Last weekend, London held it’s first-ever Trans+ Pride, and it was both a protest against discrimination and the lack of basic human rights of trans folks, and a celebration of the community, its achievements, resilience, and hard work. The event was organised by trans activist and entrepreneur Lucia Blayke and turned out to be a great success.
“It’s a big job and to be honest, I have absolutely no experience or resources” joked Blayke while speaking to Screen Shot. Lucia was overwhelmed with the responses and said the best part for her was helping trans people “feel so much stronger and comfortable in themselves,” by bringing the community together. Screen Shot also spoke to London-based model, trans activist, and fashion queen Olivia Nutton, aka @glam_clam, who also attended Trans+ Pride, and said that the event helped her feel a “sense of community and how together everyone was.”
It is poignant that London, considered the 4th most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the world, only held its first trans pride in 2019. It certainly feels overdue, but this also serves as a strong reminder that there is still a long journey ahead of us before we reach full inclusivity. Sadly, all members of the trans community experience discrimination, prejudice, and harassment in one form or another, which is why Trans+ Pride is so monumentally important.
It is a march for healthcare, social housing, education, workplace employment laws, representation, trans refugees, and “it is a definite long list,” says Nutton. All of these are still lacking in the U.K., something that is evident in the scarcity of GPs trained in transgender health issues, the long waiting lists for appointments at gender identity clinics (there are only seven of those in the whole of England), as well as the fear of transgender refugees of being deported back to their countries of origin, where they risk their lives for being who they are.
The idea behind the Trans+ Pride was partly a response to the hijacking of Pride in London in 2018 by a group of anti-trans campaigners, when the organisers of Pride failed to remove protesters from Get The L Out, a TERF lesbian group advocating against transgenderism. Blayke says that “trans people are not being included as much and are being invalidated for the way they express their gender, even within the LGBT community.” Transgender people are actively excluded from what is supposed to be their own community, so it is only natural that they would have to go and form their own—which is what Blayke did when she created Trans+ Pride.
The thing is, Pride didn’t just become more exclusionary of members of the trans community, but has also been criticised for becoming commercial and corporate, and as Nutton says, “it just turned into a party where straight people get drunk and don’t really do anything else.” Yes, it is nice to see people want to come and show their support as allies; in some ways, it is also nice to see big corporations try and take a step into the right direction. But what do companies like Barclays or Deloitte really do for LGBTQ+ communities while marching in Pride, apart from taking space away from those who need visibility most? Where are the actual companies by LGBTQ+ members who are working towards improving the lives of marginalised communities?
Essentially, these spaces have been taken away from those who are less represented, which is why Blayke made it her duty to not only bring them back but create a Pride that is “A lot less pink-washed and a lot less corporate, letting trans people be in the spotlight.” Blayke has already started planning Trans+ Pride 2020, hoping it will only get bigger and better, but dodging big corporations and sponsors in order to avoid it turning commercial. “It is a community for people to fall back on and a support system for trans people to use,” and that is what she hopes to keep it as.
So, until 2020, remember to celebrate the community and advocate for inclusivity every day, “call out transphobia in your daily lives,” and be kind to one another.
Socio-economic diversity still lacks within most industries, and the tech realm is no exception. Silicon Valley is dominated by wealth, and it is notably more difficult to fit in if you are not coming from a privileged background. Yet a number of entrepreneurs are changing the scene. Meet Dr. Kortney Ziegler—a multi-talented entrepreneur, scholar, and filmmaker whose incredible work in tech has the power to benefit and improve the lives of those who come from marginalised communities. Ziegler’s motivation has never been to ‘disrupt’, break things, and make a ton of money like the many who enter the field of tech-entrepreneurship. Instead, his work is driven by the desire to help his community and eliminate the socio-economic disparities that affect it.
Born in Compton, California, Ziegler was raised in a family of single women, while his mother struggled with mental illness and drug abuse. Ziegler was the first person in his family to attend university. He completed an undergraduate degree in cinematography at the University of California, Santa Cruz, received a masters degree in ethnic studies from San Francisco State University and became the first person to receive a PhD in African-American studies from Northwestern University. Ziegler is a Black American, and identifies as trans.
After completing his PhD, Zieigler struggled to find a job as a professor within an academic institution, encountering discriminatory behaviour that “attributed to the difficulty of finding a long term position in the academy,” he told Screen Shot. This inspired him to start Trans*H4CK, the organisation that catapulted him into the tech industry, which focuses on helping trans*, gender non-conforming, agender, and non-binary people find resources and connections to work in tech. The idea came to him during a filmmaking hack-a-thon that inspired him to use the same format to help trans people find jobs and build software, while addressing specific issues in the transgender community. During the event, developers, programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs came together to brainstorm ideas and formed a digital activist movement to help raise awareness of the underrepresented community as well as raise money through crowdfunding.
Trans*H4CK specifically wishes to tackle the growing socio-economic barriers that prevent the trans community from economic advancement and financial stability—from unemployment (statistically, transgender people of colour have 4 times less chances of obtaining employmrnt than a cis person) and low income to overwhelimg discrimination in access to healthcare, legal services or housing. When I asked Ziegler whether he considers himself an activist, Ziegler says, “I’m always focused on how to make things better for people like me or other people in the world,” and that he considers himself to be a person with “activist tendencies” rather than identifying as an activist per say. His work certainly is “activist in nature”, though, with that there’s no arguing.
Appolition, another tech initiative founded by Ziegler, is a platform that allows its users to round up their spending to the nearest dollar, which is then donated to a special fund to help bail Black American citizens from prison as they await trial, help them return home as soon as possible, and reduce the damaging effect this can have on families. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with the country making up 21 percent of the world’s prison population alone. Statistically, Black Americans are incarcerated five times more often than white Americans and are often arrested for crimes for which their white counterparts are let off with a warning. Bail can range in price from as low as $1 to “some people having bail up to $60,000”, which, naturally, many people can’t afford. Ziegler’s goal is to help them pay for this.
Ziegler co-founded the project with his business partner Tiffany Mikell in 2017, and since then Appolition has helped bail around 200 people, raising over half a million dollars. He says he was inspired by a group of activists who were fundraising to get mothers out of jail for Mother’s Day, “It touched my heart, how can I elevate their work and get them money quicker?” Ziegler experienced first hand the destructive impact the prison system in the U.S. has on families; he too had an incarcerated parent, his mother, and says this experience has been a massive driving force behind the work he has done with Appolition.
Ziegler’s background plays a big role in his work, and while the world already provides him with “tonnes of barriers for being out and about with (his) gender and for being unapologetically who (he is) as a Black American trans man”, this only serves him as inspiration to move forward. Ziegler is not your average entrepreneur—he’s not looking for the next big tech break that will make him rich. Instead, he is looking for ways to provide financial stability to those who really need it, to challenge the unfair socio-economic politics dictating who can and cannot succeed in our world, and make it a better place for marginalised communities.
Ziegler has also worked on some incredible projects outside of tech.In 2011, for instance, he became the co-owner of Halmoni, a vintage boutique promoting healthy body positivity and self-love for women. He was inspired to help other women after his own medical transition, as he “spent a lot of time shaping (his) body to make (himself) feel comfortable”. Being a scholar specialising in black queer theory, Ziegler used to run a popular feminist blog titled blac (k) ademic, tackling topics such as gender and sexuality from a young black queer academic perspective (and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award). He also made a film called STILL BLACK: A Portrait of Black Transmen “at a moment when trans people were completely invisible”, created when he was beginning his own medical transition, but due to the lack of trans representation in media or culture, he had little resources or opportunities to meet men like him. The film then served as a research project and helped him, as well as many others, and is still being screened and taught at universities today.
When asked what the future holds, Ziegler hopes to work on some more creative film projects, and wants to make a film about his own childhood and upbringing. It won’t be long before Ziegler makes waves with another project or app; another movement that challenges traditional socio-economic politics and what it means to be a trans, Black American male working in tech.