As anti-trans rhetoric is on the rise globally, it is important to combat this by continuing to platform positive stories. Today, we are recognising the work of some incredible trans and non-binary trailblazers who have made and continue to make a huge impact in Ireland.
From initiating gender recognition legislation to leading the fight for trans healthcare rights, meet some of the most notable trans and non-binary activists who are creating change within our community. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list; it’s just a selection of some of the awe-inspiring people fighting for trans liberation in the country. If we missed someone who should be recognised, please let us know!
First on our list of trailblazers is Dr Lydia Foy, a pioneer for trans rights in Ireland. 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 22 years to have her gender recognised, and ultimately, the case forced the Government to introduce gender recognition legislation. She also won the prestigious Citizen’s Prize from the European Parliament in Brussels.
Sara R Phillips
Sara R Phillips has been a trailblazer in the trans community in Ireland for over 20 years and has been a member of TENI since its inception in 2006. An inspiration for many, she was the recipient of the LGBT+ role model award at The GALAS 2020 and also appeared on the cover of GCN in 2015 to celebrate the passing of the Gender Recognition Act.
Upon receiving her GALA 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.”
Keeva Lilith Ferreyra-Carroll
Keeva 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. Her work involves promoting mental health, resilience, and capacity building through community events.
Keeva delivered a powerful speech at the 2021 Dublin Pride digital festival and previously contributed to GCN, writing an article entitled ‘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 throughout the past several years. Alongside this, Noah is an active member of ACT UP Dublin and is TENI’s Healthcare Officer, where he works with state institutions to advocate for better healthcare services and pathways for trans people in Ireland.
Alexis Riva is a transgender woman who has documented her transition through her YouTube videos. 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 it 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, the trailblazer has given numerous talks and interviews about being transgender in Ireland today. She’s also shared her experience of transitioning in the workplace and how her colleagues made her feel supported.
She is passionate about educating people on transgender issues and believes that by talking to people and putting her story out there, she can help make a difference and change how others 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 in the 1970s! She was also 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 is a transgender man from Zimbabwe who living in direct provision as an asylum seeker. The LGBTQ+ activist, passionate about social justice, is an advocate for human rights and upholding virtues of humanity.
In 2021, he 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 trailblazer who advocates for trans and non-binary folk in Ireland. Sam is the Equality Officer in Maynooth University where their role is to advance equality, diversity and inclusion across the university community, students and staff. Sam 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 the publication as “an outspoken voice for the trans community across Irish media and politics”.
Jamie and Chloe Herlihy
Trans trailblazer 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.
Next on our list of trans and non-binary trailblazers in Ireland is Ollie Bell co-founder of Trans & Intersex Pride Dublin. Launched in 2018, Trans & Intersex Pride Dublin resumed as an in-person protest this year after two years of pandemic closures, and a huge crowd came out to show their support for trans and non-binary rights, trans healthcare, and trans liberation.
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 trans trailblazers, Vanessa was TENI’s Health and Education Manager in Ireland for 11 years. Vanessa acted as the organisation’s Health and Education Manager, responsible for creating a world-leading gender identity skills training for medical professionals and managing the Education and Family Support services.
In 2021, Dr Lacy founded Gendercare which is a gender-identity business that provides clients with robust professional development trainings, workshops and consultancy in an insightful and caring manner.
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, is a trailblazer as Ireland’s first trans character and trans actor in Irish soap opera history. In 2018, Murphy brought a huge amount of awareness to the barriers facing Ireland’s trans community in terms of accessing healthcare. When he launched his own GoFundMe page to fund his top surgery, Murphy spoke candidly about his experience stuck on 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 launched Call It Out alongside Ellen Murray, Brendan Courtney and Maria Walsh. The award-winning campaign aims to target hate crimes and homophobic language in Ireland.
Rebecca Tallon de Havilland
Sexual health campaigner and global speaker, Rebecca Tallon de Havilland, is now taking the lessons she’s learned throughout her life to help others through her newly released television show Rebecca’s Second Chance Bootcamp.
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. Rebecca famously resigned from her position following the publication’s continued support for a trans-exclusionary group.
She also 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 to Jake and Paige from TheTransVibe Podcast which you should listen to and can find here.
A trans rights and disability rights advocate, Ellen is a trailblazer as 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 LGBTQ+ refugees, the government 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 trans trailblazer is still happily married in Ireland. They have shared their journey towards acceptance in GCN, and Ryder has talked about the importance of creating a Diversity and Inclusion Committee in your workplace. She has also appeared on The Late Late Show and in the documentary Under The Clock.
Ryder is also the author of her memoir, My Name is Philippa.
Renn is a non-binary DJ, writer and all-around creative soul based in Dublin, Ireland. They are the founder of Origins Eile, a grassroots community-responsive organisation 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, and you can catch the monthly mix on Dublin Digital Radio.
Renn wrote a fantastic piece for GCN about pronouns and ungendered African languages that you can read here.
Groups & Orgs
Some honourable mentions for organisations that are trans trailblazers in Ireland include the amazing Trans Writers Union, Small Trans Library, TENI and TransgenderNI.
Yes, you! To all of our amazing trans and non-binary family: we see you, we support you, we love you.
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