We had our friend Charlie over to do her thing for a Birdsong Breakfast last week. Charlie’s Nail Transphobia campaign is breaking down barriers and expanding minds through the radical act of nail painting. In her words, “It’s activism through nail art. It’s fabulous activism.”
Charlie is a creative/activist powerhouse and has taken her campaign all over the UK bringing her pop up salon to places like The Victoria & Albert Museum, The Science Museum, The Royal Academy of Art and our place at Somerset House – all in the campaign’s debut year. She’s got big plans for the future, so get used to hearing her name, you’ll be hearing it a lot.
SS:What gave you the idea for Nail Transphobia?
CC: Just my every day experience, navigating the world as a transgender girl, facing so much prejudice for simply existing. Like the other night – I was coming home on my own from a party in Peckham. It was about 1am and I was waiting for a bus at a packed bus stop.
These drunk lads came over and one of them started chatting me up, but when I spoke he obviously realized I was trans (because I haven’t perfected my voice yet) he grabbed my boobs to see if I was a “real woman” and then started shouting “that’s a man”, and going up to everyone individually at the bus stop telling them I’m a man. He started getting in my face while the others laughed, and out of the whole packed bus stop nobody helped me, a young girl against 3 drunk aggressive men.
Luckily a woman heard the commotion from across the road and came and stood up for me and luckily the men left me alone, but if it hadn’t been for her I don’t even want to think about what could have happened. A trans person is reported murdered every 29 hours and I could have easily become just another statistic that night if it hadn’t been for that an ally. My campaign is all about teaching and encouraging people to be trans allies and educating around trans issues.
“This little girl came to our event at the V&A and brought her teddy bear with her and was telling me how her teddy was transgender too.”
SS: What has been your favourite or most humbling experience so far?
When little kids come to get their nails done at my events it makes my heart smile because it gives me hope for the future. This little girl came to our event at the V&A and brought her teddy bear with her and was telling me how her teddy was transgender too! I was literally crying into the nail varnish while I was painting her nails omg such a mess.
SS: We love your concept of “fabulous activism”, and the idea that something can do good, and also be fun and look amazing. Do you find that your creative work and activism have always overlapped? Do you think that this generation of feminists and activists and finding more ways to do that?
Definitely, before studying creative direction at London college of Fashion, I studied art at Central Saint Martins and my work always had this element to it, even in school. With Nail Transphobia I wanted to approach activism in a creative, fresh way, I wanted to do activism fabulously and I’m definitely seeing other people engaging with social issues and activism in innovative ways too.
I’m good friends with the founder of the Craftivist Collective, Sarah Corbett, she’s a perfect example of someone taking a creative approach to activism, check her out. I think social media has revolutionized activisim, you no longer have to stand outside of the houses of parliament being ignored in the cold to be an activist, you can start a movement from your bed.
“You no longer have to stand outside the Houses of Parliament being ignored in the cold to be an activist, you can start a movement from your bed.”
However I’ve seen people slagging my campaign off on Reddit (that’s when you know you’ve made it honey) saying that social media campaigns are meaningless. I think that’s a very ignorant view, I mean look at everyone that got involved with It Gets Better, another social media driven campaign, everyone from Lady Gaga to Barrack Obama, and think how many lives that campaign has potentially saved. So to the people saying my campaign is meaningless; you are meaningless.
I run and fund my whole campaign by myself on my days off and regardless of whether you think it’s effective or not its ONLY doing positive, educating people and making allies, whereas you’re sitting on your bum bum at home slagging me off on reddit, what are you doing to make the world a better place hun? I don’t see you walking children in nature. If you don’t like what I’m doing or how I’m doing it get off your arse and do something yourself.
SS: Who or what are your biggest inspirations right now?
Strong women. My biggest inspiration, always and forever.
SS: What advice would you give to LGBTQ people who are going through some tough stuff?
Learn to accept yourself, learn to respect yourself and learn to love yourself. If you accept, respect and love yourself fully it doesn’t matter what the fuck anyone else says or does and that’s the most empowering thing.
SS:What are your favourite means of radical self-care?
I’ll be real and say that I had to Google what radical self care was lol but its basically what I’ve been practicing subconsciously since accepting I was transgender two years ago. My whole life I have really struggled with accepting myself, be it my appearance or the way I act I always kind of hated myself. However, since that moment two years ago when I accepted myself for who I truly am I have learnt to love myself, and what’s most radical about it, is that I’ve only just got onto hormones (after waiting for almost two years sort it out NHS).
So for two years I was stuck in limbo, with no progression in my transition – unable to even start transitioning, but even though nothing changed physically, medically, socially or whatever and even though my situation was the same as it had always been, I learnt to accept myself as I was. I looked no more like a woman than I did since before coming out all that time ago, I was the same person I hated all those months ago, nothing had actually changed, but I learnt to love myself regardless of everything, I accepted myself unconditionally.
Its all about consciously recognizing that you are perfect as you are, a lot of people say things like, “I’ll be happy when I’m a bit slimmer” or “I’ll be happy when I’ve had my boobs done”, but that’s not truly accepting yourself because that’s saying you’re not good enough as you are, when you really are good enough, we all are! If I was able to accept myself during that stagnant two year period where I looked like a man, you can accept yourself right now!
“A lot of people say things like, “I’ll be happy when I’m a bit slimmer”, or “I’ll be happy when I’ve had my boobs done”, but that’s not truly accepting yourself because that’s saying you’re not good enough as you are, when you really are good enough. We all are. “
SS: How can people work on being better allies for our trans and genderqueer /non binary friends?
Anyone asking this question with this sort of considerate attitude is already half way there. I think its just about listening and respect, everyone’s different so just ask them and I’m sure they’ll tell you/give you a massive hug. Thank you for being an ally! I love you!!
SS: Where do you want to take it next? What’s your dream for the campaign?
The mission at the moment is to build our social media following (so be a babe and drop us a cheeky follow on fb/insta/twitter @nailtransphobia, I’ll follow you back) and in the future I’d love to get celebrities wearing our nails reppin nail transphobia, perhaps collaborate on a custom nail polish with a big nail brand, write a book, record an album, release a perfume, you know the usual, nothing much. Watch this space babes.