Alex Drummond interview

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Posted: Wed May 25 2011

The trans-activist and author of 'Queering The Tranny' says we should stop getting hung up on genitals

As Alex Drummond's new book hits the shelves, the title is likely to prompt a few double-takes. Drawing on 'queer theory', 'Queering the Tranny' interrogates society's conceptions of transgender. Subverting traditional gender roles, and many widely held ideas about trans-identity, the
book offers a broad spectrum of possibilities. Alex is the perfect ambassador. He arrives at our offices in 'grrl-mode', wearing a skirt and immaculate eye make-up to counter his rough beard. He manages to blend masculinity and femininity with poise and even a hint of chic, as he tells me about the tribulations and triumphs of his life as a t-girl…

How tolerant have you found London to be, compared to your hometown in South Wales?
'London is brilliant. I've had no aggro here, no hassle. Newport is a very poor, very rough town and I've always had my apprehensions there. I used to get changed on the train home after my excursions! London gave me the confidence to come out. A couple of years ago, I was in Soho wearing these thigh-high, stiletto boots - real kinky boots. One of the “ladies” of Soho was stood in a doorway wearing a similar pair, so I smiled at her and went, “Loving the boots, girlfriend!” And she goes, “Loving yours, too!” It was just one of those really lovely exchanges.'

Where do you think gay and trans issues overlap?
'Sexuality and gender are very different, but there are also many crossovers. I think the main similarity is that we're oppressed minorities. I was raised in the 1960s and '70s, and I remember people of colour first coming into our community. If I walk up the street in my local village in
a skirt, in grrl-mode, that's almost like being a person of colour in a predominantly white area. You are highly visible and highly different, and people have views about what that means.'

What can be done to tackle transphobic attitudes?
'A key thing is visibility. People need to recognise that trans exists and not feel threatened by it. We also need to think about the visual aesthetic. Some trans people become rather easy targets for victimisation, perhaps because their outfit doesn't hang together. Lucille Sorella makes some rather blunt comments about the fact that some trans people walk like they've got off a horse, they dress like they're hookers - cheap wigs, badly applied make-up - and they don't do themselves any favours. I think there's a painful truism in that. We need to get positive examples of trans out there. I'd love to get Gok Wan to do a programme and prove that we can make trans look nice.'

'Also, we need more education. If people start to understand the complex nature of gender identity, they'll grasp that trans is a natural variation and not a perversion. The reality is, quite a lot of women have quite masculinised brains and a lot of men have feminised brains. What we ought to be doing is getting less hung up on genitals. Our gender can exist separately from our body.'

What advice would you give to individuals who might feel apprehensive about coming out
as transgender?
'I'd love them to find the courage to come out safely. They need to consider where they are on their
own journey and in a social context, and how that might work out for them. I struggled for years, trying
to repress it and make it go away, but I'm finally getting to a point where I realise that it just is.'

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