Everyday Activism: Charlie Craggs
Words by James Cartwright
Trans activist Charlie Craggs considers her work to be “fabulous activism”, and through her organisation, Nail Transphobia, has turned nail art into a medium for change; taking prejudice by the hand and showing the humanity of trans issues up close and personal. “I wanted to do activism differently. I’m one of these people who was always quite put off by activism—you want to get involved but often it feels quite hard to do so. Often it seems like the only valid form of activism is the really serious stuff where you’re outside parliament with a megaphone and that’s just not what I’m about. I wanted to do something fabulous and come at it from a different angle and see how effective that could be.
“Nail art is such an intimate thing. I get to sit with a person and talk to them and bond. It gives me that chance to take them away from the pack. Most people who get their nails done are halfway there in terms of understanding transness and maybe want to be activists themselves. But getting the chance to speak to them alone allows you to get deeper. It’s not just about me reciting an agenda; usually it’s them starting the conversation and instigating questions and discussions around transness. With their manicure they go away with a new perspective.
“Most fear and prejudice comes from misunderstanding and I wanted to be the person that confronted that. A lot of trans people ask me why I put myself out there like this, because it’s not my job to answer people’s questions. I know it’s not my duty, but I feel it’s really important and powerful. Hearing about transness from a trans person’s mouth makes the whole thing more relatable and human. There’s more empathy there and that can make people more of an ally than if they were just reading about these issues online. I’m trying to win hearts and minds.
“I’m in a much better place now than I was when I started Nail Transphobia and it’s made me more aware of who I am. I think the only way to get through life is to try to find something positive in among all the negative. If I hadn’t gone through something bad like bullying in school or the transphobia I get every day, then the amazing project I’m working on to tackle that wouldn’t have happened. If I hadn’t been trans, depressed and suicidal, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now. I have to take the positive from it and look at how many perspectives I can change and hope that will change other people’s lives in turn.”
This interview originally appeared in Riposte #6.