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Munroe Bergdorf and Clara Amfo on why it’s vital for cis women to be trans allies

"When cis women aren’t trans allies, we don’t eradicate misogyny. We just redirect it," Bergdorf tells the Attitude September Style Issue.

By Will Stroude

Interview: Cliff Joannou; Additional words: Will Stroude

Model Munroe Bergdorf and BBC Radio 1 DJ have joined forces to urge cisgender women to stand in solidarity with transgender women, declaring that society cannot “eradicate misogyny” without unity among women. 

When Bergdorf, 33, was unceremoniously dropped from a L’Oréal campaign in 2017 over social media posts shared in the wake of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in which she wrote that white people were guilty of “racial violence”, one of the first people to stand by the transgender trailblazer was BBC Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo.

Clara followed Munroe in stepping down from the L’Oréal campaign, a show of support that helped Munroe cope at a time when she was being barraged by trolls, with threats of violence and rape filling her DMs.

The pair went on to strike up a firm friendship, and in the Attitude September Style Issue – out now to download and to order globally – Munroe and Clara come together in conversation to discuss racism, misogyny and transgender equality.

Munroe Bergdorf wears red dress by Stephanie Uhart; leace dress by NOdress; jewellery by Saad Collection; shoes by Ilias Little Shoe Box; gloves by T Label for the Attitude September Style Issue, out now to download and to order globally (Photography: Jordan Rossi; Styling: Mariam Taiwo Sonekan)

As public and media discourse around transgender issues turns incresingly ugly in the UK, Clara and Munroe urge cisgender women to stand by trans women against the misogynistic abuse and violence that both communities face.

Asked why it’s important for cis women like herself to show support for trans people, Clara declares: “Speaking for myself personally, speaking broadly, I just don’t know how you can’t be. I don’t know if that sounds really basic, but it’s fundamental human rights. If somebody is telling you, ‘This is who I am’, you have to listen.

Clara Amfo: “If somebody is telling you, ‘This is who I am’, you have to listen.” (Image: Supplied)

The Kingston-Upon-Thames-born presenter, 37, continues: “I’ve been around trans women since I was about 11 or 12. There used to be this woman who worked in my local town called Kate. She was my gateway of education into what trans people are. She worked in this local games figurine shop — I ended up working with her.

“It’s just recognising people’s humanity. I think that’s why it’s important. As basic as it sounds, that’s the only way for me to explain it, just recognising the humanity in people.

“[As Munroe was saying], the perception of trans people and particularly trans women from what I’ve seen and what I’ve learned from you and other trans women was so limited, even three or four years ago. It was hypersexualized. It was criminalized. People failed to see the human being there.”

Munroe wears coat by Prada; jewllery, stylist’s own (Photography: Jordan Rossi; Styling: Mariam Taiwo Sonekan)

Munroe goes on: “It’s important for cis women to be trans allies, especially from the perspective of us both being women, because as women, we all experience misogyny.

“I think when cis women aren’t trans allies, we don’t eradicate misogyny. We just redirect it.”

Clara adds: “You’re being a total agent of it, essentially.”

Taking the baton, Munroe expands: “You’re acting again in the same way that the patriarchy acts. You can’t be against someone’s identity. It’s one thing saying that we’re physically different. Yes, cis women and trans women are physically different, but we are not just physical. Human beings and the legacy of humanity, it’s not just a physical experience.

Clara Amfo: “I’ve been around trans women since I was about 11 or 12.” (Image: Supplied)

“What makes us human is our ability to feel, our consciousness and who we are; the complexity and the intricacies of who we are as individuals. We’re not just men and women. There’s so many spectrums and scales there.

“I think that when you deny somebody’s identity because it’s not the same as your physicality, you’re missing the depth of what it means to be human.”

Munroe wears dress by Gucci; tights by NOdress; shoes by Ilias Little Red Shoe Boz; ring by Stephen Webster (Photography: Jordan Rossi; Styling: Mariam Taiwo Sonekan)

Clara concurs, stating: “Absolutely. It also just boils down to privilege. There’s no which way about it. If I’m in a room and somebody’s chatting shit about trans people, and there’s other cis women in there and nobody is saying anything, again, it just goes back to what you were saying about just being an agent of prejudice.”

Munroe adds: “It’s not just about speaking up when other people can see it, it’s about speaking up when there’s no one around, when there’s no social media there, and it’s just about doing the right thing.”

Read the full interview in the Attitude September Style Issue, out now. 

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