We are not going anywhere!
– Munroe Bergdorf
Familiar for her refreshingly honest insight into “white privilege”, diversity and the LGBTQ+ community, Model and Activist Munroe Bergdorf has proven herself to be the brave and bold voice that our society needs. An icon in an age of increasing social awareness, Bergdorf uses her sizeable profile to advocate for a fairer world and to empower individuals to fight for positive change. Munroe regularly appears on national and international television news to comment on race, diversity, gender and LGBTQ+ topics and writes for publications including Grazia, i-D, them.us, Paper Magazine, The Evening Standard, The Guardian, Stylist Magazine and The Sunday Times Style. She is also the newly appointed LGBTQ+ editor for Dazed Beauty and was part of 2018’s OUT 100.
You recently wrote on Twitter on how people are using their platform to spread awareness and stating how this would have helped you actively find ways to assist the community. Do you believe it is a good way to have the youth and adults alike involved in this movement of diversity?
The amazing thing about social media is that we have a chance to curate the information we want to hear more of. We can open ourselves to a whole new way of thinking and hear from communities that we may not be as exposed to in real life. We can help understand how we feel by listening to the stories of others and that’s an amazing thing. I would advise people to follow people who aren’t like them, open up your world and think bigger than your own community.
What was the signifying moment that inspired you to the activist you are today? What led up to it?
It definitely wasn’t something that I set out to do intentionally. It kind of just started with me venting out of frustration that there were next to no nuanced stories out there from black trans women. People responded well to it so I continued. It’s developed over the years as I’ve gotten to know myself as a person but the crux of the activism has always been the same – no prejudice.
How does it feel to shoulder that responsibility, knowing we still have much to accomplish as a whole and understand. Do you feel drained or disappointed at times?
I don’t see it as MY responsibility. I’m a cog in a machine, I’m just doing my bit. We need to work together as a community and as communities to dismantle oppressive structures. I don’t feel as much pressure as I did because I’ve learned how to plug into my community and ask for help. When it comes to all the other stuff that comes with being in the public eye, I find that draining because some of it can be quite overwhelming with people assuming that they know who you are on a personal level or taking what you say out of context. It can feel quite isolating at times.
Jacket: J. Crew | Sweater: Coke Store | Skirt: Top Shop | Earrings: ALDO
Gender is becoming fluid, thereby creating alternative identities. Why do you think these new roles are hard to accept, not only from outside the LGBTQ+ community but from within as well?
For me, gender has always been fluid but it’s only recently that we’ve started thinking about it as such. It’s hard to tell people anything when they’ve based their entire identity around binary ideals. The fluidity of sexuality and gender has always been much more prevalent in LGBTQ communities. I think everyone else is playing catch-up somewhat.
Language isn’t fixed, it has always developed with time to reflect society. So how we use language to identify how people feel about their gender identity will also change. Ultimately it comes down to respect, pronouns matter regardless of how you see gender. When someone tells you their preferred pronouns, respect that.
Do you believe this is a fad? Many think that these labels are for display rather than understanding the significance behind the struggle.
Absolutely not. These are peoples’ lives. To reduce someone’s identity to a fad shows a gross lack of empathy and refusal to see the urgency of not only allowing trans people to be ourselves but supporting us when we do so. This is not a fad, we’ve always been here, we’re not going anywhere.
How do you think people that don’t understand this topic should address individuals that are questioning, transitioning and living their truths?
Firstly, it’s important to educate yourself. There is so much information on the internet. Follow trans activists, advocates, and public figures online. Learn information from them first hand. The best thing you can do if you meet a trans person is to treat them like you do with anyone else. It’s no different from meeting any other minority, it’s just part of who we are as a human being. It isn’t the be-all and end-all of who we are.
What common misconceptions arise during the topic of trans individuals?
That we’re all the same. Trans identity is on the spectrum and includes a wide array of identities. You don’t have to have surgery or even have started your transition to be trans. Trans just means that you identify with a different gender than the one you were assigned at birth.
I read on Twitter that you stated that we should stop using the phrase “real women”. What do you mean by that? I want our readers to understand the value of what your definition of what a real woman should be.
I just think it’s such an exclusionary term. We’re all ‘real’. We’re all here, living and breathing women. Body positivity has to include us all, it’s a movement for anyone who feels less than because of their body. It needs to include trans bodies, thin bodies, tall bodies as well as plus size and curvy bodies, among all others.
Are there any individuals that have played a major role in your activism? How have they inspired you?
Laverne Cox is an incredible woman who has inspired a great deal of trans women especially to find their strength and take up space. Aaron Philip is also an amazing disability activist who also happens to be trans. Indya Moore’s activism is also super inspiring, and I love how they use their platform to speak about issues that matter to our community.
What next for Munroe? Any new exciting ventures the readers and I should know about?
I’m currently writing my first book, so that’s taking up most of my time and energy. We’ve got plenty in the works but I’d much rather show than tell. I like to play my cards close to my chest and work on things in my own time. It retains more of the magic that way I feel.
Coat: Nasty Gal | Jumpsuit: Top Shop | Top: Top Shop | Earrings: Steve Madden
@MunroeBergdorf / visit https://mbergdorf.com
This spread appears in the pages of TB100 “WE ARE NOT GOING NOWHERE”: Interview with Munroe Bergdorf taken from Poppy: The Religion 2019; out now and available to buy here.
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