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Christine Burns

at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Activist and editor presents a book on the history of transgender lives in Britain.

Image of Christine Burns

It is the final weekend of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, but there are still many great events before the Festival shuts down for another year. Editor and writer Christine Burns M.B.E is presenting the book Trans Britain: Our Journey from The Shadows at the festival as part of the Freedom and Equality Strand. The book brings together 25 essays by a variety of different authors and looks to chart the past five decades of transgender history in Great Britain. The event is chaired by Kaite Welsh (books editor for Diva Magazine) and offers an insightful and enjoyable discussion on the many topics that the book touches upon. 

Christine begins the discussion by talking about the ideas behind the book and how the project started. She mentions that – “People were treating Trans like it is the new fad,” and that “No one was explaining the history and I think it is very important that we do this.” She notes that the history of trans people seems to be filled with negativity, which is still reflected today, and the book offerers newspaper clippings to illustrates this. When discussing the editing process, with 22 different writers contributing, Christine states that – “It starts with the story.” Bringing different stories to the page and highlighting the issues as a form of activism and positive representation is one of the points that Christine stresses. She also highlights that the book looks to cover the entirety of the United Kingdom – “not just English trans people. I wanted a good representation of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in order to get a fully rounded story.”

The book itself features contributions from Carol Steele, Annie Wallace, Dr Stuart Lorimer and Fox Fisher. Trans Britain is published by Unbound books through their unique crowdfunding scheme and Christine Burns was thankful for the support of the funders and also the publishers. The discussion concludes with Christine highlighting the work of Mermaids, a charity who help transgender children. When asked during the audience Q and A of her hopes for the future, Christine mentions that she would like to see another editor take the history of transgender people in Britain further with a new publication in 10 or 20 years. She wishes for greater representation of people from different backgrounds and highlights that – “We can’t make progress until we fix the imbalance in culture.”