We celebrate our Irish trans and non-binary family every day through our website and magazine but this week we have a particular focus as it is Transgender Awareness Week.
To mark the occasion, here are some of Ireland’s most notable Trans and non-binary individuals who have been trailblazers in our community. This list is not exhaustive merely a selection of awe-inspiring folks we think are doing amazing work. Did we miss someone? Let us know!
Dr Lydia Foy is a pioneer for trans rights. In 1997, Foy began her legal fight for gender recognition, after the Registrar-General refused to issue her with a new birth certificate recognising her true gender in 1993. She fought for two decades, and ultimately, the case forced the Government to introduce gender recognition legislation. She has also won the prestigious Citizen’s Prize from the European Parliament in Brussels.
Sara R Phillips
Sara R Phillips has been involved with the trans community for over 20 years and has been a member of TENI since its inception in 2006. Phillips appeared on the cover of GCN in 2015 to celebrate the passing of the Gender Recognition Act.
Sara is a role model for many in the LGBTQ+ community and was the recipient of the LGBT+ role model award at The Galas 2020.
Upon receiving her award, she explained the importance of her work, saying, “Everything I do is for our trans community, everything I do is for the people who have gone before me but also those who are coming after me, because currently life as a trans person in Ireland still is not good enough. [There] is still a lot more to do.”
Lilith is a fearless and inspiring Trans Trailblazer who works with TENI as their National Community Development Officer. Her online activism particularly has centred on exposing the catastrophic state of affairs for Trans folks trying to access healthcare in Ireland.
Lilith gave a most powerful speech at this years Dublin Pride digital festival and wrote eloquently in the current issue of GCN about the “A state of collapse: Trans healthcare in Ireland is a national emergency.”
Founder of This Is Me – Transgender Healthcare Campaign, Noah Halpin has been at the forefront of the battle for trans healthcare rights in Ireland over the past few years. Alongside this, Noah is an active member of ACT UP Dublin.
Recently, Noah has joined the TENI team as their Community Aid Officer.
Alexis Riva is a transgender woman who, through her YouTube videos, has been documenting her transition. She has spoken openly to her followers about each step of the process, sharing everything from the beginning of her HRT journey and monthly estrogen updates to breast augmentation surgery and frank discussions of taboos within the community.
Riva was the recipient of the LGBT+ Digital Change-Maker Award at The GALAS 2020 where the reception from the crowd made clear that she has been a huge help to many young trans people and a constantly inspiring member of the community. Riva was also the presenter of The Road To Recognition, a celebration of the fifth anniversary of Gender Recognition.
Aoife Martin is a trans woman and a passionate trans rights advocate. In January 2017, she became the first person to transition globally within her workplace. Since then, Aoife has given numerous talks and interviews about being transgender in Ireland today.
She is passionate about educating people on transgender issues and believes that by talking to people and putting her story out there that she can help make a difference and change how people perceive transgender people.
Claire Farrell is a proud transgender woman and has been an activist for over 40 years. A true trans trailblazer, she co-founded Friends Of Eon – Ireland’s first official trans group and was an elected director of TENI until retiring from the board in 2018.
She appeared in GCN’s feature on our stylish LGBTQ+ older community where she said:
“Of course I think we can be stylish in older age. I like not feeling under pressure to be fashionable and at the same time like what I wear most days. Life is for living, enjoy!”
Louise Hannon was the first Irish trans woman to take her employer to court for gender discrimination.
For five years before her ultimate transition, Hannon had worked as a business development manager with a trucking transport company. Hannon had informed her company about her transition and that she was considering leaving as she didn’t believe they “would be comfortable with it”.
The company asked her to stay but proved to be not quite as welcoming as Hannon initially believed. She was asked to work from home and take business calls in her “male identity”, she was also told she would have to revert to that identity while meeting clients, along with being informed she could not use the female toilets when she did visit work.
Delroy Mpofu (HE/HIM) is a transgender man from Zimbabwe asylum seeker living in direct provision, LGBTQ+ activist, passionate about social justice, an advocate of human rights and upholding virtues of humanity.
He recently took part in the Proud AF campaign and had this to say:
“As an LGBTQ+ person living in Direct Provision, you face extra challenges compared to everybody else. You’ll find that some LGBTQ+ people would rather stay in the closet – they’re forced to be in the closet to avoid stuff like being bullied or being harassed by other residents. And then while you’re there, you have no supports. For example, myself, I’m a Transgender person. Staff are not trained on how to deal with people or how to help people from the LGBTQ+ community.
Sam is an activist and advocates for trans and non-binary folk, amongst others. Sam is the Equality Officer in Maynooth University and previously held the positions of National Membership and Campaigns Officer with the Irish Traveller Movement and National Development Officer and then Policy and Research Officer in TENI until 2018.
Named by Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe as “one of the people who will impact Europe over the next fifty years”, Sam was described by Forbes as “an outspoken voice for the trans community across Irish media and politics”.
Jamie and Chloe Herlihy
Trans trailblazers sisters Jamie and Chloe Herlihy appeared on the cover of GCN’s Youth issue in 2016 after they made worldwide headlines following an interview for Closer magazine about coming out as transgender at the same time.
They have since appeared in numerous documentaries and uploaded videos on YouTube where they shared their inspiring story.
Ollie Bell co-founded Trans & Intersex Pride Dublin in 2018. Ollie appeared in GCN’s Youth Issue in 2018 where they explained why they felt there was a need for Trans & Intersex Pride:
“We saw the opportunity for a Pride that would be a radical and grassroots event which would hopefully kickstart a wider movement for trans rights.”
Dr Vanessa Lacey
The epitome of a Trans Trailblazer, Vanessa was TENI’s Health and Education Manager for the past 11 years and TENI just recently announced her departure from the organisation.
Vanessa acted as TENI’s Health and Education Manager, responsible for creating a world-leading gender identity skills training for medical professionals and managing TENI’s Education and Family Support services.
Vanessa has a BA in Psychology and was recently awarded her PhD which focused on grief and loss experienced by trans women and their families. She has made several media appearances in relation to her work and also contributes to academic papers.
Actor Jack Murphy – who played the character Ryan in Fair City – made Irish TV history as the first trans character on any Irish soap opera. In 2018, Murphy brought a huge amount of awareness to the barriers facing Ireland’s trans community in terms of accessing healthcare. In launching his own GoFundMe page to fund his top surgery, Murphy spoke candidly about his own experience stuck on a year and a half long waiting list, while drawing attention to the financial barriers that prevent many trans people from receiving the care they require.
In September 2019, Murphy joined Ellen Murray, Brendan Courtney and Maria Walsh in launching Call It Out, the award-winning campaign aimed at targeting hate crimes and homophobic language in Ireland.
Rebecca Tallon de Havilland
Sexual health campaigner, Rebecca Tallon de Havilland hit the headline earlier this year after resigning from her position as trans affairs editor at Boyz magazine following the publication’s continued support for a trans-exclusionary group.
In November 2020, de Havilland joined Boyz magazine to lead the publication’s coverage of trans, non-binary and gender identity-related issues as well as introduce new trans writers and interviewees to the team. Her role was announced after the magazine faced widespread backlash for promoting a trans-exclusionary group.
More recently she appeared on the wonderful Poz Vibes podcast to share her trans and HIV stories with the hosts, warts and all, with hope, joy and tenacity. You can listen to that here.
Bonus props here to Jake and Paige from TheTransVibe Podcast which you should listen to and can find here.
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A trans rights and disability rights advocate, Ellen is the founder of the trans youth service GenderJam in Northern Ireland and the Belfast Trans Resource Centre through SAIL NI. Having worked in the past with the European Commission, the European Union and the United Nations, Ellen also worked as Policy And Research Officer at TENI.
Murray was appointed to a UK government advisory panel but subsequently quit explaining that “I’ve resigned my seat on the UK LGBT Advisory Panel due to the government’s persistent and worsening hostility towards our community in myriad areas. From conversion therapy to trans healthcare to the shameful treatment of LGBT refugees, the govt has acted in appalling faith.”
Philippa Ryder is one of the early committee members of TENI. She married her wife, Helen in 1983, at a time when she was beginning to question her gender identity. Now with a grown-up daughter, the two are still happily married. They have shared their journey towards acceptance in GCN, on The Late Late Show and in the documentary Under The Clock.
Ryder can now add published author to her list with the release of her memoir, My Name is Philippa.
Renn is a trailblazing non-binary DJ, writer and all-around creative soul based in Dublin, Ireland. Founder of Origins Eile a grassroots community responsive organization dedicated to creating safe spaces and platforms for QTIBPOC (Queer Trans Intersex, Indigenous Black & People of Colour).
Renn is also co-founder of DIAxDEM a co-op label. Catch DxD’s DDR monthly mix!
Renn recently wrote about pronouns for GCN and you can find that online here.
Groups & Orgs
Some organisation honourable mentions include the amazing Trans Writers Union and Small Trans Library, TENI and TransgenderNI.
Yes, you! To all of our amazing trans and non-binary family: we see you, we have your back, we love you.
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