In the final hours of 2017, we hear from one of Scotland’s leading trans activists Justine Smithies, as she reviews her top highlights of the year just gone.
“With New Year just peeping round the corner, I thought I’d give you a look back at some of my highlights from 2017 and some of the not-so-good things that suddenly changed for the trans community.
In February I was invited down to the Houses of Parliament for the Labour Party LGBT History Month event, where I met with Jeremy Corbyn, along with other well known LGBT+ activists, including Kate Hutchinson (Wipe Out Transphobia), Susie Green (CEO of Mermaids UK) and Annie Wallace (‘Sally St Claire’ in C4 show Hollyoaks). Being in a room with some of the most well known people in the trans and LGBT+ movement was such an honour.
A week later I was invited to Newcastle to be a keynote speaker at the LGBT History Project NE, together with Lisa Power MBE, at their #OurHistory event at the Newcastle Civic Centre. It was a fantastic day and I learned so much about our UK and international LGBT history and I was surprised and humbled to be asked to be a patron of the organisation, which I accepted.
It’s been a busy year for public speaking too – something I’ve been doing for a few years now, trying to share my journey in the hope it can help others in some small way. I talked at West Lothian Pride in Livingston and was proud to march with their LGBT youth group “The Glitter Cannons” and also spent the day in Edinburgh with Centrica plc, as part of their National Inclusion Week – a speech which was live streamed all over the UK, including to their HQ in Windsor.
By far my biggest ever audience was for a speech I made on the Main Stage at the first ever Isle of Wight Pride – nearly 5000 people packed onto the beach and to say I was a little nervous would be an understatement! Just sharing the stage with icons such as Horse McDonald and Linda Riley was amazing, they really inspire me. What a fantastic day it was though and I just couldn’t believe how crowded the streets of Ryde were with the locals cheering on the parade.
I was also privileged to be invited to a LGBT History Month event by the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, in Edinburgh and also enjoyed both Edinburgh and Fife Pride events in the summer. It was fantastic to see LGBT+ communities coming together as one.
This year has thrown me some wildcard’s too – I was somehow nominated and shortlisted from thousands of women for the ‘We Are The City Top 100 Rising Star Awards’ and was invited to London to attend the awards ceremony. I was astounded to be invited and very humbled to even reach the shortlist.
Later in the year I also found myself being interviewed by one of the most famous stars in South Korea, Mr Hyun-Sung Jang, for a documentary about being trans. Julie and I found ourselves at the mercy of the whole film crew from the Seoul Broadcasting System, including moving all our furniture around in the house and walking along the local beach with tv drones flying overhead! Needless to say though I am very proud to have had the chance to do the film if it helps people in South Korea understand trans people and hopefully helps that a person like me, who was terrified to admit who I was, can now help others in some small way.
More recently I was thrilled to be named on the prestigious DIVA Power List for 2017, coming in at number 93 for the first time. It’s such an honour to be named alongside the likes of VG Lee, Heather Peace, Susan Calman and so many other amazing women for the work I do. I’m no professional speaker or media personality, but its lovely to be recognised for just giving back what I can to help others.
Lastly, its matters closer to home that I’m most excited to be part of – Grampian Pride. To my surprise I was nominated to be one of the Co-Chairs for the new organisation putting on a long-overdue Pride event in the North East of Scotland – an immense responsibility and honour for me personally. To bring this idea to life will be such a positive thing for the area, so it would be a shame to miss an opportunity to plug the event; make sure you put Grampian Pride in your diary for Sat 26th May 2018 in Aberdeen. You can find out more details at www.grampianpride.org
So as you can see I’ve had a very busy year, but there is still so much more to do. 2017 was the year some parts of the media seemed to turn on the trans community and chose to publish so much scaremongering and fake news, which in turn seemed to reverse some of the progress we’ve made in society.
My commitment, which I hope you share, is to make 2018 the year coming out as trans is no longer an issue at home, at school or work. After all, people are just people, and we’re only here once so lets enjoy it and be ourselves.”