Peppermint on Transphobia and Racism in the LGBTQ+ Community
Peppermint is the trans drag queen, activist, singer and writer inspiring an entire community
IMAGES Shot by Magnus Hastings
How can we foster a sense of community while in isolation?
One way we can continue to foster and build community during this pandemic, where many people are on their devices more than they normally would, it’s great to watch Game of Thrones or take a deep dive into Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, but I do think it is really important to take a few moments a week to educate yourself on two things. How does this pandemic affect people who are nothing like you, figure out who is the exact opposite of you, so if you are a liberal, find somebody who is completely conservative. Educate yourself about them, if you are a cisgender white person, figure out what it might be like to be someone who is queer and trans and a person of colour. Try to open up your mind and experiences to better understand those who you normally wouldn’t be connected with – diversify your portfolio. Try to manually open your mind.
I think when it comes to gender, people focus on surgery because it is the most tangible thing, it is the most explainable thing. Unfortunately, oftentimes it is the least accessible thing.
Do you feel as a visible queer person, you have to set boundaries so you don’t give too much of yourself?
Oh absolutely, yeah! I think there are quite a few people who don’t understand that. It is important to draw personal boundaries, especially in how much energy you give. I believe that connecting the fans, performing, doing things like Instagram Live, all those things are giving of energy.It is important to draw a line and limit how much energy you give out so you can use that energy to recharge.
So as a trans drag queen, can you tell us about your experience with transphobia in the drag community?
Well I think it’s really interesting that drag is sort of a play on gender and giving the middle finger to gender norms, however, it still needs to use those gender norms in order to make a parody of it. In order to make a comment on patriarchy, there has to be a little bit of truth. So for a drag king, you have to be able to understand how conventional manhood works and what it is like to be masculine. I think it’s interesting that people who are supposed to be these gender renegades are sometimes held back by the exact same rules you know. I have experienced it in the drag community, it is upsetting every time I encounter it. It isn’t always directed at me, I sometimes see things that people say online that are really holding us back. For instance, the whole notion of being a fishy queen, I understand where it comes from, but I believe it does a disservice to women in general, so that’s one example which can be seen as misogynistic or even transphobic.
A lot of the conversation surrounding trans bodies is often measured in terms of surgery. I wanted to ask you why you think it is important that people move away from the idea that transness is measured by surgery?
Oh, I think it is really important that we allow space because not everyone has the same experience. When we are talking about surgery we are talking about money, and not everyone has the same amount of money, that is just the bottomline. The need for surgery does not connect the same for everyone as not everyone feels like they need it for many different reasons. However, I do think there is too much focus on surgery. I think when it comes to gender, people focus on surgery because it is the most tangible thing, it is the most explainable thing. Unfortunately, oftentimes it is the least accessible thing.It is healthier for us as trans people and people who are not trans to step away from the idea that people’s identities are only the sum of their body parts. I have medically transitioned, and I would say that 99% of everything that has changed has nothing to do with any surgeries, it is mostly to do with my mental state and who I am and how I feel about myself which developed before any surgery.
Another issue that is prevalent in the queer community unfortunately is racism. What do you think the first step to tackling this racism is?
I think the first step is to understand implicit bias and how it can work. We need to ask ourselves in what ways have we benefited by our looks, or our money, or anyways in which we as people categorise ourselves. I think it is important to ask ourselves how we connect to implicit bias. So the first step is understanding the concept of implicit bias, because that is where all the isms, racism, sexism, classism, that’s where those things flourish in the implicit bias. I think a lot of people, especially when it comes to talking about race, like to jump to the extreme and well known examples like the Ku Klux Klan or the use of the N word. When we jump to those extremes, it is easy for people to go welI, I am not part of the Ku Klux Klan, I couldn’t possibly be racist. Or when it comes to sexism, I haven’t committed any sexual offences so I couldn’t possibly be sexist or a predator. I think it is important to self examine, which is really where a lot of the issue lies.
Although the mainstreaming of queer culture has resulted in so many positives, it has also paved the way for niche representation of queer identities. What are your thoughts on the mainstreaming of queer culture?
I think it is a great thing that can have some adverse effects. I am nostalgic for the way things were back in the day, but I would gladly give that up for progress. When we are talking about mainstream vs not mainstream with queer rights and visibility, we are talking about seeing these people in public, on TV, in all these spaces. When we are not in those spaces then we have to make our own spaces which weren’t mainstream and were more underground. I think they are the ideas that we are comparing, being in the shadows or in the light. When it comes to equality, if we want them, the government, cisgender or heterosexual people, to allow us, the minority, into their spaces, then we have to allow them into ours – that is how equality works.
You are such an inspiration to so many people, I want to ask you who inspires you and why?
Well, aside from my mother and the strong women in my life. There is one women who inspires me right now who is on my mind and that is Aimee Stephens who is a trans woman here in the United States who was fired from her job for being transgender and has had many complications since then. She passed away just a few days ago and we are still continuing the fight in the supreme court because at the moment her case has been brought to the supreme court to argue whether own not it is legal to fire someone for being gay, or trans, or LGBTQ.
Are you working on anything special at the moment?
I actually have a new album coming out this summer. I have a preview performance on June 26th which people can buy tickets for now via the link on my social media.
Are you optimistic about the future for queer people?
Absolutely not! We are all going to die! Just kidding *laughs*. Yes I am optimistic, one of the key things sort of building off of what we were just talking about is, it is important that we uphold the queer sensibility and allow these stories of people who are in the community to be uplifted and talked about. I also think it is important to be more welcoming to people who may not even identify with being queer, we are not on this planet alone, and I think the goal is not to eradicate anyone but to find an understanding.
Watch the lyric video for Peppermint’s latest single below, buy tickets here for her preview performance and keep up with her work on Instagram
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