I Choose To Challenge

Following my recent appearance in the March/April issue of Boots Health & Beauty magazine, I am very aware of the hate directed at both myself and Boots UK. I expected nothing less tbh. Hate is so predictable but we can’t let it stop us from doing what’s right. The reason for this post isn’t for sympathy or a socially distanced pat on the back. It’s to let you in on why I have so little time for the class bullies that are commonly known as transphobes.

The topic of trans and non-binary people is one that divides people, and it’s likely to remain that way for some time. It’s not something we can hide from, nor should we. When I was contacted last October about being featured in Boots Health & Beauty magazine for International Women’s Day, my immediate thought was “this isn’t gonna go down well with some of their readers…count me in.” It was not only a chance to challenge society but myself too. As someone that was bullied in school, this was a chance to reclaim something within me. Of course I knew there’d be backlash for including a trans woman in a nationwide feature celebrating womanity. How else will haters fill their days?! I doubt I’m the first trans woman to be featured on their cover but I do know I won’t be the last. It’s vital, in fact. For any marginalised group, change only happens when we actively challenge.

On International Women’s Day, a day where the achievements of women are celebrated, somebody put 50p into the transphobes and they started throwing around playground level complaints. To those that have seen some of the vile comments or spread of misinformation online, I can only apologise. It’s not nice at all, especially if you were just doing your job and got caught in the middle. Overall, their comments are a reminder of just how much we’re misunderstood and how much work we still have to do. In this case though, their rhetoric actually united complete strangers, so 50p well spent!! Being perfectly honest, it wasn’t anything I haven’t heard before. “Sex” and “gender” being used interchangeably despite them being very separate things, deliberately misgendering me in capital letters, spreading lies about cisgender women being erased because I stole their day, blah blah blah…all thrown around by people who seemingly became biologists overnight, paraphrasing outdated biology textbooks to justify and spread their transphobia, thinly disguised as concern for the safety of women. Isn’t it amazing how a blank profile photo or a nondescript bio can suddenly create experts in social justice? Dealing with misogyny, the gender pay gap or the fact that racism is still prevalent all around us – now those are some of the real issues needing focus, not a made up problem which keyboard warriors can conveniently save society from. These people aren’t saviours of anything other than their own fragile insecurities and egos. They can threaten to boycott Boots and they can have their online tantrums, if it helps them to feel like they’re making a contribution to society. When their hashtags are forgotten, I’ll still be here. So will my gender diverse brothers and sisters.

Our voices are only so loud at the moment though. We need allies. We need dynamic companies and brands like Boots to stand with us, publicly showing the haters that we’re not afraid to push the boundaries and that we certainly won’t back down. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at Boots for their support since the latest issue was launched, and for reaching out to me. From store staff right through to those at the top of the company, the level of commitment to me, this feature and what it represents has been overwhelming. Everyone has been so genuine and willing to learn. To any ally who isn’t sure of what to do, be like Boots. It’s ok to be a bit scared. Nobody is saying you should automatically know what to do – after all, we acknowledge that gender diversity is still relatively new to the mainstream world. Take the time to learn about our lived experiences (they’re all different and absolutely fascinating), put yourself in our position so you can empathise better or stand up for us, amplify our voices by sharing our content, add pronouns to your bio…most of all, be respectful. As an ally, you play a vital part in helping to normalise who we are.

Let’s show the haters that we don’t want to sit with them, if it means conforming to their beliefs. We’ll be at our own table, being our own kind of beautiful. If they do decide they want to join us, there’ll always be a seat for them too.

Featured image: via Geraldine Lynch (Creative Director, Boots Health & Beauty)
March/April issue of Boots Health & Beauty magazine is available now in all Boots stores.

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