Ruth was one of the amazing facilitators at the Gender Workshop in History Month '08. This is her 30 - second interview.
1. Who are you?
I'm Ruth, NUS LGBT Trans Rep 2007-2008
2. What does the your project do?
(The Gender Workshop group) We're an ad-hoc collection of activists trying to raise awareness of the complexity of gender at times when we're free and people will have us.
The NUS LGBT campaigns on a wide range of LGBT issues and supports student LGBT societies and officers in campaigning. Committee members such as myself also tend to campaign on things that interest them personally.
3. What does 'trans' mean to you?
It's a wide umbrella term for a variety of identities, issues and conditions that deviate from expected norms of gender and sex. In my case, I was assigned a male gender at birth but have a female gender identity and live as a woman, which means I am transsexed.
4. What is the most important thing we can do to help combat transphobia?
Treat everyone as an individual. Don't assume what their gender identity is, and don't make assumptions based upon their gender. Pass this on to others!
5. What is your advice for someone who is questioning their gender identity?
Be true to yourself. What this means won't be immediately obvious: try thinking it over, maybe write a journal, talk to friends or see a therapist. Take one step at a time, and be careful.
6. What does the term 'queer' mean to you?
Another umbrella term - this time it can be used by anyone who deviates from expected norms of gender or sexuality.
7. How do you define the term 'gender'?
You know, I'm not sure how I do!
8. What role has political activism taken in your life as a transperson?
Activism is very important to me. Trans people are widely discriminated against. I'm lucky enough only to recieve a very minimal amount of discrimination but it's pretty depressing what trans people can go through. I feel that if I can make a difference a little bit at a time, I should give it a go.
9. Do you find that people are more accepting of trans people with a binary gender identity, compared with a non-binary gender identified person?
Definately. Once people have got their heads around the idea of transsexualism I generally find that transsexed people tend to be accepted - we're moved from one category to another. I was regarded as male: I am now regarded as female. Since binary gender is so entrenched as a concept it's very difficult for many to understand that some people don't identify as male or female at all!
10. What do you think the most important recent gain in trans politics have been?
The gradual recognition that positive action is needed in order to bring about greater acceptance of trans people. More and more people are beginning to realise that we need to teach children to accept trans people from an early age. Unfortunately - as always - these efforts tend to be focused on transsexed people rather than the wider trans spectrum.
11. How do you think trans activism will change in the coming years?
There will be wider recognition of genderqueer people and others who identify outside of the gender binary. Their voices are increasingly being heard, which can only be a good thing.
12. How accepting do you find the wider LGB(T) community of non-binary trans people?
It depends immensely. I think many don't understand, but it's the same with straight people. Some individuals and groups have a great attitude, and others…don't.
13. What advice would you give to family and friends of transpeople?
Talk to them about it, but don't be overbearing. See if you can find some decent literature on the subject. Most of all, be respectful.
14. How obsessed do you find modern society on binary gender roles?
Totally. Our entire society is based around them, right from babies in pink and blue and primary school where we have a uniform to make little girls and little boys dress differently. It's dangerous: can you imagine what this country would be like if we made white children and those from ethnic minorities wear different clothing?
15. What would a society look like with no fixed (binary) gender roles?
There would be one less opportunity for inequality. Gender would still exist, but we wouldn't base our expectations of others upon it.
16. Any other advice?
Love one another, and stuff.