SUGAR & SPICE 8 – When Sali Met Bethany

Publish Date: 07/03/2014

Meet Britain’s only trans, lesbian, goth, comedian!

This weekend sees The LGF’s annual celebration of International Women’s Day – Sugar & Spice 8. One of the highlights of the event will be the panel discussion, which takes place on Saturday 8th March from 5-6pm. The discussion will be on the theme of ‘Are our battles won?’, with the panelists exploring whether lesbian and bisexual women now have equality and whether the current economic situation has caused wider inequality for women.

Two of the panelists this year are Sali Owen, a freelance writer and bisexual activist; and Bethany Black, who has been described as “Britain’s only goth, lesbian, trans comedian.”

Recently, Sali Owen spoke to comedian Bethany Black about coming to terms with her gender identity and sexuality…

When did you first realise you were trans?

I realised when I was about three that something that wasn't right. I remember watching Loveboat when I was four or five and there was a character who was a trans woman. I must’ve been seven or eight when I heard the word ‘transsexual’ for the first time, in the Rocky Horror Show, so I went to the dictionary to find out what it meant and thought, “Yeah, that sounds like me!”

Did you know then that you were a lesbian?

No. Later on I thought maybe I wasn't trans – maybe I was bisexual, so that’s how I identified as a teenager.

When did you tell your parents you were trans?

I was 17 when I told my parents the first time. I was drunk because I was an alcoholic. Mum was so absolutely distraught that I decided I had to deny it all. I was terrified because I'd been told that if you came out as trans no one would talk to you again, you would never have any friends, you would probably be attacked in the street on a daily basis and you should just hide away.

How did you cope with your problems?

I tried to cover them up. I got a girlfriend who I was totally in love with in an unhealthy way. I was desperately trying to build this life that I thought the rest of the world wanted me to have. She got pregnant with my child and had an abortion. Neither of us were able to deal with it and this fake life completely dissolved. After two failed suicide attempts, my doctor sent a social worker and a psychiatrist to see me. I realised they were about to section me and for the first time I opened up about being trans. I expected them to say I was lying and that they were going to section me but they didn't. They said it was easily solvable! That it wasn't a problem at all. After that I came out to my friends and family.

When did you first identify as a lesbian?

I didn't go out with anyone for four years after I came out as trans and it was two or three years into that when I realised I didn't fancy guys. I'd confused having admiration for them with actually fancying them. That's when I realised I wasn't bi.

What advice would you give someone questioning their gender identity?

What I've learnt from everything that's happened to do with my gender, my sexuality, my addictions and my mental illnesses is this: talk to people. As long as you talk to people you can get stuff sorted out. In spite of what The Daily Mail says, most people don't care if you’re trans or gay. They really, really don't.

You can follow @SaliWho and @BethanyBlack on Twitter.

Sugar & Spice is Manchester’s annual celebration of International Women’s Day for lesbian and bisexual women and is now in its eighth year. This FREE event is open to anyone who self-identifies as a lesbian or bisexual woman. Last year’s Sugar & Spice was attended by over 180 women and this year’s event will be even bigger, taking place over two days for the first time.

For full details of what’s happening at this year’s festival on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th March, please visit: www.lgf.org.uk/sugarandspice