Eva Echo - Pass It On Campaign
Eva Echo (she/her) is an activist, blogger and educator, we caught up with Eva to ask about her activism and setting up #PassItOn, a campaign that centres the experiences of transgender or non-binary people and what they have to go through in order to feel accepted.
Hi Eva, tell us a bit more about some of the work you do. I’m a brand ambassador for the London Transgender Clinic, part of Gendered Intelligence’s GIANTS program and I’m also a member of the Crown Prosecution Service’s hate crime panel. Since coming out, I’ve dedicated my energy to doing all I can for trans equality and helping to push boundaries.
What inspired you to set up #PassItOn?
The campaign was created to provide conversations about trans and non-binary topics, and to give a voice and platform to those who needed it – especially as there’s so much misinformation about us. It was born from personal experiences and frustration. Passing was something that consumed me when I first came out. Then, one day I realised it was holding me back. We’re trans, we’ll never be cis. So why are we being held to cis standards? Why can’t society expand its definitions to include us too? Each lived experience is so unique, and so important – they all deserve to be heard. What I post on Instagram is just one facet of being trans. It’s important for me to acknowledge our diversity and to give the mic to others.
What are the main aims of the campaign?
I wanted to show that gender diverse people exist in all shapes and sizes – and that’s ok. Whilst there are those that pass or want to pass, there are those that don’t. Or can’t. They are the ones that can get overlooked. I also wanted better representation of all body types in the media. Whilst platforming trans icons such as Munroe Bergdorf or Laverne Cox is great for awareness, the media is essentially saying “this is what trans people look like”, which is so far from the truth. It’s not a production line that we join when we come out and are then “completed” once we pop off the other end. There is no one way to transition and not everybody wants or can afford surgery. Surgery helps us but it doesn’t define us. We don’t need it in order to be trans. What we do need is for society to see how diverse we are – it’s the only way we can push the boundaries and start to redefine what a man or woman should look or even sound like. At present, we can’t do that if we’re expected to look as cis as possible or to jump through hoops. Language is so important too. We need to ensure we’re using the correct language, otherwise we’ll never be united or be able to against misconceptions if some of us are fuelling them. For example, sex and gender are two separate things. But terms such as “sex reassignment surgery” is misleading. We’re not trying to change sex. It doesn’t help that legislation created to help us is full of out-dated language. This only serves to fuel misconceptions. I guess that’s what happens when cis people try to right laws for trans people.
What’s the reaction been like so far? The overall reaction has been so positive. It’s been amazing to hear stories from all parts of the world and to learn of such so many experiences. This campaign was very much created to support the underdog. I recognise I’ve been privileged in my own journey, and it was time to give back and help others. Sadly, I did receive hate from within the community too. I had some accusing me of trying to take away their right to pass or to look as cis as possible. Thing is, by not acknowledging their privilege, they’re actually taking away from those who can’t pass. Not everyone can afford to medically transition, and even then it’s very much down to your genetics. I’ve learned so much from people and it’s really pushed me to do more to ensure the trans community is as inclusive as it can be. After all, we need to be united if we’re to stand against the hate groups trying to erase us.
The idea of “passing” is something many in the LGBT+ community might recognise, for gay people it’s akin to being able to “pass” as straight, and it’s why the term “straight acting” is so contentious. How does the pressure to conform to society’s standards impact trans and non-binary people? Passing can be problematic. In wanting to pass, it gives the wrong impression of who we are and essentially arms the gender critics, who are already pushing that we’re trying to be something we’re not.
Do you think acceptance within the trans and non-binary community is important? Absolutely. We are all valid, regardless of what we look like. Social media can be so bad for nurturing the wrong priorities. It’s not about the number of followers or likes. It’s about being visible and taking up a space that each and every one of us is entitled to. We all have a platform, so it’s also about making sure we use it for the greater good too. I’m not saying every post needs to be about trans rights but at least let your followers know that other trans experiences or businesses exist and to encourage them to look for them. Sadly, some are too protective over their own number of followers or likes, forgetting that we’re stronger together. How do you feel about acceptance in the wider LGBT+ community? Overall, the LGBTQ+ community has no problem with trans people being included. They recognise inclusivity and similar experiences, and has no hesitation in welcoming us. Sadly, there are always some who don’t like change. They can’t allow or respect people that they do not understand – despite having been through similar experiences themselves. They insist on their experiences being more valid or that what they’ve achieved is under threat. Luckily, people like them aren’t the majority within the LGBTQ+ community.
Where do you think we are with societal acceptance in the UK? Is it getting better/worse? I did think it was getting better…but then, all of a sudden, we seem to have gone backwards. That’s why I feel campaigns like Pass It On are even more important. We need gender diverse voices to be heard and we need to stand united, so we can counter the ignorance and lies being pushed. There are groups actively pushing for the erasure of trans people. Not all trans people, just trans women. They have created a problem that never existed, and conveniently offered themselves as a solution. The problem we face is that these self-proclaimed saviours are far more organised than we are. Their hate for us unites them better than our love for one another. Imagine what we could achieve if we all came together? We’d be such a powerful force.
What do you think about the role of allies? We need allies. As a minority group, we can’t win this fight on our own. Allies know us and they see what we go through every day. They are witnesses to the inequality and have the power to really amplify our voices and experiences. Allies sit in the middle, between us and those that hate us. They have the power to show others that being an ally is really quite simple and that we’re not scary monsters (or sexual predators) at all. We don’t have an agenda, we’re not trying to take over. We just want to exist peacefully, and allies know this. We need them to share what they know.
What do you think is an example of good allyship?
Quite simply, doing more. It’s great that allies are adding pronouns but I would love to see allies, whether part of the LGBTQ+ family or not, really stepping up and actively standing by us. It’s one thing to share a post but challenging hate or helping to make a workplace more inclusive is next level. After a year of lockdown, and the chance to learn about trans experiences, now is the time for allies to level up.
Are their enough role models and visible trans and non-binary people?
Personally, I don’t think there are enough. We need more visibility – especially at all levels. Visibility is the most basic form of activism, but it can be the most difficult for some people. Being visible is often overlooked but it’s the only way we can normalise who we are. I want us to be like tattoos. 40 or 50 years ago, if you told somebody you had a tattoo, you’d be met with reactions like “Wow, can I see?” or ”Did it hurt??” Nowadays, if you told somebody you had a tattoo, the reaction is so different. You’re more likely to be met with an unenthusiastic “So? Who hasn’t?” I want trans people to be that…boring!! We’ll still be diverse and fabulous in our own ways, that goes without saying…but boring to the rest of society. I want to be able to tell somebody I’m trans and for them to just be like “Ooookay, so?” That’s total acceptance. That’s when we can exist in peace. To achieve this, we all need to pull together and remember that if we want something, we all need to work for it.
Who were your role models?
Before I came out, my role models included Paris Lees, Carmen Carrera and Laura Jane Grace. Each spoke to me in a different way, plus they were in the spotlight and their experiences and stories were readily available. The way they challenged views and stood up for trans people was so inspiring. After I came out, I have to say that I gained more role models – the people I met through social media. Yes, it’s great to have role models who are famous because we need the visibility at the top…but role models who are accessible and, most importantly, on our level are equally as inspiring. It makes the impossible seem so much more achievable. The visibility in the media needs to be equal, not just reserved for those who are famous for being trans that may not represent all trans people.
You've had loads of participants in #PassItOn, are there any that stand out to you, that you'd like to highlight?
“I think it’s quite a crazy thing that cis women are fighting for body positivity but oh so many trans women try to pass as…what? next topmodel [sic]?” This is something that one participant wrote as part of their involvement, and I couldn’t agree more. We’ve waited so long to be our authentic selves, yet when we come out, we’re all too ready to jump straight into another binary box or to restrict ourselves to society’s outdated rules. This statement really stuck with me because it sums up my own outlook on the idea of passing, and how I’ve gone from being consumed by it to leaving it behind, as I learned more about the society we live in.
What are the most important things we need to achieve for LGBT+ equality in the UK today?