Charlie Craggs is done with the prejudice faced by the trans community. She’s taking it into her hands by way of Nail Transphobia – a organisation that exists to educate people on trans issues and make new allies, while also delivering glamorous manicures. Nail Transphobia’s mission is clear: Tackling transphobia fabulously, through education and empowerment.
Since she started presenting as her true female self aged 21 in 2013, London born-and-bread Charlie realised that there wasn’t enough support for young trans women or organisations to help society understand the plight of trans people at all stages of their transitions.
What started as a university project is now being lauded on an international scale. Charlie is the voice of a community, challenging perceptions and broadening horizons. Oh, and she’s also now an author.
To My Trans Sisters is a compilation of essays – edited by our heroine – written as words of advice from a range of women from politicians and musicians to models. It’s filled with lessons learnt and helpful advice ranging from lighthearted musings to the downright essentials. A must-read if ever there was.
As Charlie goes from activist to author, social campaigner to societal changer, we crown her our latest Girl On A Mission.
When did you decide to start Nail Transphobia?
Nail Transphobia actually started as my final project at university (a BA Creative Direction at London College of Fashion) back in 2013. It’s crazy to think it’s still going four years on, and even crazier to think what I’ve achieved with what began as a little uni project from speaking at Parliament to writing my first book!
Why does this cause feel so important to you?
This is my life. I began my campaign at the same time I started transitioning in 2013 just before the trans tipping point, when the only time you heard about trans people was on Jerry Springer. Our lives and stories were being sensationalised and people had a lot of misconceptions and questions about us. I set up Nail Transphobia as a way of breaking these misconceptions, answering these questions and humanising the issue, because prejudice and hate comes from fear and misunderstanding. I wanted to create a safe space where I could help educate people in a super friendly, accessible – and fabulous – way. Nail transphobia is all about conversation, the nails are just a catalyst for that conversation.
If you could sum up the ethos of the project in five words, what would they be?
Changing perspectives and creating allies
How do you think being a young woman campaigner impacts the outcomes of your success?
People definitely take you less seriously when you’re a girl, whatever you’re doing. In the same vein, I think because of the nature of my campaign (I call it fabulous activism) and because I use a feminine medium like nails, people underestimate me and dismiss what I do as frivolous and superficial. Google me honey, I topped The Observers New Radicals List of social innovators in Britain; nothing superficial about that, sweetie.
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced thus far?
The biggest obstacle I’ve faced so far has been financial. I’ve run and funded the entire campaign myself since day one, which has been hard as a council estate girl. This is the case for most of my friends involved in activism. Most activists are people at the bottom of the pyramid, naturally, people from marginalised groups, people with more to be angry about and less resources to do something about it – hence why we’re activists. Luckily for what we lack in finance we make up for in strength and spirit.
You’ve actively used social media – what do you think the significance of these platforms is for activism right now?
Social media has changed the game. It’s made it so much easier to spread your message and create new allies which is great but at the same time, I think social media has diluted activism a bit. There are some people who think using a hashtag makes them an ally or an activist. Like for example, getting your nails done by me and hashtagging a pic of your nails on Instagram with the hashtag #nailtransphobia doesn’t make you an ally, it’s what you do after I paint your nails, and after you post that hashtag on Instagram that defines whether you are an ally. Overall though, I think social media has had a massively positive impact on activism, the fact that anyone anywhere in the world can make a post about something they feel passionately about and it has the potential to go viral and be seen by millions of people, is incredible. It’s given a voice to the voiceless.
How does it feel when you see the work you’ve done actually directly impact people in a positive way?
It’s honestly the best feeling in the whole world. I leave every Nail Transphobia event feeling incredible because I know there’s a few more allies out there in the world, and I also know that they’ll pass on what they’ve learnt, in turn creating more allies. The first time I had this feeling, and it dawned on me that this is what I want to dedicate my life to, was a couple of years ago when I was invited to give a talk to a bunch of council estate girls, which I was super excited to do because I’m a very proud council estate girl too. However, when I got to the venue to give my talk, these girls were not featuring me! But by the end of my talk they were my new best friends, adding me on Instagram and asking me for pictures and all that – they got me, and they got the trans thing. As I was leaving, the most vocal girl – who I was definitely low-key scared of when I first saw her- came up to me and told me I’d really helped her to understand the whole trans thing and changed her mind about it all. I cried on my way home. This is why I do what I do.
Who would you love to see support Nail Transphobia?
I was going to say someone famous like Lady Gaga or whatever, but honestly it means the world to me when anyone decides to support my campaign and makes the conscious decision to be a trans ally, famous or not. An ally is an ally.
Lastly, you’ve 150 words to use as a bit of a Soapbox to say whatever you want about the issue you support – go for it!
I’m going to promote my book, which is out this week, because I’m that girl. To My Trans Sisters is a collection of letters from almost 100 trailblazing trans women, offering sisterly advice to girls at the start of their transitions. Sort of like “what we wish we knew”, from how to deal with that five o’clock shadow to how to deal with transphobia. The book contains letters from a plethora of inspiring trans women: from politicians to celebrated entertainers, pioneering scientists to bestselling authors, and some straight-up trans icons too; women who have literally changed the world. From 80-year-old tech pioneer Lynn Conway whose inventions changed the way the world works, to America’s Next Top Model’s Isis King who changed the way the world sees us as trans people. I like to call it an encyclopedia of trans excellence. It’s a really good book, you should definitely buy it… and I’m not just saying that because I wrote it and the royalties will be paying for my boob job (JK Miss Thing).