‘People Think All Trans Activists Care About Is Getting An Emoji, When Actually We’re Just Trying To Stay Alive’

We spoke to trans rights activist Charlie Craggs about her latest emoji, campaign, and how she uses her talent as a nail technician as a catalyst for change...

Charlie Craggs

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Charlie Craggs is on her latest mission to improve the rights and visibility of the transgender community. She’s launched a nail brand,Nail It, and their first campaign is to have a trans flag emoji approved by Unicode- the organisation that gatekeeps the universal language of emojis. Make no mistake, the campaign is important to her, but it’s just one of many, many projects she leads on to improve the lives of trans people.

‘People think it's a really millennial thing to care about and actually we have way bigger problems than not having an emoji, we're just trying to stay alive’ she tells me, ‘but the fact is it’s the most requested emoji for three years running, and the trans community is bigger than some countries that have flag emojis – as they should – so there’s an obvious need for it. Yet, they still choose to add soup cans and toboggans over our flag. That’s the transphobia for me, because it’s so easy for them to do and they choose to ignore us.’

It seems that, in a similar vein to the fight for a period emoji, the three-year fight to have something as frivolous and easy to create as an emoji included in our growing global language says a lot about the stigma that still prevails around these issues. Charlie has been fighting this stigma for years using her talent as a nail technician, by travelling the UK and inviting the public for manicures.

‘When I'm doing someone’s nails they're essentially sitting down and holding hands with me,’ she says, ‘it's very hard to not feel someone’s humanity when you're holding their hands and they're looking at you in the eyes and you're talking about deep shit. Or even if we're just talking about the X Factor, we don't have to talk about trans issues, the point of the interaction is that you're sitting down with a trans person.’

So far, in her six years of working on the campaign – called Nail Transphobia - Charlie is yet to have a person leave her portable salon without having changed their mind about trans people, purely from that small interaction. And while it does take a lot of emotional labour to continue, she finds solace in knowing she’s creating new allies all the time.

‘It is really draining, because often while I'm talking to people they will be misgendering me, because they just don't understand that I’m a "she",’ she tells me, ‘or they'll be asking questions that are really hard - or annoying - to answer but at the same time the reason that I do it is because at the end of each session I can see the change it's had and I know I’m sending out another ally into the world.’

The impact has been huge, with clients writing to Charlie months after sessions thanking her for helping them understand. Even when approaching the most seemingly transphobic clients, Charlie has ended up making real friends. One session in particular sticks out to her, when she attended a talk with young girls for the Art Against Knives charity.

‘They do nails with girls on this council estate, to get them off the estate and give them some positive influences. I’m a council estate girl myself so I was well up for it’ she says, ‘When I came in they were all slouched on their phones not paying attention, they did not care for me at all. And there was this one girl that I was genuinely scared of thinking "I’m going to need security to leave",

‘She was all slouched, on her phone, talking over me while I was talking and I was thinking "she's not going to like a trans girl like me, she's probably going to be transphobic"’, she continued, ‘But then she started listening to what I was saying and by the end of it she came up to me afterwards and said "I just want you to know that really changed my mind and I think you're amazing". She was telling me how she had a gay friend and how what I’d said had helped her understand more and I actually cried on the way home. I was just so happy that I’d made a little bit of an impact. We follow each other on Instagram now and it's the cutest thing, I love her.’

Click here for inspirational Instagram accounts you should be following...


Inspirational Instagram Accounts You Should Follow

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Women In Comics

Illustrating inspirational images and depicting women in comic form, this account will brighten up your timeline with some home truths in the form of pretty pictures.

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Adwoa Aboah

This insanely beautiful model founded GURLS TALK, an online community where women from all backgrounds can share their personal experiences in a safe space.

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Alicia Garza

Alicia is an editor and activist who co-created #BlackLivesMatter. Her feed is a mixture of relatable memes, unfiltered selfies and educational posts to keep you woke.

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Amandla Stenberg

You might recognise this actor from The Hunger Games, when she played the character only character we cried endless tears for, Rue. Now, while still acting, she's a full-fledged activist posting about everything gender, feminism and black culture.

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Amani created the fast-growing activism account @MuslimGirl, another one you should definitely follow. She has spoken across the world about Muslim women and posts everything from badass selfies to stats you need to know.

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Amber Amour

Amber created @CreatingConsentCulture which aims to educate people on rape culture and support rape and sexual assault survivors. She's also outspoken about racism and sex work, her feed will be endless many dinner party talking points.

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Amber Rose

You may only know Amber Rose as Kanye's ex, but think again. Amber is a sex positivity icon, with her own pocast 'Loveline with Amber Rose' up until 2018 that aimed to promote healthy sexual relationships and self-love. If you can get past the fact she advertised flat tummy tea once (fgs Amber), you'll love her feminism-filled feed.

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Beverly Bond

Author of 'Black Girls Rock', Beverly's posts will have you both inspired and enraged, filled with commentary on everyday injustices.

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Bree Newsome

You may recognise Bree as the activist who took down the confederate flag from a flagpole outside the South Carolina Capitol building. She's continuing her activism with inspiring art you need to see.

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Cameron Russell

An american model who called out the fashion industry for sexual harassment and assault, she started the #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse hashtag. Her instagram is full of inspiring stories and educational videos exposing different injustices within her industry and beyond.

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Iskra Lawrence

If your not already following Iskra, your living under an Instagram rock. The body positive model started her own business, everyBODY with Iskra, to give health and fitness advice beyond just getting super skinny. You need her body posi vibes in your life.

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Another super body positive account to follow, Jessamyn is a yoga teacher regularly posting about the emotional and physical benefits of body positivity and practicing yoga.

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Joanna Thangiah

Shun your timeline of filtered selfies and over exposed holiday destinations. It's time for some feminist, mental health aware art! This account is amazing for cute cartoons that say everything we're already feeling.

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Judy Reyes

You'll probably remember Judy as Carla from Scrubs, or one of the other thousand TV show she's been in throughout her insanely successful career. Unlike most Hollywood actors, her Insta is full of activism and news you need to know.

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Logan Browning

Activist and actor, Logan Browning is the lead of Netflix hit Dear White People. Posting powerful content and links to charities you can donate to so you can turn your online activism into action- she's a force to be reckoned with.

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Makers Women

MAKERS is a storytelling platform for women, posting quotes to keep you inspired throughout the day. Stay up to date with gender injustice, while also feeling hopeful with the powerful words these amazing women have to say.

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Nimisha Bhanot

Another artist you need to follow, Nimisha creates amazing prints (which you can buy) critiquing societal perceptions of South Asian women. She's based in Canada, but these prints can brighten up your timeline anywhere.

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Muslim Girl

Muslim Girl, where 'muslim women talk back' is an account ran by Amani. Advocating for issues facing muslim women, both accounts are an inspiration and necessity on your feed.

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Project Consent

There's no time like the present to be educating people on consent. This account does exactly that, and gives you the perfect explanations, comebacks and reminders to throw out at a dinner party if the issue comes up.

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Rowan Blanchard

Gone are the days of Disney stars going off the rails, this actor and activist is a beacon of positivity- especially online. Fighting gender and race injustice and beyond, she's one to watch.

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Rupi Kaur

Rupi made headlines in 2015 when she posted pictures of her on Instagram with visible menstrual blood. Her posts were blocked by Instagram, causing backlash against the social media platform. She continues to break boundaries with her writing and poetry.

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Sophie King

This UK based embroidery artist is an up-and-coming star, embroidering feminist slogans onto everything from bras to roses. Bring her insta to life with her slogan t-shirts, or just stare at the pretty pictures, either way she's someone you should follow.

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The Vulva Gallery

Our favourite of all the accounts, the vulva gallery promotes self-love in an area SO often ignored. With two-thirds of women avoiding smear tests, life-saving procedures, because of the look of their vagina, it's time we stopped all of the self-loathing around genitals. Providing a regular reminder that all vaginas are beautiful, if you only follow one account of this list, it should be this one.

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Trash Is For Tossers

Lauren Singer lives an entirely waste-free life. Yes, you can actually do that. As #plasticfree takes over our news feed, it's time you had some daily advice on how exactly to reduce your waste. Save the planet!

It’s moments like those that encourage Charlie to continue talking at physical events, as oppose to keeping her activism online. Putting herself out there so often, ‘for abuse, or people laughing and staring or just ignoring me’, she says, is really difficult, but for her it’s the only way ‘to change hearts and minds.’

And she promises to continue making such a big impact with the development of her nail brand. She’s not stopping at her book, To My Trans Sisters, which came out last year, or at her work with Nail Transphobia, oh no. Developing Nail It, where you can buy decals designed to start a conversation as Charlie does day in day out, the profits from her sales will go to various trans rights charities like Mermaids and Gendered Intelligence.

‘The nails are a catalyst for conversation,’ she says, ‘because if you're wearing the lobster decals someone is going to ask why and then you have a chance to talk about a trans issue and educate people.’

You can purchase decals from Nail It here****__, and support the brand on Instagram here.

Charlie is featured in our list of 10 Women Who’ve Changed The Conversation This Year. To mark International Women’s Day, Grazia and The Female Lead Have teamed up to celebrate the heroines who’ve made a difference to our everyday lives - even if you don’t know their name yet. We’ll be featuring different amazing women from the list every day online, and check out Grazia magazine on Tuesday 5th March for our list in full…

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