The #TransFringe, which started as a simple twitter hashtag, has become a vibrant and enthusiastic community of trans and non-binary artists performing at this year’s Fringe. We spoke to the project’s originator, Harry Josephine Giles, about #TransFringe, trans advocacy, and the delicate balance between visibility and vulnerability.

‘I live in Edinburgh,’ explains Giles, ‘so once a year a global party comes to my front door.’ Giles had become increasingly aware of how exhausting and anxiety-driven the Fringe can be for performers. ‘It hits people particularly hard if they’re marginalised or vulnerable. It’s nice to find a way to bring trans people together. I was inspired by the work done on the #FringeOfColour hashtag. That was inspirational, and really helped artists of colour to support each other’s work. I wanted to do something similar, to help trans artists find each other. I spotted half a dozen or so right away, but then I did a bit of research and put out a few calls and now we’re up to about 34 different shows.’

Uniting this impromptu community of trans and non-binary artists is not without its risks, though, as Giles explains, ‘The mainstream world has taken a lot more of interest in us [trans and non-binary people] recently. Sometimes that’s great, and we can use that to advocate for more rights, but it’s a risk. The more visible we are, the more vulnerable we are. But forging connections between trans people is one of the ways we can use that visibility.

‘This last year has been one of the hardest for trans people in the UK, politically. The media assault has been endless – and it’s been particularly sharp in Scotland. We’re also reaching the point where trans healthcare is in crisis. The waiting time for a first appointment on the NHS is now two years – and that’s not the waiting time to get treatment, that’s just to be seen at all.
‘So, we’re struggling. This is the flip side of visibility. An artistic response to that is a natural response. It’s about expressing anger, joy, resistance, celebration: art. Art is giving us life.’

So, what’s next for the #TransFringe? Is the roster complete for this year? ‘I don’t know everything and everyone,’ says Giles, ‘There’ll be people I don’t know about. If anybody has any additions, they should get in touch. The hashtag is for anyone who identifies as trans or non-binary, whoever that might be.

‘We’ve got some incredible people already. There’s Travis Alabanza. Their show Burgerz is at The Traverse. Travis has been really important to trans performers for a number of years. They’re a really exciting artist. There’s also networks, like The Queer House, who are bringing Mika Johnson’s Pink Lemonade and Since U Been Gone by Teddy Lamb. There are some great Free Fringe shows, both the PBH Free Fringe and Laughing Horse, including free drag shows with trans artists.’

Giles’ show this year is Drone, performed in collaboration with the musician Neil Simpson and visual artist Jamie Wardrop. It has, Giles tells us, ‘the feel of a cabaret, in a late capitalist haze.’

Read our full interview with Harry Josephine Giles about Drone

Other shows in the #TransFringe roster include: