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Juno Dawson: Trans and non-binary people have always been here

The novelist and screenwriter recites an extract from Virginia Woolf's Orlando for Speaking of Pride, empowered by Bentley

By Alastair James

“He was a woman”. It’s a short and simple sentence regarding a fictional character’s transition and one that’s sadly denied to many in the trans community in real-world 2021.

It comes from an extract of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Biography, which was written in 1928 – 93 years ago to be precise.

The iconic work of queer literature is read by the novelist and screenwriter, Juno Dawson, as part of Attitude’s series Speaking of Pride, empowered by Bentley.

“This one goes out to all those people out there who think that being transgender or non-binary, or gender non-conforming is something newfangled”, Dawson, 39, says of her choice of reading, recording to mark Pride.

“We’ve always been here.”

Considered one of the most important authors of the 20th century, Virginia Woolf is best known for her works Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. 

Orlando, possibly Woolf’s most well-known novel and and decades ahead of its time in its exploration of gender, tells the story of a young man who becomes a woman and lives for centuries.

Whereas in Orlando the character’s transition is “accomplished painlessly and completely” the process for transitioning today, for many, is anything but, with long waits for treatment, high costs and complicated legal processes involved.

Juno herself came out publicly as trans in 2015, a day after the author Germaine Greer declared on BBC’s Newsnight “transgender women are not women”.

Dawson’s 2020 novel, Wonderland, explores the trans experience as well, with the central character – Alice (as in Alice in Wonderland) – facing questions about her transition.

Also taking part in Speaking of Pride, empowered by Bentley is swimmer Michael Gunning, co-founder of UK Black Pride Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, and comedians Rosie Jones and Tom Allen.

Speaking of Pride, empowered by Bentley, is part of Attitude Pride at Home, in association with Klarna, that runs from 17-27 June at, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@attitudemag).

Attitude Pride at Home, in association with Klarna, is to benefit the Attitude Magazine Foundation for LGBT causes – this year supporting ten amazing organisations including AKT, Black Trans Foundation, Curly’s Legacy, Elton John AIDS Foundation, The Food Chain, Kaleidoscope Trust, LGBT Youth Scotland, Mermaids, Stonewall UK and Switchboard LGBT.

Each will receive at least £1000 courtesy of our sponsors Klarna, Bentley, Clifford Chance, Slingsby, Swatch and Taimi and individual supporters.

To donate £5 please text ATHOME5 to 70480 or see our Virgin Money Giving link here. Visit for more details.