Tuesday 7 February 2012

Is My Fame Vacuous?

I personally hate it when I meet someone on the street or in a club and says something about me being famous or a celebrity. It makes me feel like one of those seemingly vacuous people that sell photos of their wedding or newborn child to a magazine or go on TV to moan about press intrusion into their lives or their latest marriage break up. I don’t feel “famous.” I was on a late night Channel 4 show, which a relatively small number of people watched and then moved on with their lives but it’s left me with a legacy that I can’t ignore.
I still feel like the same person that I was a year ago, I still drink too much Red Bull, stay up till 4am on the internet and wish I could have more confidence. I agreed to be part of My Transsexual Summer mainly because I was just moving to the UK and I didn’t know anyone here, much less knew another trans person or know how really to start my transition. Being “famous” was never a motivation for me and I was vaguely hopeful that some people would take some sort of inspiration from me taking part but it’s this that has become my greatest underestimation of the summer.
Last weekend I went on a trip with the other girls from MTS, Karen, Donna, Drew and a man called Paul as we were invited to open a club night in Birmingham and to attend a night in a gay friendly pub in Bletchingley, Surrey. Now, I was and continue to be uncomfortable with the idea of putting myself on a pedestal above others as if I’m some kind of Elton John-esque “star” and I think it showed, I was self conscious, nervous and a lot more reserved to how I am normally but it was a conversation I had with someone afterwards when I was having a drink to calm my nerves that hit me like a freight train.
This person approached me and begun to tell me how she had came out to her family as trans after watching me telling my mum on TV. She said that seeing how I had summoned up the courage to be honest with the people I love had made her realise that she needed to do the same and she thanked me for taking part in the show. There was a tear in my eye as I hugged her and wished her the best for her life.
The next night in that tiny but lovely pub in Surrey and with the snow falling hard outside I met another young trans woman who, she explained, had only lived fulltime as female for a month. She was painfully shy and we talked about ways to help her boost her confidence and stop worrying about whether she passed as a woman when she was walking down the street. I promised her I would put her in touch with some friends of mine and said we would be able to support her and help her out in any way we could.
Now, I have noticed a couple of comments on Facebook and Twitter from people questioning why I am attending these club openings, events and various things that I’ve been invited to, like I’m milking my “fame” or something. To begin with, even though I put this down to petty jealousy, I thought these people may have had a point, I do not wish to become some sort of “career transsexual” who trades on being on a trans TV show like some Z list celebrity personalities seem to try and milk the fact that they were once on Big Brother or something.
But last weekend has made me aware that the seven of us HAVE made a difference to some peoples lives, we have actually inspired people, given hope to some people, opened some peoples eyes and continue to do so. We still have that opportunity to help some peoples lives and still give hope to some that their personal situations can improve and it’s for this reason that I won’t feel bad turning up to a nightclub in a blacked out people carrier and standing on a stage answering peoples questions as long as I still feel like I am making a difference for the good


  1. Absolutely right. You are not milking, you are clearly inspiring and helping others.

    Your motivations are good old fashioned altruism and compassion. Ignore the haters and enjoy life! xxxx Hannah.

  2. This sum's up the reason you should not listen to haters hun !! I had a terrible time when I first transitioned until I met an amazing post-op friend but I know not all transwomen or transmen have this support so you do all you can hun because you are all amazing and have saved peoples lives I am sure of that ! xx

  3. You know the answer already, Sarah, your 'fame' is not vacuous. You didn't do the programme to get on TV or to get on the celeb circuit. We hadn't already seen you on X-factor, Snog, Marry, Avoid, BGT, Million pound Drop, TOWIE, Geordie Shore, Jeremy Kyle and everything in between. I'm pretty sure we're not going to see you in any jungles with Ant and Dec, shagging footballers or entering the Big Brother house any time soon. It's great to use the exposure from the programme to promote positive images of trans people, which is what you are doing. And when it all dies down, you can crack on with just being Sarah for the rest of your life in the safe knowledge that you helped people to be who they are. x

  4. i don't think you're vacuous, but honestly yeah, most fame IS vacuous. you're definitely in a position to do some good for the community (like 'schools out' was probably good, that kind of thing. how did that go btw?) so i guess what i mean is don't squander it. make sure you're comfortable (can feel proud about) doing whatever it is you're doing, put energy into what you think is important, don't let PR and media-gumph push you into vacuousness, cos they're built to do that (imo) xx

  5. I don't see you as a 'celebrity' in the worst sense; those people have usually done nothing, they're famous for...being famous, in some kind of weird self-perpetuating and utterly boring loop.

    Actually you are famous in the best possible way - you've made a huge difference to vulnerable people, people who are often forgotten and left on the fringes of society. You've brought trans issues into general attention. Okay, not single-handedly, but it's certainly contributed.

    By the way, having watched My Transsexual Summer, I finally worked up the guts to tell my best friend (who watched it with me) that I wasn't a woman (despite my E-cup :-P) and that I wanted to change my name from Michelle to Quen. Now I've changed my name at work, at university, and amongst a number of my close friends - and you guys inspired me! Maybe one day I can even come out to my family.

    So thank you! And be proud of yourself!

  6. You've helped a lot of my friends understand where I couldn't explain! MTS was great because friends of trans people could see the viewpoints of other trans people, and that it's not just one person... there are lots of us, all similar, but so different at the same time.

    I personally got a lot more questions from friends that had watched MTS, and there was a lot more understanding going around :-) It's not just trans people you have helped!

  7. I agree with your thoughts, i think that anyone who says you did it for fame missed the point totally!
    If im honest i hope you are actually making a bit of money from doing public appearances because i know that MTS didnt pay anything apart from expenses.

    If you can turn yourself into a business then why is this so bad though?

  8. You inspired a lot of people Sarah! I don't see anything wrong with making appearances at clubs, it's a chance for you to meet face to face and talk to people that enjoyed and were touched by the show in a relaxed environment and have a good time. The fact you are all so popular and are invited to make club appearances is only a good thing in my opinion, as the more friends and fans you have and people you meet and minds you change is a contribution and a step forward for trans people. You are a young women I hope you won't stop going out and enjoying yourself. I hope I will have a opportunity to meet you and talk to you at a night. Best wishes.

  9. You enjoy yourself going to these clubs! You didn't do it be famous but you did take a brave risk in doing MTS and you deserve to have fun and enjoy the benefits!

    Thanks in very large part to MTS, and to you in particular, I was sat in the Doctors this very morning, explaining that I am transgendered and that I need help to become the person I truly want to be...

    So thank you, thank you for your inspiration. You didn't do it for fame. You did it for you, you did it for me, you did it for hundreds and thousands of people you may never know. You earned that pedestal, don't let them take it off you.

  10. ...not only that, Sarah, but you and everyone on MTS are an inspiration to me, and I'm not even trans; I'm just a straight middle-aged woman. You all, and you in particular because you were so vulnerable and so brave, taught me something important about having the courage to be myself. I hope I meet you one day; I'd just like to give you a hug.