One of the joys of running is having the space and the time for thought. Now if you image that since I hit the road 13 years ago, I have run something like 15,000 km, and at an average of 11km/hr, you can easily calculate that I’ve had plenty of time to ponder the meaning of life and indeed, everything (42!). You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve spent hours and hours thinking about who I am, and what I am. The conundrum of being a Trans girl has consumed many many miles.
Life on the road is not all serious stuff, the other day I found myself ruminating on the subject of orphaned negatives. What’s a orphaned negative Lilly? Well it’s words like disgruntled or dishevelled, negatives that don’t have positive; have you ever been gruntled or shevelled? No? Me neither. Do you need to upgrade your phone, is it a bit fangled or even oldfangled?
Then my little girly brain moved on to the word ‘icon’. What’s the opposite of icon? We have heroes and villains, but not icons and anti-icons. Do we need anti-icons? Well take Germaine Greer for example. Germaine is a wonderful feminist icon and trail blazer but Germaine is a transgender anti-icon; blimey cobber, she has said some rather horrible things about us girls. One woman’s icon, can be another women’s anti-icon. Germaine is still an icon to me, but be careful Germaine, you’re hanging on by your fingernails. One more word….
Here are some current icons I’ve chosen to write about; are any of these women your anti-icons? Definitely not my first choice; not unless you wish to end up in The Tower that is….
Queen Elizabeth II (b1926)
An amazing women, a true icon, a symbol of Britain and a huge advocate of hats and pastel shades. A person respected throughout the world and also an enduring reminder of the history of Kings and Queens of our county, reaching back over two thousand years.
People who know me well might be surprised by my choice, as they will also know that I’d vote for a Republic tomorrow, so why am I such a big Queen (no not you Freddie)? My view on royalty is not a comment on Elizabeth’s performance in her job (this is not an appraisal!) but the role of privilege plays in our society. Anyway, within her job description (could HR supply a copy please), Queenie has more than exceeded expections. Since she came to the throne in 1953, Elizabeth has provided our nation with a strong symbol of continuity, during a period of massive social and technological change. Instantly recognisable, Elizabeth II is the true Queen Of Our Hearts.
Beyoncé (b 1981)
Beyoncé Knowles, is an icon in the era of #blacklivesmatter and #metoo movements. She is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning singer and composer, widely acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos and live shows.
The music superstar has been a loud and proud feminist from the beginning of her career, with women-power anthems from Independent Women to Flawless, embracing the many complications and contradictions of what it means to be a feminist along the way. Go ‘Single Ladies’, go all ladies.
Munroe Bergdorf (b 1987)
Trans Women Monroe is consistently at the forefront of trans-awareness, Munroe is a British model and activist who has also fronted beauty campaigns based around gender fluidity. She is a strong and outspoken feminist, unafraid to call out injustices or hypocrisies where she sees them, or to stand up for what she believes in, even if it costs her a job, as it infamously did with her lucrative L’Oréal contract in 2017. Keep fighting the good fight Munroe!
Margaret Attwood (b 1939 )
Little did literary giant Margaret know that, when she wrote ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ back in 1985, she was not writing a sci-fi dystopia, but an unsettling blueprint for our current times. The adaptation of her acclaimed novel into a fantastic but disturbing television series in 2017, chimed with the inauguration of President Trump. As the similarities between female oppression in fictitious Gilead and real-life USA are striking. Thankfully Trump has gone, but Margaret endures, and she has proved herself a feminist icon of our times, tweeting politically and fiercely about female oppression. Margaret is a strong advocate of our Transgender community. Listen to Margaret, she always speaks of fairness and equality.
Serena Williams (b 1981)
Serena is the greatest female tennis player ever and she is also one of the most proudly feminist. Outspoken, powerful and unashamed of calling out sexism when she sees it, she is as open about motherhood as she is about grand slams. She is a huge advocate for gender equality, particularly about the rights of women of colour and also works to raise awareness for breast cancer, recently stripping off to remind women to check their breasts.
Serena is flawed; as perhaps all super competitive people are, and sometimes she misbehaves on court, but Serena is an unapologetic winner.
Malala Yousafzai (b 1997)
Brave is a word often attributed to activists, but nowhere does this seem more appropriate than when discussing Malala, who quite literally nearly died for her cause. Shot by the Taliban in 2012 on her way home from school, Malala became an international sensation for having courageously maintained her fight for female education, frequently banned by the Taliban in her native Pakistan, despite such threats. Post recovery, she continues her fight to this day, founding the Malala fund, which supports female education around the world. She became the youngest Nobel Prize recipient and is currently studying at Oxford.
Laura Bates (b 1986)
Growing up as I did in a male body, I had no idea of the casual sexism and abuse most women experience throughout their life. Reading Laura’s eye opening book, ‘The Everyday Sexism Project’, changed that.
Laura founded the Everyday Sexism movement back in 2012 and it quickly spawned a phenomenon that encouraging women to call out daily sexism, and directly challenging the notion that sexism had been eradicated in modern life. Laura’s book acknowledges the pervasiveness of sexism and struck a huge cultural nerve. She continues to work as a prolific feminist writer and was awarded a British Empire Medal for her work on gender equality in 2015.
Dolly Parton (b1946)
Born in abject povery in Tennessee, Dolly is the fourth of 12 children. Dolly has never forgotten her roots and through her Dollywood Foundation has made many charitable interventions, particularly in the area of childhood literacy. Dolly’s literacy programme sends one book each month to each enrolled child from the time of their birth until they enter primary school. This amounts to almost 850,000 children each month across the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia, and Ireland.
Dolly, who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, also recently donated a million dollars to the fund which supported the development of the Moderna Covid Vaccine. Thanks Dolly, I shall think of you on my vaccination day.
Dee Starr (b2017)
Dee walks the walk and talks the talk, in a determined and uncompromising way, waving her Oasis Transgender flag as she takes no prisoners. Loud and proud, Dee is an inspiration to us all, as are our other full time friends, and as a part timer, I am humble to call Dee my friend.
Last year was going to be Dee’s year. During February 2020, I joined Dee for a trip to The London Gender Clinic and Dee appeared to be close to transitions final hurdle. Of course Covid got in the way, so I hope when normality is restored, Dee’s progress will get back on track quickly. Stay happy Dee, you deserve it.
Now that is an impressive collection of amazing women, and there’s more, so many many more. All they want, all we want, all we deserve, is the right to live our lives with true equality.
Now I’m off to pop on my trainers as I can hear the call of the open road. The open road which sometimes makes me imagine Mr Toad ‘parp’ ‘parping’ their way down the highway in a newfangled horseless carriage. But which Toad am I? The reckless motorists or the washer-women toad escaping from gaol? Clue; these days I’m frequently accused of driving like an old woman!
Now where do I get my vaccine passport stamped?
Lots of love to you all. Lilly x