After I came out, a number of things happened to me. I got involved in running a trans forum with a friend and I became very aware of some of the problems faced by the trans community. Reading what people were typing early on and understanding the many different viewpoints expressed as well as the many difficulties people faced, made me realise that being trans was something that was not only difficult for us in the UK, it was difficult for all sorts of people, all over the world.
It might sound silly, but until you are in a situation, it can be hard to grasp all the realities of that situation and quite literally I became very aware (as most trans people do), very quickly of many different issues. Sure, there’s always a lot more to learn, but fundamentally, it’s very obvious for anyone with the right perspective to see that inequality, bureaucracy and torment surround the lives of trans people every day.
My personality is one that is relatively impatient. If I can see that something needs to be done and I can try and do it now, then I will. I also believe that I don’t need to wait for the right person to come along to take the action needed, because perhaps I am the right person.
2. What made you decide to set up WOT?
Wipe Out Transphobia was an idea that spawned from my involvement and friendship with the people who run Wipe Out Homophobia. I had seen the effect it was having on people and the amount of individuals it clearly helped on a day-to-day basis and realised we could adapt that to fit the trans world.
The Wipe Out Transphobia project was formed as a Facebook page nearly a year ago and since then, with the help of some significant people, it has started to really grow into something that can fight to overcome some of these inequalities we face. We have a newly developed and very passionate admin team who moderate the page and remove hateful comments, we now have over 22,000 members and the support of some of the biggest equality groups on Facebook and we intend to carry on pushing to make sure that not only a few people have the right perspective to see the problems trans people face, but so that everybody does.
3. What is a typical day of running WOT like?
In short, it’s rewarding, tiring and hectic. I work online a lot of the time anyway, so I’m perfectly placed to have the Wipe Out Transphobia page and website open permanently. We get messages constantly either through the FB page, the website, or via email, which could be images for our campaigns, questions about trans issues, people asking for support and advice and general communication. We also have a lot of comments to read as we post our content and we generally have to read one topic numerous times a day to try and catch negative comments as soon as possible.
In addition to all this, we of course need to research and read everything we post. We spend a lot of time trawling sources for relevant material that may be of interest to our members, or that may convey a much-needed message. We then need to read the full article to make sure it applies and that it won’t offend people.
4. What is the BEST thing about running WOT?
Without doubt, the best thing is when we receive thank-you emails from people who either just loved the page, or who we’ve given advice to. It’s the most rewarding thing ever and it means so much to us because if we’re making people’s lives better, then we’re doing what we need to.
We have a lot of letters asking for support ranging from people worried about transition in countries they feel trapped in, to friends and relatives asking for the right way to treat their friend who has just come out to them and even just people needing someone to talk to.
We always try to answer every single email we receive, as we never know just how much that person may need help, but it’s nice to think that even far across the globe, we may be able to cheer people up or give them the advice they need to get through another week.
5. What is the worst thing about running WOT?
Hmmmn, well I suppose the negative comments we get. It’s two fold really, because naturally we get a lot of bigoted and narrow minded individuals who like to make their opinions known, however we try to remove these as soon as possible because Wipe Out Transphobia needs to be doing exactly that and comments on our page are a good place to start.
However, some of the comments that have the greatest affect on us are the ones we see on every post we make, which instead of taking a message for what it’s worth, seem to dissect everything, break it down and lose the whole sentiment. One of the things we see often is that if we post a message relating to trans-guys, we get messages saying that we left out trans-women. If we post one about transition, we get comments relating to people who don’t want to transition.
I think if we wanted to pass any message onto our members it would be that, although we do try, it’s very hard to represent such a wide and diverse, all-encompassing community in a single post and clearly, we’re never going to be able to do that. Posts we make about trans-men for instance, should be seen as just that and we’ll get around to balancing that out when we post other content. We should be able to support all members of our community, both individually and as a community.
We also invite people to submit content to us, especially if they want to get a particular message across.
6. What are your hopes for the future of WOT?
I hope that Wipe Out Transphobia will grow beyond the Facebook page it started on and our new website, so that we can reach out to people across the world and start to offer some tangible help. We do have many contacts and we are starting to talk about how we may do this.
To be able to get messages across to governments, education, healthcare and law enforcement, as well as many other sectors about trans people and the issues they face would be a remarkable achievement. To be able to do this on an international scale would be mind-blowing. We’ve begun to accept donations to start making this a reality and we have our first pride event booked for early October, 2012, which is North Wales Pride, in the UK.
7. Do you think that the rest of the LGBT community sometimes doesn’t accept the T as much as it should?
Yes, and no. I think the LGB community at large takes a big backlash from the trans community, and sometimes rightly so as we feel we are not represented, supported or even understood by a community that happily uses the whole LGBT acronym. Charities like Stonewall UK do little good for the trans community by perpetuating this exclusion, which a lot of people then see as ‘okay’.
In the same instance though, we do have a separation from the LGB community in that the T represents gender related identity, rather than sexuality. This is an important distinction to make so that trans issues can be understood properly.
Trans people can be LGB too, or of course not at all, but it would still be great to have some unity so that we can work towards a common goal together. There’s no reason why not, the discrimination we suffer is often very similar, which gives us a common purpose.
8. Do news stories scare you?
Oh yes, absolutely. We post many stories and although not all of them are negative we still see many negative comments posted with them that can affect us. Some of the worst stories of course, especially in the run up to TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance) as we compile our campaign are entirely terrifying.
This though is why we’re here. Standing up to the bullies is something that’s not easy, but it has to be done. Far too many trans people suffer hate, discrimination, bullying, rape, violence and murder simply for just being who they are.
As scary as these news stories are, they actually spur us on more than anything else.
9. How does your online activism spill over into “real life”?
Ha, well, in every single way possible. Previously (a few years ago), I would have been a little concerned about challenging discrimination, however now I’m really quite brazen and find myself doing it more and more often.
I’m not sure if people find it annoying yet, but there we go.
My professional life has seen a turn too. I have been studying law and legal practice for some time, which has over the past few years seen a shift towards Equality, Diversity and Human Rights work. It’s been one of those changes that has seen my passion for E&D really show and I tend to get stuck in wherever I can. Although I do tend to concentrate on Trans rights and Equality more than anything else, I am a general equality advocate and I like to see everyone having a fair and equal chance at all aspects of life.
10. Transgender or transgendered?
Ah, I can see this coming back to haunt me. Recently I had a reasonably long email sent to me, in anger, because a lady had posted an image for us on our wall and I’d asked her if she could slightly reword it before I posted it.
The image was fantastic, it really stood out and the message was great, however it was written to say that trans people were ‘transgenders’. I had asked if she could simply reword it to say transgender people as that would be right and that people would be able to concentrate on the fantastic message the image had, rather than tear into a discussion about grammar and lose the sentiment behind the whole post.
The email wasn’t too nice and stressed that we shouldn’t be too concerned with the way things are written, because it was the message that was important. This is something we agree on to a point, because when all said and done, the language, grammar and punctuation used in something should be less important than the point it’s trying to convey.
However, language is a very powerful tool and sometimes we can actually send out the wrong message by writing things the wrong way, which could then be used to attack the community. Our aim is fundamentally to get the right message across.
Therefore, and with that in mind, ‘Transgendered’ is not grammatically correct. We can be transgender people, but we’re not transgendered. I fear this is better addressed with a blog on our website.
Wipe Out Transphobia – Founder
About: Founded 27th march 2010. Wiping Out Transphobia, using Education, Activism, Support & Understanding.
Trans people deserve to live with dignity and respect, like anyone else.