Hello, do you feel like introducing yourself?
Hi! So, I’m Lexi: I’m in my third year of Film Studies BA, with my fingers crossed to carry on here at MA level, and I’m the Trans Rep for the Intersectional Feminist Society here at King’s.
Gender-wise: I identify myself as a transfeminine genderqueer person with ze/hir pronouns (pronounced as in “nothing to ze hir”) when in a space in which I can expect the majority of people to understand the language, and I identify myself as a girl with she/her pronouns in every other space.
Non-gender wise: I identify myself as an ex-goth, as a musician and DJ, as a person in recovery from – but not in absence of – mental illnesses, as an anarcha-queer feminist, as a fur -parent and as a raccoon enthusiast, to name but a few.
(Lexi’s hair colour can change a lot but is at present this colour if you’re looking for hir on campus!)
There is absolutely no doubt that iFemSoc – and any society really – should have a Trans Rep. However, I’d like to know what the iFemSoc having a Trans Rep means to you.
Perhaps one of the most depressing things I’ve come to realise over the past few months is how wary I often find myself whilst entering self-advertised “Feminist” spaces. For example: a friend and I recently went to an event that was part of the London Feminist Film Festival and then immediately afterwards went to a club, the majority of the space dominated by cis-het men. I realised that I was actually much more comfortable in the latter situation, and the night bus home, than the former. Largely because Feminism as a movement to this day retains some ugly and unaddressed skeletons in its closet, relating to issues of class, race, and gender status, to name but three. In this event, as in many others, I saw deference shown to perpetrators of hate speech and allies of those who have incited violence against children. Both the film shown and the panel discussion that followed gave an insight into a selective memory and a blinkered perspective that we as modern Feminists just cannot afford.
For many minorities – including but not limited to trans people – a space being labeled as Feminist is not enough to allow them to relax their guard in the knowledge they are safe. I certainly hope that seeing an increased number of people who share something of their experience on their society’s committee, striving to represent their community’s interests first and foremost, and ensure that the discourse within and without that society is inclusive and welcoming to them will allow trans students the ability to feel safe in these spaces.
Having spent 2 years at King’s already, I can without hesitation attest to the fact that the KCL Intersectional Feminist Society is a fantastic and safe space, committed to diversity and I consider it a privilege to be part of its committee. When I first came to King’s, even before joining the Film Society – in fact, quite possibly, even before enrolling – I joined the LGBT Society and the Intersectional Feminist Society. It is not inconceivable that the Trans Reps of these two societies in particular may be the first (out) trans people many students will have met. Considering just how isolating and insular being trans can feel sometimes, there simply being a name next to the words “Trans Rep” in the “About” section of a society can be a huge deal in and of itself.
How then do you see your role as the iFemSoc’s Trans Rep?
Put most simply: I am here to be whatever any trans kid walking through the doors of the KCL campus (all my classes are on Strand campus, but I’m always willing to travel!) need me to be. Whether that is as the first port of call following a transphobic incident, or advice needed regarding informing the university of detail changes as they progress through transition, or simply introducing them to more people and spaces, I’m anxious to help. Being a little older than some other 3rdyears, with over ten years of experience as a born-and-bred London queer, I certainly like to think I have enough resources near hand to help out with any issue a student might have.
We create the events we need and I’m currently in the process of asking trans and gender variant / non-conforming peers what they would like to see in the coming year, and I am yearning to hear any ideas! In the autumn semester, I was proud to host a successful, albeit intensely ad hoc and last minute multi-faith alternative to the official London service for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, when I and others grew concerned about its apparent liberalism/commercialism. That was an exceptionally moving moment for me as I saw both trans and cisgender people of faith step up to the plate when asked a matter of hours before the service if they’d be willing to say the most poignant and beautiful of prayers for our lost.
I was also super happy to be able to host the London date of independent by/with/for transgender publishing house Topside Press‘ first ever UK tour, “Never Mind the Hormones,” with international names like Casey Plett, Imogen Binnie and Aisling Fae reading their material to an almost exclusively trans and/or queer crowd of students and non-students.
On a more daily basis, though, I check in with the iFemSoc facebook page and, where necessary, assist the tireless moderators ensure that trans voices and perspectives are heard on relevant topics, that language used in discussions is inclusive and the general tone within the page and the society consistently avoids cis-centric and/or transphobic bias.
Other than having a trans rep, what do you think societies can do to make their spaces safer for trans individuals?
Trans liberation is only going to get so far if the discourse is consistently informed by the belief that there is a thick line drawn between cis people and trans people, and the best we can all do is afford trans people rights to establish equality between the two parties. Gender identity, gender roles, gender stereotypes, gender oppression are phenomena in which we all of us participate and, from whatever side, we all of us experience. Thus, when we discuss an abstract concept like safety, we need to realize that we can put as many trigger warnings in front of posts and advise against whatever slurs or outdated terminology we want, but if the foundation layer’s ideology remains “these are weird people, but we have to treat them nicely,” we’ll have failed before we begin. Viewing transness as being inextricably and eternally linked to dysphoria, depression and victimhood will forever be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A uni society is a small community and, as such, it behooves any society to show its community spirit when a member’s gender, or right to a space, due to a perceived disconnect between their gender and their assigned-gender-at-birth, is challenged. Honestly, extending common courtesy and allowing the dignity of all your members, including the trans ones, is generally all it takes.
What would you say to (or, what advice would you have for) new students who are at uni and just starting to explore their gender identity?
Most importantly the nature of gender is not a journey from A->B. There should be no goals with the exception of self-acceptance. There is no need for pronouns that don’t sit right with you, dress styles that don’t best express who you are, or tailoring yourself to meet society’s expectations of how your gender should be expressed; doubtless, you’ve already done that, plenty long enough, again. Your transition is first and foremost about becoming your own true self. There is no original “man” or “woman” model upon which you need to model yourself, and there is no such thing as “failure” in this situation. Your true self is worth working towards and becoming, and your gender or lack thereof is as big or small a deal as you want it to be.
This interview was carried out by Natalie (our online welfare officer) & Lexi (our trans rep) with the aim to improve visibility of iFemSoc having a Trans Rep and for Natalie to pick Lexi’s wonderful brain. We are both available to message via the iFemSoc Facebook group or via our personal Facebooks.