Questions by David E.J.A. Bennett
Hello Charlie, and thanks for joining us. Now, in recent times you have been featured in almost every national media outlet worth being featured in: Vogue, Vice, BBC, ITV, The Independent… the list goes on. You’ve been described as a “powerhouse” by the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Guardian described you as “someone making a real difference to society” – for those who don’t yet know who you are, tell us a bit about yourself and what your mission is.
Charlie: Hiya, I’m Charlie, I’m a 25-year-old activist and author and I run a campaign called Nail Transphobia, which basically involves me travelling around the UK, usually to galleries and museums, festivals and universities, offering the public free manicures for the chance to sit down and have a chat with a trans person.
‘Nail Transphobia’ is an award-winning campaign: tell us a bit more about what the campaign is, what it sets out to achieve?
Charlie: It’s all about conversation, the nails are just my catalyst for conversation and my way of engaging people in the conversation around trans issues who wouldn’t normally be engaged. Most people haven’t met a trans person but often have misconceptions about us, so my campaign is all about breaking those misconceptions, helping people to understand us better and humanizing the issue and bit. Because once you’ve had a chat with a trans person you see that there’s really not much to understand, and certainly nothing to be afraid of… despite what the Daily Mail tells you.
Yeah, Daily Fail writers and readers really should get out more. You have also just edited and released your first book, To My Trans Sisters. What’s it about and what were your motives behind creating this book?
Charlie: The book is a collection of about 100 letters from super inspiring transwomen, from politicians to scientists, business women to celebs, from all over the world, sharing advice with girls who are going through transition. Kind of sharing what they wish they could tell their younger selves at the beginning of their journey, having now gone through transition and made it out the other side. The book is literally the book I needed when I began my journey. I didn’t know any other trans people at the start of my own transition, so didn’t have a big sister figure to ask questions and guide me through it all. This is the case for most trans people, and transition is hard enough without having to go through it alone, so I wanted to create a book of sisterly advice for the next generation of girls, so they don’t have to struggle the way I did. The book gives them a ready-made sisterhood of almost 100 sisters until they find their sisters in real life.
A very worthwhile book on all accounts. So, looking at the big picture, how do you feel the trans community is viewed and represented by wider society in Britain today?
Charlie: Things have come along way in the last few years; media representation has gotten so much better and this has had a massive impact on the public’s understanding of us. But having said that, the number of trans murders are going up every year – this year was a record – so there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The statistics around murders of trans people are shocking! Minority groups, such as the trans community, are always attached to stigmas perpetuated by those who fear change, and those who fear what they don’t understand. You are certainly doing your part to normalise the way transgender people are viewed within general society, but what can I, or any other ally of the trans community, do to help?
Charlie: I think a big thing is calling people out. Even if it’s uncomfortable, that’s what a true ally is. Like, if your friends or family are being transphobic, call them out. Being silent is being complicit. This extends to calling people out online: for example, if one of your friends makes a transphobic fb status; and calling people out in real life, like if you see a trans person being harassed in the street. To even calling out celebrities/politicians/businesses/publications who are transphobic. If cisgender people (people who aren’t trans) started doing this, the transphobes would stop because they’d realise it ain’t cool and no one is on their side.
There may be some haters still out there, however, reading the comments online, it is clear that you are an inspiration to many people. Tell me who inspires you and why?
Charlie: It’s such a cheesy answer, but honestly my mum and nana. They are the most important women in my life and have played a pivotal role in shaping me into the woman I am today – which is why I took their names, Angela and Bridie, as my middle names. My Nana is just like me, a proper bad bitch who doesn’t take crap from anyone. My mum on the other hand is a totally different sort of woman to me, though on the surface she’s more of a respectable, quiet, traditional type of woman, she’s also one of the strongest women I know and she has shown me that being a strong woman isn’t all about being a bad bitch. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not gonna stop being a bad bitch — but she’s opened my eyes to the many ways there are to be a strong woman.
For anyone out there who might be struggling to come to terms with their identity, what advice would you give them to help them understand that being true to yourself is the most important thing?
Charlie: Read my book haha! I’m not just saying that because I want you to buy it – steal it for all I care – but just read it. The book is a collection of letters from about 100 trailblazing trans women offering sisterly advice to girls who are starting their transition. Every woman in the book’s story is different but a theme that runs through all the letters is the importance of being your authentic self even in the face of adversity.
This adversity comes in the form of some severely odd ‘people’ out there who really struggle with the fact that people come in different shapes, sizes, colours and genders. Some of these ‘people’ enact on their confusion by shouting abuse, or even with violence. How can we – the trans community and its allies – help these tiny-minded, inbred morons come to terms with the fact that all people are different?
Charlie: I don’t think there’s anything we can do it really. Nail Transphobia is all about conversation and education, but some people don’t want to talk and don’t want to learn – they are blissful in their ignorance. All we can do is pray that they die. Soon.
And, finally, apart from world domination what does the future hold for Charlie Craggs?
Charlie: Just becoming happy in myself I hope, I just want to wake up and feel comfortable and happy in my body.
You can follow Charlie’s fascinating and inspiring journey across all the usual social media sites, and you can buy her new book, To My Trans Sisters, in-store at Waterstones, and here: https://www.waterstones.com/book/to-my-trans-sisters/charlie-craggs/9781785923432
Photo credit: Katie Kelly