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How One Woman is Using Manicures to Fight Transphobia

Changing the world, one nail at a time

Charlie Craggs, trans-woman and activist, travels around the UK with her pop-up nail salon and invites strangers to come and get their nails done for free. Why? Well, this gives her ‘a chance to sit down with someone who might not have met a trans-person before, yet probably has a lot of misconceptions about us as a result of poor media representation, and bond with them while I paint their nails.’ Charlie talks openly with her ‘clients’ about issues surrounding trans – ‘they can ask me questions about trans stuff and I can teach them how to be an ally. But the most important part of the interaction for me, is just having a laugh and a chat because what I’m really trying to do with my campaign, is show that trans-people are just normal and actually, pretty nice people. I’m trying to change hearts and minds one nail at a time!’ 

We sat down with Charlie to find out more.

DTL: How did Nail Transphobia come about? What were the motivations for setting it up?

Charlie: I set up Nail Transphobia when I first began transitioning back in 2013. It took me a long time to accept myself as trans, but when I finally did, I realised that just because I was ready, it didn’t mean the rest of the world was. The amount of hate I began receiving, navigating the world as a trans-woman almost broke me, but back then there wasn’t the social conversation around trans issues that there is today. I was pissed off that no one was talking about the issue, so I decided to do something about it.

DTL: If you could go back in time, what one thing would you tell your younger self?

Charlie: YOU’RE TRANSGENDER!

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Photograph by Joanna Kiely

DTL: What are your most prominent challenges, and how do you overcome them?

Charlie: To be honest, just leaving the house is a challenge for myself along with most other trans and non binary femmes. My life’s got a lot harder since transitioning. Everything from using public transport, to using public bathrooms, accessing healthcare and employment has become so difficult! I receive an incredible amount of hate every day, just navigating the world as a trans-woman – I think most people would crumble under the negativity. But despite all of this I’ve never been happier. For the first time in my life I’m living authentically, I’m living my truth and I’m living for me. For the first time in my life I love myself, and it doesn’t matter if the rest of the world hates you, if you love yourself that’s all that matters.

DTL: What motivates you?

Charlie: The hardship, adversity and injustice I, and all my other LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers face. I won’t stop until it ends.

DTL: Did you ever experience bullying? If so can you tell us what happened and how you overcame the experience.

Charlie: Yeah, I had a really horrible time at school. I faced homophobic abuse all day, every day – and I didn’t have any friends, so at lunchtime I’d leave school, and eat my packed lunch on a park bench; I was too scared to eat in the canteen because of the bullies. I had no one to hang around with in the playground, so I’d sit on that park bench by myself, every day for an hour in silence, come rain or snow. It makes me want to cry when I think about it. I wish I could tell you how I overcame it, but this isn’t a Disney film, I just endured it. Looking back, that was an achievement in itself, and probably my proudest achievement. Anyway, I’ve had my Disney happy ending now! Google me honey!

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DTL: What advice would you give to readers who may be experiencing bullying? Or feel like they don’t fit in because of attitudes towards their gender identity?

Charlie: If you can take yourself out of the situation, do, but if you can’t, just remind yourself that every day, every hour, every minute – you’re a day, hour and minute closer to leaving that place, and the people bullying you. That’s the only thing that got me through my time at school; reminding myself that with every second that passed, I was closer to leaving. Stay strong!

DTL: What has been your proudest moment so far?

Charlie: Making it onto the Independent’s Rainbow List was a very proud moment for me because the week I came out as trans, back in 2013, Paris Lees topped the list, and I remember saying to myself I’ll be on that list one day – I just didn’t think that day would come so soon! I was actually photographed with Paris at the launch party for the list, it was a surreal moment, like something from a film. I felt like J.lo in Maid In Manhattan.

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DTL: What advice would you give to people who want to work on being better allies for our LGBTQ+ friends?

Charlie: I think the best thing to do is to ask your LGBTQ+ friend personally what you can do to help them or be an ally; it’s different for everyone. You asking will mean so much to them, I promise!

DTL: What does the future hold for Charlie Craggs and Nail Transphobia?

Charlie: Though we’ve come a long way in the last couple of years with regards to trans rights, the number of trans-people (specifically trans-women of colour) being murdered every year, is increasing worldwide at an alarming rate. I was on BBC news recently, talking about the fact that transphobic hate crime is on the rise, even here in London. I’m tired of just talking about this issue, so I’ve decided to actually do something – I’m about to start running free self defence classes for trans and non binary femmes. Verbal, physical and sexual abuse is something most of us experience on a daily basis, and we all need to know how to defend ourselves; It can literally be a case of life or death. Full proceeds from the nail decals that I make and sell on my website go towards funding the classes (that’s a hint). Classes will be starting in the next month or so!

DTL: Is there anything you would like to add?

Charlie: FOLLOW ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA HUNNIES @Charlie_Craggs!!!!

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