Sophie Ellis-Bextor explains why being a trans ally is a ‘no-brainer’: ‘What are you scared of?’
Sophie Ellis-Bextor learned one of her biggest lessons from her queer fans – and she doesn’t think she’d be here, two decades in to her career, without them.
It was her first time performing after a break, and backstage at London’s G-A-Y nightclub, Sophie was dealing with some pre-show nerves – but when she walked out on stage, everything changed.
“There was this real wave of complete love from the crowd,” she tells PinkNews. “I had a slightly transformative experience on stage because I felt like I’d just lost a layer of my inhibitions. I remember coming off stage and something in me shifted, and it felt good.”
The freedom she found that night helped her shed a protective layer she’d been carrying her entire life.
“When I was younger I would try to protect myself a little bit or behave the way I thought people would expect me to on stage,” she says.
Since then, the “Murder on the Dancefloor” singer has made a name for herself as a regular performer at Pride festivals and in gay clubs. She’s adored by queer audiences not only because she has an exhaustive list of bops, but also because she’s a tireless ally who genuinely loves and supports her fans.
“I actually credit that part of my fanbase as the making of me really,” she says. “It’s been a really powerful, significant relationship in my life.”
Because that relationship means so much to her, Ellis-Bextor has emerged as a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Notably, in 2020, she spoke out in support of the trans community in an interview with The Guardian.
What made her want to speak out publicly, when the climate is so toxic?
“I think for me, it was a bit of a no-brainer actually,” Ellis-Bextor says.
I actually just completely do not understand the point of view.
“I’m quite baffled by some of the views that are thrown at the trans community. They don’t resonate with me, I don’t understand them.
“You only have to speak to someone who’s been through that experience of feeling like they were in the wrong body, and when they’re allowed to actually come into the place where they thought they should be all along, that’s incredible and brilliant and brave, and there should be nothing but support.”
She continues: “I actually just completely do not understand the point of view that people feel threatened by trans people or are unnerved, or that women’s roles are being questioned. I just don’t see it that way at all.”
Her advice to those who hold anti-trans views is simple – sit down and actually listen to a trans person.
“Once you actually really listen, what are you so scared of?” she asks.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor on channelling the ’emotional turmoil’ of Judy Garland
Given that Sophie Ellis-Bextor means so much to so many queer people, it seems fitting that she’s gearing up to channel the original gay icon, Judy Garland, for a special charity performance.
She will be joined by a whole host of other artists for Judy Garland: No Place Like Home on Monday (28 November) at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End. The event is in aid of Centrepoint, a homelessness charity, and Sophie will be performing “Puttin’ On The Ritz”.
More than 50 years since Judy’s death, why does Sophie think her life and legacy continues to resonate so strongly with people?
“She was just a really raw, natural talent,” she says. “But also, I think people know the story behind what they saw on screen. You’ve got someone putting on this glamour and the magic of that whole era, the birth of technicolour, the silver screen, but her home life was pretty tumultuous – a lot of drama.
“She went from a heady high to being absolutely destitute in her forties. I think people can really see the emotional turmoil in amongst the work she left behind.”
Sophie jumped at the chance to join the concert, mostly so that she could do something tangible to help homeless people.
“I don’t know about you, but every time it gets cold at the end of November, and I walk past someone in the street, I think: ‘How can I be living in a place where there’s still people sleeping outside all night?’ It doesn’t feel right,” she says.
Needless to say, she won’t be performing “Murder on the Dancefloor” at the event, but she’s still happy to talk about the track – and she still loves performing it, too.
I’m still really happy to trot it out.
“I still love the way the crowd respond to it. I’m really proud of it,” she says.
“It’s funny because you have a song and then the song goes off and has its own little life, and I feel like Murder’s done itself proud really. It’s a joy to have that moment and I love it very much, I’m still really happy to trot it out.
“I was very conscious, even at the time, that that was really special.”
In the two decades since it was released, her career has peaked and troughed – right now, with the viral success of her Kitchen Disco project and a seventh studio album on the horizon, it seems fans are more in love with her than ever.
Ultimately, she’s thrilled that she gets to do what she loves – performing for her fans.
“It’s been really great and I feel so fortunate,” she says.
“It’s not lost on me. I’m still really grateful to be doing something I love so much.”
Centrepoint presents Judy – No Place Like Home featuring a star-studded cast to raise vital funds in support of youth homelessness at London’s Lyric Theatre on 28 November. Tickets are available now.
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