Cara English

As part of our Pride series we are profiling a series of trans activists working in the UK right now. Here is… Cara English 

Photo of Cara Eleuteri-English

What does being a trans activist mean?

The most important personal activism for me is existing, chatting to people in the supermarket, having a laugh with the taxi driver or the ticket inspector, letting everyone see that trans people can be boring people too. Work-wise, it's about making sure policies are changed to mean trans people are able to reach their full potential without obstacle - no more, no less.


How did you get into activism?

I got into activism generally through working on a campaign against funeral poverty, which I'd started volunteering at when I found myself jobless. This job really showed me how central politics are to bringing about social change. When I'd decided I'd finally had enough of lying to myself, I started transitioning and moved onto a trans-specific job where I could bring my personal experience to the professional. 

Through fear of violence, I'd always use the unisex or disabled loo where I could as my gender presentation is quite unisex/androgynous. This got me thinking about mapping out all the unisex loos across the UK so that people wouldn't have to concern themselves so much about toilets when out and about and I started Open Lavs.

Can you tell us about one of your greatest activism moments?

Getting a grant from the Edge Fund - an amazing, people-powered, socially conscious grant giver - to help properly launch Open Lavs, a site I've started to help trans & non-binary people, and everyone else, find unisex loos close to them.

The moment met with the most relief was probably a few weeks after sending over Gendered Intelligence’s response to the Gender Recognition Act consultation, when I'd had enough time to process this massive piece of work was no longer looming over me. 

Helping get the Children's Funeral Fund through in England is one of my proudest moments, as it means that if a child dies anywhere in Britain, their parents/caregivers are much less likely to slip into debt paying for their funeral. This may seem morbid but this is one of the most meaningful things I've ever been a part of.


And can you tell us about one of your worst activism moments?

Pretty much everything to do with the Gender Recognition Act! The amount of drivel we were all sent was unreal. Or when I was at Stormont speaking about funeral poverty and the DUP MP host individually said goodbye to each speaker but me, literally turning away with disgust. 


What’s the greatest challenge facing the trans community right now?

Lack of general interest being weaponised. I don't believe people are generally transphobic or hateful, I believe people don't really care about how others live their lives as long as it doesn't affect them. The challenge here is that the small group of people who are transphobic, who are hateful, who wish to see us snuffed out of existence or at least hidden from all view, have a very loud voice and are distorting public will against us - and we didn't see it coming. I think there'd been an unfortunate assumption that trans equality would naturally follow on the inroads made on LGB equality, perhaps a complacency in thinking that our liberation, however delayed, could simply not be denied. Anti-trans campaigners and activists took this lack of interest about us, which to me can be quite a neutral thing, and filled the gap with hatred and misinformation. It's a challenge to work against this, somewhat on the back foot, whilst firefighting the actively hateful clutter in our inboxes, on our social media feeds and face to face at public events. The intent is to defame and overwhelm but we're not going anywhere.

How do you think change will come about?

We're never going to win over transphobes, and we'd never really want them either, so have to concentrate on our natural allies and potential friends. I think change will come about when everyone calms down just a wee bit! 

Change will come about when the whole discourse is allowed to de-escalate. Our lives make for distracting tabloid fodder for now but ultimately people will forget about this blip when they realise just how normal trans people are, how unworthy of scorn we are.


What can non-trans people do to support?

Speak up for your siblings! Snuff out transphobia in public discourse, much as we have to do with its bedfellow fascism, by not allowing hostility or hatred to thrive. Some of us are scared, some of us are unflinching and brazen, but we're all so tired of having to defend our existence - please join us so we can have some rest!

You can follow Cara on her twitter here: @mscaraenglish