Max Siegel

Trans in the UK: A personal story of transition

‘Oh look! Two trans people on stage and the world hasn't stopped spinning.’

Watch Oxford University’s LGBT+ History Month lecture, delivered at Saïd Business School on 22 February 2023 by trans activist Max Siegal. He is introduced by the University's Chief Diversity Officer, Tim Soutphommasane, and interviewed by Sarah Stephenson-Hunter, joint interim head of the Quality and Diversity Unit.

Siegal opens by recognising the importance of LGBT History Month in what is now a decades-long fight for equal rights: ‘You are likely familiar with the quote “history is written by the victors”; when it comes to LGBTQ history a more accurate quote would be “history is written by the heterosexuals”. LGBTQ voices are routinely spoken over, erased or simply not included at all -- how often have you read about historical figures' “close personal friendship” with a person of the same gender?’ And the fight seems to be getting harder for transgender people: from 2012 to 2019 there was a 614 percent increase in trans related headlines in the UK press, the vast majority of it negative; between 2021 and 2022 there was a 56% increase in hate crimes against trans people; and trans people now experience the highest number of reported hate crimes of any protected group.

In a frank and frequently very funny conversation, Siegal offers hope that this may change in the future, talking about:

  • The positive role that TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms are playing in helping young people discover and recognise their identities: ‘There is this explosion of visibility, positive visibility and people are starting to figure out a lot earlier who they are’.
  • His work with corporations, that often starts with explaining the basics of changing pronouns and the many different approaches to transition that individuals may take, but continues with improved understanding and real action.
  • The importance of allies and role models in supporting members of the LGBTQ community and pushing for change, however incremental it may seem to be. ‘It is our responsibility to stop the cycle, it is our responsibility to learn from the past, the first line of resistance is that of raising voices which are usually spoken over or ignored entirely,’ he says.
Trans in the UK