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12 February 2023

Munroe Bergdorf’s Q&A: “I would love a government that cares about its people”

The model and activist on Rishi Sunak, fighting for LGBT rights and her desire to have lived during the Eighties.

By New Statesman

Munroe Bergdorf was born in Essex in 1987 and is a model and an activist for transgender rights. She is a founding consultant of L’Oréal Paris’s UK diversity and inclusion board, and a national advocate for UN Women UK.

What’s your earliest memory?

My mum telling me that she was pregnant with my brother. I was four.

Who are your heroes?

As a child, Britney Spears – I was drawn in by the Britney mania. Now, knowing the exploitation she experienced, I think she’s a master example of resilience. The way I look at heroes has changed. I admire front line workers and people that are changing their communities, doing the work that the government isn’t taking on.

What book last changed your thinking?

Aja Barber’s Consumed. I like the parallels that she draws between consumerism, colonialism and climate change. It’s nice to read about the climate crisis from a person of colour, because so many of the voices that are given platforms are from a homogenous experience.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Stacey Abrams, for how she galvanised the state of Georgia to defeat Donald Trump. She got people registered to vote so that they could be part of the political system.

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What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

LGBT rights. I talk about them all the time. I’ve got a real interest in how we have got to this point.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The Eighties must have been an amazing time, even though it had extreme trauma because of the HIV and Aids epidemic. But such an incredible culture emerged from that era.

What TV show could you not live without?

I would be distraught if The White Lotus didn’t come back with a new series.

Who would paint your portrait?

I would have loved Andy Warhol to have painted me. I think he was a complete genius. What an incredible story he had. 

What’s your theme tune?

“Human Nature” by Madonna. It’s a song of defiance, about how there’s no one way to be a woman.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Something my mum told me: treat people how you want to be treated. I don’t think I’ve always followed it because for a long time I didn’t know what I deserved. But it’s about being kind to yourself, as that really will mean that you’re kind to others. I try to follow that now.

What’s currently bugging you?

Rishi Sunak and that we didn’t vote for him to be prime minister. I would love to have a government that cares about its people.

What single thing would make your life better?

Transgender people forming policy for trans lives, rather than cisgender people gatekeeping our ability to live a life of freedom and dignity.

When were you happiest?

I don’t think I’ve ever been happier than I am now. It’s great to be conscious of that feeling. I’ve got so much love in my life.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Something to do with animals. I’ve got three dogs and two cats and I’m obsessed with them. Whenever I’m sad, they know.

Are we all doomed?

If we carry on the way that we are going, yes. Something has to change. At this point, we’re not going to be able to undo all the damage, but we need to start working with what we have.

“Transitional” by Munroe Bergdorf is published by Bloomsbury

[See also: How the UK’s only feminist party came out in favour of transgender self-ID]

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This article appears in the 15 Feb 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Why the right is losing everywhere