Why I'm Making a Book of Sisterly Advice for Trans Girls
Nail Transphobia founder Charlie Craggs didn't have anyone to turn to for advice when she was transitioning. Her new book "To My Trans Sisters," a collection of letters from trans women to younger girls, aims to change that.
Photo by Khadija Saye, courtesy of Charlie Craggs
It's been four years since I started my campaign, Nail Transphobia. Over that time, I've been featured in major magazines and newspapers, I've spoken at Parliament and won awards, and I've even got a book coming out.
It's a full circle moment to be writing about it for Broadly, because all this may not have happened if it wasn't for Broadly. Broadly gave me my first piece of press almost exactly two years ago, back in 2015.
I'd been running the campaign for two years already at that point and hadn't actually thought about doing press for it, because I was doing it purely for the cause *waves hand like Miss World*. But when I got that first piece of press everything changed overnight. I suddenly had a voice.
When it came to writing a book, I began by asking myself what I felt my community needed, and answered that question by asking myself what I needed when I began my own transition. I decided to create the book I wish I had at the start of my transition.
When I started transitioning in 2013, I really struggled. I didn't know any other trans people, and I felt really lost and alone. I made a lot of mistakes—from not knowing how to cover my five o'clock shadow, to taking the wrong dose of hormones, to dealing with transphobia the total wrong way.
What I needed was a big sister figure to guide me through transition. This is the case for most trans people: Transition is hard enough, but it's harder when you have go through it alone. I wanted to create a book of sisterly advice for the girls who need that big sister figure like I did.
In those early days of transition I spent a lot of time, and I mean a lot of time, googling trans stuff. I read the Wikipedia page of every famous trans woman ever, watched every trans-related film ever made, and read every biography of a trans woman ever written.
Watch: Ex-Scientology Leader and Trans Icon Kate Bornstein on What It Takes to Survive
I was desperate for information about things like hormones and surgery, but I was also desperate for inspiration—to find role models that I could see myself in and look up to.
I wanted to collate the stories of the inspiring women from all those Wikipedia pages, all those films, all those biographies, and turn it into an encyclopedia of trans excellence to act as a source of sisterly advice for girls at the start of their transition who don't have a big sister figure to turn to.
So I began reaching out to the women whose Wikipedia pages I'd read, whose films I'd watched, whose books I'd read, asking them if they'd share a letter of sisterly advice explaining what they wish they knew when they began transitioning. To my surprise, a lot of them got back to me.
As my idols wrote back to me and I read their letters, I saw so many parallels with own journey. It was comforting to see that I'm not the only person to go through what I went through. I just wished I'd known that at the time, when I was going through all these things.
Scientist Kate Stone—the first trans woman to speak on the TED main stage—wrote about how important it is to kill transphobic people with kindness, and make peace with her persecutors for the greater good. She explains how she was thrown out of a club by bouncers for using the women's toilets, and how she manifested a positive outcome from her negative experience. She went back to the club and gave a talk and training to all their bouncers to help them understand trans people so that other trans people wouldn't have to experience what she did. Then she did the same with the journalists and editors of the newspapers who who outed, exploited, and mocked her on their front pages, and as a result now sits alongside them on ethics committees to prevent this from ever happening again.
Her story helped me to see that our personal experiences as trans people are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Although it takes a great amount of strength and maturity, it's so important to think of the greater good.
The letters come in all different shapes and sizes, from essays to poems, capturing the diversity of the trans experience. But as different as the women and their stories are, there is one common thing that runs through each letter and the veins of each woman featured in this book: resilience. We are some strong-ass women. Almost every letter in this book contains stories of prejudice, rejection, and hate.
But despite all the hardship girls we face, we still choose to exist, bravely, boldly, and beautifully. It's an achievement to simply survive in this world as a trans woman, but as the women in this book show, not only do we survive, we thrive.
And although there's some amazing practical advice in the book, from people like punk rock legend Laura Jane Grace, Emmy-nominated actress and producer Jen Richards, and America's Next Top Model star Isis King, this isn't the trans version of The Secret.
There isn't a secret formula for a successful transition, because you have to make the same mistakes we made to learn the lessons yourself. But I wanted to let know that you're not alone, we've all been there, we've all made it out the other side, and we've all made it to the top too.
I hope this book helps girls—especially the ones early on in transition—to remember how great they are and how great they can be. And I hope it honors the women who came before us. I want it to preserve the legacy of our sisterhood, teaching the next generation of girls about the women who paved the way for us.
We are more than punch-lines and punching-bags—we have literally changed the world.
You can purchase Charlie's book here.