Sometimes it’s too much for me. Not only surviving and paying bills but also taking on more and more as it all falls apart around us and we’re so few that are engaged and the needs are so great. The world is burning, my body is breaking, I haven’t slept a whole night in a month. And the solution, so they tell me? Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
It’s such a slippery concept. Like, yes, of course we should be taking care of ourselves. Of course sustainability. Of course living to fight another day. But I’m not built for some kinds of…
I have never been more visible in my life. And sometimes it terrifies me.
Trans day of visibility, 2017. I published my first novel. One year later, my second. Two years later I’ve launched Trans Feminism International.
In these years I’ve become more public, more seen, more known than ever before. Being visible is literally part of my survival now and it’s how I put food on the table.
Imposter syndrome is something we’re supposed to push through, they tell me. It’s all in my head, they tell me. You can do anything you want! So they tell me.
But in reality, those insidious messages — that I’m not good enough and that my existance is an inconvenience to everyone else — come from outside of me. In a world that demonises femininity and poverty and discards trans women like yesterday’s trash, these messages are repeated with the specific intention of making me feel like I’m imposing.
It’s the guy on the underground who stares at my make-up, his…
I’ve never done well with groups. Some of my earliest social memories were feeling like everyone around me was under a spell that left me confused and outside. In retrospect, there were lots of reasons for me to feel excluded; my transness, femininity and sensitivity were a lethal combination. My class was also a factor during the times I went to mixed-class schools. But there was more to it than that. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get my head around this mysterious state of how to be cool.
In the militarised, working class environment I grew up…
Through my writing work I’ve had the honour of meeting some incredible activists across the world. Continuing this series, I interviewed Arron Gill this week in Birmingham We talked about the city, art activism and…of course…cats.
Otter: We met in Birmingham when you kindly hosted me for a reading at The_GAP, a beautiful arts project for young people. What are you working on at the moment?
Arron: So I work at the space in which you did your reading of Margins, The GAP. It’s a creative cultural space for young people in Birmingham. Birmingham is the youngest city (in proportion…
(Contains mentions of various systematic forms of violence against trans women including incarceration)
This Tuesday is Trans Day of Remembrance/Resilience. It’s become something of a tradition, this ‘remembering’ of the trans folk (almost all young, poor, trans women of colour) murdered by transphobia, transmisogyny, poverty and racism in the last year.
While marking this is incredibly important (and definitely let’s talk about the systemic reasons behind this violence and then bring it all down) I would also like wider society to show up for trans women while we’re still alive.
Through various projects and initiatives I’ve been involved in, I’ve…
This article was originally published in 2018. This is an updated version as my thoughts on class and gender have developed and grown, as I have.
Kes Otter Lieffe, 2021
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Not all trans women are created equal. More and more, I come to realise how much poverty and precarity define my life experience. Being poor and trans, I do not live in the same world as people who are rich and trans. We do not have the same hopes, dreams or expectations from life. We certainly don’t experience the same risks.
Having survived poverty, unemployment, violent healthcare…
Kes Otter Lieffe is a working class, chronically ill, femme, trans woman. She is an author, teacher and community organiser currently based in Berlin.