As you might have seen in episode three of New Activists, I recently won a Marie Claire Future Shaper Award for my work with my campaign Nail Transphobia. Winning this award and being recognised for my work meant so much to me, and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. But I almost didn't accept the award.
The morning of the awards show I woke up to some comments about me online from other trans activists, criticising me and my activism, saying I'm not a proper activist. Being trans, I have a very thick skin, negative comments bounce straight off me when they come from basics, but they cut a little deeper when they come from my own community. I began questioning whether what they were saying was true, whether I should accept the award, whether I should call myself an activist.
They were criticising my style of activism and for taking part in the HuffPost series New Activists. Their criticism was that myself and the other activists on the show were making a career off of being an activist or trans or whatever.
It upset me at first, and I began to question myself and whether I really was one of these awful nicely packaged, phony, media activists. But then I came to my senses. Baby, this has been my career for four years, before the show, before the press, before the awards. I set up my campaign in 2013, I received my first piece of press two years later in 2015 - for the first two years of my campaign I didn't get a single piece of press nor a single penny for what I was doing, and that didn't matter to me because I was doing it solely for the cause. Then I was approached by Broadly this time two years ago and they wrote about Nail Transphobia, and everything changed overnight.
I was being written about by a different magazines every week, I was talking on panels all over the country, I was being invited to speak at Parliament and on the news - I finally had a voice to speak about the things I'd been speaking about for two years to a significantly larger audience. I realised how powerful press and social media are as a way of amplifying your message. It's for the same reason I said yes when I was approached by the producers of New Activists, and if you can't understand that, you're a bit stupid.
It's stupid to think that using press or social media as a tool for your activism makes you any less of a 'proper' activist, it's 2017 sweetie, this is the world we live in. The world literally revolves around the media, the internet and social media and it's naïve to think that the only way to create change is to shout in the streets. Don't get me wrong, I think we still need that sort of traditional activism, very much so, but there are other ways to get your message heard and make change. If I went out into the street right now by myself and started shouting about trans murders, very few people would hear me - partly because I'm only going to be seen by a limited amount of people depending on where I am and for how long, and secondly because people shut down and stop listening when you shout at them. Whereas I can talk about trans murders on New Activists and tens of thousands people watch it, listen to it, and hopefully think about it. To dismiss that traditional activism is the only valid form or activism, is both snobbish and stupid.
I had a chat with friend Sarah Corbett in episode 12 about all this. Sarah is an untraditional activist. Like me, she's the brains behind craftivism - a form of activism that uses craft as a tool for creating change. She's like my activist big sister and always gives me good advice, and gave me some that night. She told me: "You and your activism are just one jigsaw piece of the bigger picture, just focus on doing what you do well".
This is basically what I said in my intro video for the series- that I don't think I'm changing the world with what I do, but that I'm doing my bit to change the world, and that if we all did our bit the world would change.
I believe we need all different forms of activism to tackle the injustices we are fighting from different angles, we need the traditional activists people marching, lobbying and picketing but we also need the unconventional activists, people like Sarah and I, who are engaging with different audiences and fighting the problem from another angle.