Trans trailblazer Roz Kaveney shares activism wisdom: ‘You don’t have to take s**t from anyone’

A bird's eye view of the audience watching the trans in the city gala

Trailblazing activist and author Roz Kaveney shared her advice for making change at the largest-ever gathering of trans and non-binary people in the UK outside of Pride.

The fifth Trans in the City gala on Monday (14 November) saw 600 trans people and their allies come together to celebrate trans role models and honour those who have shaped the community over the last year.

Trans in the City is an organisation which works for the further inclusion of transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people in business by raising awareness.

Kaveney, 73, a prolific writer and poet, has been an activist for decades, and became a founding member of Feminists Against Censorship in 1989.

She was joined for a fireside chat by fellow trans activist Eva Echo, to share the generational differences between their approaches to activism.

Kaveney said that throughout her life, her approach hadn’t changed much, but that she had become “less interested in compromising”.

Laying out her “rules” for activism, she said: “You don’t have to take s**t from anyone, other people do not know what’s best for you.

“Sometimes people give you advice, and sometimes that advice is worth taking. More often, if it feels wrong, it’s wrong. You have to be difficult.

“Nobody achieved anything by being middle-of-the-road wishy-washy.”

Echo discussed the power of social media for new generations of activists, before explaining why visibility is vital for trans allies, too.

“Visibility is the most basic but most important form of activism, you can all do it,” she said.

“But visibility doesn’t just come from trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people. We need visibility from allies. We need allies to step up, and to take a bigger step than the ally next to you.”

Young activist Emily Waldron accepts her award

Young activist Emily Waldron accepts her award. (Elsie Moore Photography)

Brave trans 13-year-old gets standing ovation for incredible activism

Trans in the City presented awards to the top companies, trans people and allies who have helped shape the community within the last year at its gala on Monday.

The award for Trans Inclusive Organisation went to queer publisher DIVA, and the Trans Corporate Champion award was handed to Leng Montgomery, the equality, diversity and inclusion manager at Burberry.

Eva Echo was honoured with the Trans Community Champion award, alongside Katie Neeves, the founder of Cool2BTrans, which provides trans awareness training to businesses.

On the night, a surprise category was announced – Young Trans Community Champion – to recognise the critical activism of young people, and there was no one else the award could go to but 13-year-old Emily Waldron.

Waldron, who sends LGBT-themed books to schools and charities across the UK to help prevent feelings of isolation among queer youth, received a standing ovation from the audience as she collected her award.

In a moving moment, Waldron stood on stage and said: “I’m not often speechless like this… Thank you to everyone in this room right now. I wouldn’t be here without any of you. So thank you.”

Trans in the City director Emily Hamilton said: “To be 13, to be visible, to be trans, to be unapologetic about who you are, to stand up for yourself in our society right now, is something very, very special. I certainly couldn’t do that when I was 13.”

Avril Clark, co-founder of Trans Radio UK (TRUK), was honoured with the Trans Ally award, and the mutual aid organisation Trans Aid Cymru took home the Trans Charity award.

Shash Appan, Trans Aid Cymru co-founder, said in a powerful speech: “We all had a good laugh when we were nominated, our scrappy group against big leagues like Mermaids and Trans Pride Brighton.

“We’ve only been going for about two years, so thanks for this recognition… We provide some small grants, advocacy casework and help trans homeless youth.”

“But honestly, we’re a temporary fix to a systemic issue,” added Appan.

“The truth is, the state should be making sure that people can eat, sleep and have housing. Trans people are dying, and platitudes won’t bring them back and platitudes won’t pay our rent, platitudes won’t feed us and platitudes won’t save us.”

The Trans in the City gala has grown year on year, and to date, the organisation has raised over £400,000 for trans and LGBTQ+ charities, and run over 250 training courses.

Trans in the City CEO Bobbi Pickard

Trans in the City CEO Bobbi Pickard. (Elsie Moore Photography)

CEO Bobbi Pickard said: “We’re here to tell those people in Westminster, those organisations and people that propagate hate against us, that enough is enough.

“We trans and non-binary are valid, valuable and have a valued place in business and society.”

Pickard said that before the next gala Trans in the City would be launching the Trans in the City Foundation, “a charity to directly fund grassroots trans and non-binary people’s charities to put money where it’s needed in the trans and non-binary community”, and added: “I look forward to the next five years, because you haven’t seen nothing yet.”