Eddie Izzard – Transgender Hero

Eddie Izzard is about to complete a superhuman challenge of running 27 marathons in 27 days with a final double marathon on Sunday 20th March. If that wasn’t enough, he is very visibly representing the transgender community and challenging a few myths at the same time.

The past 12 months has seen a tipping point for trans people, and it is probably the very public coming out of Caitlyn Jenner more than any other event that has thrust trans people into the media spotlight.

Suddenly transgender is cool. However what I have noticed is that there is still a obsessive focus on the minority of trans people. The trans people who are grabbing the limelight are those who can “pass” well. It’s as if we all now have to compete with the most beautiful women of the world in order to be acceptable and trans men are largely invisible.

Let me dispel a huge myth right now. Most transgender people do not transition, do not actually change their gender.  They find a way to cope.  Many trans men, for example, continue to identify  as women, but dress in a very masculine way, although it is important to add that not all women who dress in a masculine way are trans men.

Trans women on the other hand don’t have that luxury. Continuing to identify as a man but dressing in a very feminine way often means they are identified as gay. There is of course one global icon who is doing, in my view, more for ordinary trans folk than any other.

Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard identifies very publicly as trans – frequently dressing in clothing most people associate with women. I love his quote from a few years back when asked why he dresses in women’s clothes he said, “they are not women’s clothes – they’re mine.

Eddie Izzard Completing Marathon 24

Eddie Izzard is currently running for Sport Relief in South Africa where he this morning completed marathon 24 of 27 in 27 days.

What he is achieving there in terms of human endurance is beyond belief.  If you check out the pictures of the early marathons in February and compare them to do today, he looks a different person. Fitter, slimmer and still sporting brightly coloured nails.

In rural South Africa Eddie Izzard is not very well known, so it’s a bit of a shock for the locals to see a white guy with brightly painted nails running around carrying a South African flag. So not only is he honouring Nelson Mandela and raising money for Sport Relief, he is also doing a huge amount to raise awareness of LGBT and especially trans issues.

Africa is not known for it’s LGBT friendliness generally, although Cape Town itself ,where he is running, is actually one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the world and the pink capital of South Africa. Here is Eddie Izzard getting his nails refreshed earlier in the challenge.

I was prompted to write this post when a friend commented on this video that Eddie Izzard was not transgender and it made me realise that with all the publicity being focused on beautiful trans women over the past year, people were forgetting that Eddie Izzard is as much transgender as they are.

He has chosen a coping strategy that works for him. He is very open about being transgender and frequently dresses in a way that is, well neither male nor female.

Current estimates suggest that there may be as many as 600,000 trans people in the UK alone – yet today less than 20,000 have sought any form or medical intervention and just 4000 have officially changed their legal gender.

I am currently in the middle of a challenge, trying to convert my transgender training into an online programme. As a result I have been watching every programme on trans people, reading blog posts, news items, academic papers and generally immersing myself in the topic as I did 10 years ago when I was doing my masters degree dissertation.

I know now that when I release the course in April, it is going to be seen as a little controversial because some people, both transgender and cisgender, are voicing opinions that I don’t agree with.

Being born transgender is not an easy life and not something anyone would really choose. But we have had to hide in fear of being publicly shamed, discriminated against and harassed for far too long.

Finally the laws around the world are changing and now the very difficult task of changing attitudes can really get going. Thank you Eddie Izzard for winning the hearts of millions and doing so much to help us all in this battle. I for one will be supporting him every step of the way though this weekend as he shows the world just how much transgender people can contribute.

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  1. I have never heard the lovely Eddie Izard describe himself as anything other than a man, and definitely not transgender., and I wonder if u have his permission to label him as transgender in your blog? I do have a transgender friend who has physically become a woman, a lesbian woman actually, and her opinion is the same as mine…. And the transgender beauty pageant on TV last week actually stripped the winner of her title because she was not living as a woman ie dressed as a woman the whole time. Eddie dresses as a man, albeit with the lovely nails, and heels when he’s not running. He does not live and dress as a woman.

    • Carol – thank you so much for this response. I was so hoping that someone would raise it because this is a confusing issue.

      Do I have his permission to describe him as transgender? Well actually I included a very recent video in the blog post that I am guessing that you didn’t watch. If you had then you would have heard Eddie admit that he is transgender and that he came out as transgender 31 years ago. Eddie is a huge supporter of transgender rights and, like me, would like to see a world where we don’t have such an obsession with gender.

      The problem is that everyone is getting very confused by all the gender jargon. Most trans people never transition. Of those who do transition many do not have surgery or hormone treatment. Far too many people, especially those born with male bodies, are pressured to conform to gender stereotypes. Women are generally free to wear what they want and no-one really cares. Men have make themselves look 100% like men or like women or else they get humiliated. How utterly stupid.

      I have recorded the Transgender beauty pageant and started watching it but go a bit busy – I will make a point of watching it no. I have no reason to doubt what you say – all I will say is that is the most stupid and discriminatory thing I have heard in a long time. I can only assume that they had strict rules everyone had to sign up to or else that action would be a breach of the Equality Act. The cis gendered beauty pageants used to ban trans women from competing but are not able to anymore.

      Most important point for everyone to get from this is that being transgender has nothing to do with how you act or dress or you legal identity. It is about how you feel inside – your gender identity. A recent transgender equality report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee of MPs has just confirmed that and we can expect more legal changes soon to support this understanding – and possibly a new gender that is neither male nor female.

      Thanks again for raising this point Carol – Hope this reply helps to clarify things – Oh and please do take a couple of minutes to watch Eddies video – I think you will find it very illuminating

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