is displayed at galleries, hotels and in private collections.

In 2011, Fox took part in a documentary series, My Transsexual Summer (C4), which inspired mainstream conversation around trans issues in the UK.

As a result of their experience being filmed, Fox formed My Genderation, an ongoing film project about trans issues in the UK and beyond. Through My Genderation, Fox has created over a 100 films, shown on Channel 4, the BBC and at 40+ film festivals such as the BFI FLARE Film Festival and Frameline Film Festival.

Fox co-authored two books: Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl? and The Trans Teen Survival Guide, both which have been widely popular and reach audiences all over Europe and to the US. Fox is a proud patron of LGBT Switchboard and a co-founder and trustee of Trans Pride, Brighton.

 

Dr Ronx Ikharia 

Dr Ronx Ikharia. Credit: Youtube

Ronx Ikharia is an A&E doctor from north London, and is also non-binary.

They also work as a TV presenter and a community youth worker, focusing particularly on the threat of school exclusion for marginalised young people in the UK.

They are passionate about breaking through stigmas that young people face, examining why more and more ‘millennials won’t go to their GP’ and choose internet diagnoses and A&E instead.

Earlier this year, they told Shado-Mag how they believe their role is to ensure everybody receives the best care possible, but to pay a “considered attention to minority and marginalised folk who may need to be signposted onto specialist services”.

In regards to their TV work, they added: “I want to be really visible and authentic, so that when people – especially young Black and Brown people – watch telly, they’ll be like: ‘oh my god, there are options for my existence, and there’s somebody out there who is being absolutely themselves, and that’s what I should be.’”

Christine Burns MBE

Christine Burns authored Trans Britain: Our Journey From The Shadows. Credit: Flickr

Christine Burns MBE is an author, editor and equality activist.

She is the author of Trans Britain: Our Journey From The Shadows (Unbound, 2018).

She was the former vice president of Press for Change, the campaign group behind the the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

Bobbi Pickard 

Bobbi Pickard was the first openly transgender person in BP. Credit: Supplied

Bobbi Pickard was the first openly transgender person in BP and is Co-Chair of BP Pride’s Transgender Group.

She has been instrumental in changing BP’s level of transgender awareness and education globally and was recently a finalist in BP’s Global Helios Awards in the courage category.

She is the co-founder of “Trans in the City” which has brought together over 65 major organisations to freely collaborate on furthering transgender acceptance and education across the world.

In addition, she has given free consultancy and has run training and awareness sessions in schools, organisations and other companies.

She has made regular appearances on panel events, and on television, and actively shares how to successfully introduce trans inclusivity and education within all organisations.

Aaron Philip

Aaron Philip. Credit: Youtube

Aaron Philip, 19, is gender-nonconforming model from the US.

She is also a wheelchair user and lives with quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

At only 17 years old, Aaron fulfilled her mission of becoming a successful model.

She has since been listed as part of Teen Vogues’ 21 under 21, and as a Dazed 100 model in 2019, which recognises prominent influences in youth culture.

She was also featured in Beyonce’s website as part of the “This is Black History” series of #BEYGOOD.

She is extremely passionate about how the world of modelling should be more inclusive of race, ability and gender expression.

At age 14, Aaron published a memoir called “This Kid Can Fly: It’s About Ability (Not Disability) which details her experiences growing up with cerebral palsy.

Freddy McConnell

Freddy McConnell fought to be registered as the “father” or “parent” of his baby. Credit: Youtube

Freddy McConnell is a multimedia journalist who has fought a legal battle to be registered as the “father” or “parent” of his baby.

He gave birth to his child in 2018 with the help of fertility treatment.

McConnell, a single parent, has lived as a man for several years, and holds a gender recognition certificate that makes clear the law considers him male.

After giving birth in 2018, he went to court after the registrar insisted that he be recorded as the baby’s mother on the birth certificate.

Lawyers on behalf of McConnell said that recording him as the baby’s mother breached the family’s rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination, protected under Articles 8 and 14 of the Convention of Human Rights.

In the appeal court, Lord Burnett came down in favour of the right of a child born to a transgender parent to know the biological reality of its birth, the Guardian reports.

Earlier this week the Supreme Court refused to consider McConnell’s final appeal.

McConnell’s journey to parenthood was documented in a film called Seahorse, which included his thoughts and footage of him going through fertility treatment, conception, and the birth of his baby boy.

Lorena Borjas

Lorena Borjas is ‘the mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens’. Credit: Youtube

Lorena Borjas was a Mexican-American trans woman, often titled the mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens, New York.

She was born in Veracruz, Mexico but migrated to the United States to obtain hormone therapy and transition to live as a woman.

She spoke extensively about the multi-layered exploitation faced as a “transgender immigrant of colour”.

Her role as a community figure and leader extended support to Latin American trans women and sex workers.

For decades, Borjas had been working to protect transgender victims from human trafficking, which she herself had experienced.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Borjas created and promoted a mutual aid fund, via GoFundMe, to help transgender people who were impacted by the economic crisis.

She passed away in March 30, 2020 from complications of Covid-19, where a funeral service was attended by loved ones via Zoom.

In June 2020, Borjas was added among American “pioneers, trailblazers, and heroes” on the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument (SNM) in New York City’s Stonewall Inn

Patricio Manuel

Patricio Manuel. Credit: Youtube.

Patricio “Pat” Manuel is an American professional boxer.

In 2018, he became the first transgender boxer in the history of the United States to have a professional fight.

Even before the trials, Manuel had thought of transitioning to male, but the hope of representing the US in the first Olympic boxing tournament for women held him back.

After the trials, there was no reason to wait. On the trip home, Manuel told Butler that her daughter would soon become her son — then waited for the response.

Manuel was only cleared to fight shortly after the International Olympic Committee in 2016 advised that female-to-male athletes can compete without any restriction.

“It’s a funny thing when just living your truth becomes historic,” he said at the time.

Kenny Ethan Jones

Kenny Jones is an activist focusing on menstruation. Credit: Youtube.

Kenny is a model, activist and entrepreneur, and uses he/him pronouns.

His activism is focused on menstruation, body politics, mental health and intimacy.

He made history by leading a role in Pink Parcel’s ‘IM ON’ campaign, as the first trans man to front a period campaign, which launched his career in activism.

Kenny has spoken of the deep discomfort that came with periods while growing up as trans. This was made worse by the advertising of menstrual products as “women’s health”, which in most cases is “pretty and pink”.

He told Glamour magazine in June: “Overall society needs to come to a point where trans people are just treated the same as everyone else.

“Our experiences are a little bit different, but ultimately we are people and we are equal. Trans people aren’t a problem, it’s the way that society sees trans people that’s the problem. Until that changes I don’t see being trans getting any easier.”

Alok Vaid-Menon

Alok Vaid-Menon. Credit: Youtube

Alok Vaid-Menon is an Indian-American performance artist, writer, and media personality – who is also gender non-conforming and transfeminine.

Alok grew up in Texas as the child of Malayali and Punjabi immigrant parents from Malaysia and India.

A multi-media artist, Alok uses poetry, prose, comedy, performance, fashion design and portraiture to explore themes of gender, race, trauma, belonging and the human condition.

They authored “Femme in Public” in 2017, and “Beyond the Gender Binary” in 2020. They have presented their work in more than 40 countries, which advocates for freedom from constricting gender norms.

As a response to bullying over race and gender expressions in their early years, they developed their art practice as a resistance to such harassment.

“Making poetry gave me the permission to live”, they write, “I needed somewhere to put the pain”.