Sophia Coles-Riley 30 second interview

Sophia Coles-Riley is the UBU Welfare officer this year and helped facilitate our Gender Workshop in History Month '08. This is zir 30-second interview.

1. Who are you?

I'm Sophia, I'm the UBU Welfare Officer for this year.

2. What does the your project do?

It's not really a project or an organisation, just a group or queer and trans friends who got together to run workshops on gender and trans.

3. What does 'trans' mean to you?

Trans is an umbrella term for people who transgress normal expectations of gender and it can include people who are transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, transvestite, intersex, gender fluid…

4. What is the most important thing we can do to help combat transphobia?

Learn about gender, think about the different ways in which gender roles (including your own) are constructed and how they are enforced. Try to get away from the trap of thinking only of binary gender (male vs female) and accept people's own gender expression and identity. Possibly even realise that gender shouldn't be that important.

5. What is your advice for someone who is questioning their gender identity?

Keep questioning it, talk to supportive friends, join trans groups on the net and ask questions, read theory if you are that way inclined. Most importantly, don't feel you have to decide right away what your gender is or 'come out' as anything or conform to other people's expectations.

6. What does the term 'queer' mean to you?

Queer means a lot of different things to me. I'm using Queer Theory in my dissertation so that is what comes to mind first. Try reading people like Judith Butler if you want to know more about the theory. In a political sense, Queer to me is a radical critique of identity politics, a resistance to social constructs and norms, a project to transcend or make meaningless all boundaries of gender and sexuality.

7. How do you define the term 'gender'?

For me , gender is the social construction of what it means, or 'should' mean to be male or female and the process by which ideas of masculinities and feminities are developed.

8. What role has political activism taken in your life as a transperson?

I've been involved in Queer politics since my first year at university. At the moment I'm working to get Gender Neutral toilets here at Bradford Uni.

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?

Absolutely. People who transition from one binary role to the other don't challenge the system which most people base their understanding of sex and gender upon.

10. What do you think the most important recent gain in trans politics have been?

It's hard to say, for transsexuals the Gender Recognition Act was pretty significant but for genderqueer people I don't think that much progress has been made. It is good though, the number of groups that are thinking about these issues.

11. How do you think trans activism will change in the coming years?

I hope it will become less underground.

12. How accepting do you find the wider LGB(T) community of non-binary trans people?

A lot of people just don't know how to act around non-binary trans people, how to refer to them etc. For the most part people are sympathetic although you'll still find the odd incidence of transphobia. It's more common on 'the scene' or when it's linked to Queerphobia

13. What advice would you give to family and friends of transpeople?

If someone has just come out to you, don't think that the person you know has changed. Try and find out as much as you can and try to be supportive rather than judgemental. It can be hard to deal with, particularly when it comes as a shock but there are groups out their for friends and family of tranpeople.

14. How obsessed do you find modern society on binary gender roles?

Every time you refer to someone you are putting that person into a gendered box. The gender binary is engrained into the language.

15. What would a society look like with no fixed (binary) gender roles?

Anarchic and beautiful and free.

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