On Saturday, thousands of trans people and their allies took to the streets of Brighton—a seaside town often described as the queer capital of the UK—for its annual Trans Pride parade, the country's biggest pride celebration for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people.
Over 2,500 people marched from Princes Street to Brunswick Square; many held their protest signs high, cheering, "What do we want? Trans rights! When do we want it? Now!" Unlike the commercial behemoth that is Pride in London, Trans Pride stands out with its emphasis on transgender lives—or, as its website puts it, "putting the T first."
"This is real pride, connecting people and saving lives," said co-founder Fox Fisher. "Each year, I've reached close to burnout and I always swear I'm going to walk away, but those few days of Trans Pride never cease to make my heart swell."
The trans community in Britain still faces prejudice. The conservative backlash against the push to reform the Gender Recognition Act, the outdated legislation that dictates the hoops people must jump through to change their legal gender, only shows how far the country has to go.
Since its inception in 2012, Trans Pride has provided a safe and welcoming place for trans and gender nonconforming people to come together and celebrate. To mark its fifth birthday, photographer Sharon Kilgannon talked to trans and gender nonconforming attendees about how their life has changed since the start of Trans Pride.
Amber Hope Evans, 29, digital designer
Five years ago, I was in a relationship and not yet engaged to the woman who would be my wife, whom I'm now divorced from. At the end of 2015, I realized I was transgender, and going into 2016, I started to come to terms with everything to do with that, started my transition from male to female, and that leads me to where I am today.
It's been a difficult journey, but interesting and exciting at the same time. I'm really proud to be here today at my first Trans Pride and be around amazing friends and amazing people I've met along the way who have helped me become the real me and the person that I'm proud of—because I never really knew who I was before.
Vlad Remi Ashton, 21, artist
Five years ago I was struggling through college, trying to get all my art coursework in and [being] very mentally ill. I'm still going through the process of therapy and medications and just getting into all of that. I didn't know that [being] non-binary was a thing but I knew that I was very uncomfortable in my body and didn't feel comfortable as a girl—I would describe my experience as "girl failure."
I was always interested in gender bending in terms of fashion and makeup and drag culture. Now I'm still as ill but suffering less because I'm not in college; I'm doing things on my own terms. I'm much more comfortable with my lifestyle and I've found my community of fellow non-binary people. I've found ways to make myself feel more comfortable in terms of gender and my relationship with my body. It's still a struggle; it's a journey, but hey—I'm on the way now, at least.
CJ Kemal Daniel Bruce, 27, train operator
I attended the first ever Trans Pride event five years ago. While I was learning to be comfortable and understanding of gender and my own gender identity, I still had a lot of insecurities about my race! LGBT spaces can sometimes not be friendly places for people of color. At Trans Pride, I came across a stall for a QTIPOC (queer, trans, intersex people of color) group and plucked up the courage to go over and speak to them. Since then, I have been so much more comfortable in myself and in my community!
I've grown a lot and evolved since the first Trans Pride. I've had surgery, started taking hormones, stopped taking hormones, and learned to be more assertive about having my identity respected and acknowledged. I'm now a proud non-binary uncle, and I'm working on becoming a parent. I've visited my home country for the first time in many years, and found everybody did not find it hard to accept me as I was. I have a job that allows me to present, gender-wise, however I like.
If the last five years are anything to go by, the next five years for me—and for Trans Pride—are going to be spectacular!
Loretta Imogen Crinall, 19, hotel restaurant staff
This time five years ago I was aware of my gender identity and had chosen my name. I was beginning my transition slowly and deliberately… I didn't want to be ridiculed any more than I already was, so I changed my clothes gradually, going through an intermediate stage of androgynous fashion. I hadn't trained my voice yet so it was still deep, and I had already developed dysphoria. My identity wasn't being acknowledged by anyone around me; I was being ignored.
In the five years that have since passed, everything has changed. I have been through so much hardship, and it has developed me into the woman I am today. I trained my voice, developed my look, learned makeup and hair skills; basically worked hard to make my outside match my inside, and now it almost does.
I've been on hormones for 20 months now, blockers for two-and-a-half years, and have been on the progesterone cycle for about a year. I couldn't be prouder of myself, how far I've come, and what I've managed to overcome. But I know I still have a fair way to go.
Lilly Waite, 22, artist
Five years ago, I would never have dreamed I'd be where I am today. I was deeply unhappy, I was going through unpleasant and unhelpful therapy, I was in the worst period of an eating disorder—I was in a dark, dark place. I'd figured out I was trans, but it wasn't until a few years later that I could act upon it. I finally started medical transition last year, after slowly socially transitioning over the previous 18 months while at university in London.
Coming out to a wonderful response from so many people, transitioning, and finally living authentically is something that I wanted and needed for those five years—but neither thought nor allowed myself to believe would ever happen.
While some things are taking longer to happen—and some things are taking longer to go away—I'm who I wanted to be as a miserable 17-year-old. I'm where I wanted to be and I'm doing what I wanted to do. I'm doing really well, I've made incredible friends, and I've found a community of people to whom I can relate like never before. I know I'm not the only one for whom five years have felt like a lifetime of difference.
Reuben George, 23, youth worker
In the last five years, more has changed or happened than I would have expected. I found love, had my heart broken, moved house a few times—normal things like that—but other stuff has happened, too. My stepmom died a couple of years ago after being sick for quite a long time, and my grandma died, too. This led me to wanting to connect with my family beyond my sister and my dad. It's been a challenge in the past, because everyone lives out in Canada. I went over earlier this year and it literally felt like a pilgrimage of self.
The last five years—this last year especially—have felt really pivotal for me. I feel more like myself and more comfortable than I ever thought I could. That's not just because of my medical transition, but because of my place in my community and feeling connected to people around me. Times have been really fucking hard, don't get me wrong, but it's been liberating to learn about myself. I'm a man, a Jew, a youth support worker, a best friend. My identity doesn't start and end with "trans."