London College of Fashion alumna Charlie Craggs was awarded the 2016 Nesta New Radicals Award for her work as a trans equality campaigner. Her project ‘Nail Transphobia’ aims to challenge transphobia…one beautifully manicured nail at a time.
Tell us about Nail Transphobia…how did you come up with the concept and what does it involve?
It actually started as my final major project at LCF funnily enough, but it picked up a lot of attention and press and I saw there was a need for it, so I kept it going after graduation. The campaign basically tackles transphobia through nail art; I travel around the UK with my pop up nail salon and I’m brought in by public spaces like museums and galleries and strangers can come and get their nails done for free. This gives me a chance to sit down with a person who has usually never met a trans person before yet probably has a lot of misconceptions about us, and bond with them while I paint their nails- they can ask me questions about trans stuff and I can teach them how to be an ally but the most important part of the interaction for me is just having a laugh and a chat because what I’m really trying to do with my campaign is humanise the issue and show that trans people are just normal (actually pretty nice) people. I’m trying to change hearts and minds a nail at a time, so that people go away with more than just a manicure- they go away an ally.
Students have said they are looking for a sign that says ‘Trans students – welcome to UAL’ – what was your experience like at LCF?
Coming from a super homophobic/transphobic tough all boys school LCF was the first time I felt both comfortable and safe enough to be my authentic self, however there were a few instances of ignorance/casual transphobia, but on the whole the vast majority of my tutors and peers were really accepting and supportive. I’m so glad to have studied at UAL.
What advice would you give students who may be thinking about their own gender identity?
There’s nothing to even think about, if you’re trans, you need to transition (so long as you feel safe enough to), reach out to the people who you know will support you; friends, family, tutors. Despite what I said about the few cases of ignorance at LCF, on the whole as trans people we’re so lucky to be studying at such an LGBT friendly institution, so it’s the perfect time and place to transition. Check out the Support of Trans students guide that UAL have created.
What do you think staff could do to promote trans awareness and equality?
Perhaps on induction, staff could highlight resources like the guide for trans students and also highlight that there is no place for prejudice of any kind in UAL.
You were given the number one ‘New Radical’ award by The Guardian in recognition of your work – are there any ‘radicals’ who have particularly inspired you?
My two biggest inspirations, both as an activist and as a transwoman, are Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson, two trans women who were at the forefront of the gay and trans rights movement but are often forgotten about. If you’re an LGBT person and you don’t know who these 2 women are, go change that, because they changed the world for you.