Social Justice

Trans Secret Santa: How a little bit of happiness over Christmas could save a trans person's life

Sex Education star Anthony Lexa shares her experience of growing up trans, the loneliness of being trans at Christmas and happiness as resistance

Anthony Lexa

Anthony Lexa wants to use her art to help other young trans people feel seen. Image: Anthony Lexa

Anthony Lexa grew up in the middle of nowhere in rural Devon. As a trans person and a queer person, and even just as someone who loved the spotlights of the theatre, it was a long time before she found a community where she belonged.

Lexa moved to London in 2021 on her way to making a career in music and saw an open casting call looking for trans actors for the final season of Netflix’s Sex Education: the rambunctious teen comedy which has been groundbreaking for positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Now Lexa, just 23 herself, wants to use her platform to show other young trans people that there is a community of people out there ready to love them. 

“As trans people, we spend a lot of our young lives trying to prove who we are – either trying to hide who we are and prove otherwise or coming out and then trying desperately to prove to the world who we are. 

“And that I think when you’re older, you start to learn that you don’t have to prove who you are. There are people that are out there that will just believe who you are and see who you are. And that’s it. You are just you. You can present however you wish.”

Anthony Lexa is supporting Think2Speak’s Trans Secret Santa, which is on a mission to bring joy to young trans people this Christmas. They will send out hundreds of Christmas gifts to trans, non-binary and gender diverse people aged 25 and under to spread hope this festive season.

“My biggest thing that I live by is that happiness is resistance,” Lexa says. “So when you are a minority or queer or trans in particular, literally just being happy is a form of resistance. Just being you and being happy is powerful.”

Lexa seems confident in herself now, but she explains that she had difficult times growing up and learning about her identity. “I’ve not had the best mental health growing up. I was a super anxious child and I think it sometimes manifests itself in different ways.

“But when you’re anxious about your gender and everything is through this lens of not feeling comfortable in who you are, it makes everything external feel uncomfortable.”

A mock-up Christmas card reminding a young trans person that they are loved. Think2Speak has teamed up with trans campaigner Jude Guaitamacchi, artist Mister Samo and patron Octavian Starr for this campaign. Image: Think2Speak

Lexa says she just felt like “hiding all the time” and it was a slow process to accepting herself. She became more confident wearing makeup and dressing differently, and slowly started asking people to use different pronouns.

“I know my story is similar to so many people’s out there,” Lexa says. “And really in the scheme of things I had so much privilege. I grew up in an isolated but beautiful countryside and I really did have so much to look forward to and so much to be grateful for. But I felt like an alien because I didn’t see people like myself around and I did feel excluded.

“I have a beautiful mum. Sometimes she can be clumsy and it’s a learning curve together, but she always has loved me and she’s always made that very clear that she loves me no matter what. So if I felt alien and scared and alone at times, there must be other people that are struggling tenfold. I got on. I just dealt with the day to day and tried to keep myself safe as much as I could. But I definitely felt alienated.”

Around 78% of trans youth experience bullying at school, only 6% feel that they are supported, according to Think2Speak. There is a lot of negativity in the media and trans youth are “undoubtedly being exposed to it”.

Lexa believes that is why it is so important that mainstream media embraces the trans community and works towards positive representation – like with her character of Abbi in Sex Education or in recent episodes of Doctor Who, which starred trans actress Yasmin Finney as Rose, the daughter of beloved companion Donna. 

“When you’re not surrounded by a community, it is so easy to feel alienated,” Lexa says. “But you’re just so normal. We’re just human beings that feel the same fear of ourselves, the same complex, contradicting emotions and opinions. We’re all in this together. I think there’s so much focus sometimes on gender expression, that it can make you feel like an alien when you step outside of those gender binaries. 

“But having things on mainstream media that just help people feel seen can really be the thing that makes people feel not alone and encouraged to step into their own self-love journey. It’s not even about how you present or how you prove to others who you are. It’s just about knowing who you are and loving that and enjoying that and not resenting it. 

“When you’re watching actors, like on the new Doctor Who series or hopefully with Abbi and Roman [Abbi’s boyfriend in Sex Education, played by trans actor Felix Mufti], you just learn to love that messiness. And you see that sense of, oh my god, we’re normal, and we’re cool, and we’re funny and we’re stupid. And we’re all these beautiful rainbow of emotions that isn’t just trans, it’s human.”

Through her character, Abbi, she was able to make her trans identity visible to a huge young audience. “I think she represents what it feels like to be young and trans when she feels like she has to be perfect. She’s othered so she gets so scared of displeasing people that she thinks anything she does that is outside of her version of perfect will make her unloveable. 

“Abandonment is so common to trans people. Love and safety isn’t necessarily something that coincides with coming out as trans in the UK. I think she and her storyline is a great way to be like: we are loved. And when you’re loved, believe it. Don’t try and prove yourself to anyone. Just be messy. Be contradictory. Be a human being and people love you.”

Lexa has found a way to express herself through art and especially music. She practically dances with excitement as she talks about her music, saying: “I process what I’m going through by writing it down in the song. Sometimes I feel all mixed up with my feelings and I don’t know where to go with them. It digests them for me.”

Anthony Lexa is back on the “music grind”. Image: Anthony Lexa

Music and art is therapy for Lexa. She grew up on the West End and was involved in all the local and school theatre that she could, but there were few connections in Devon. It wasn’t until she moved and saw the Sex Education casting call that she had her big breakthrough. 

She has released more music this year too, including an EP with co-star Mufti, which she says was nerve-wracking as her songs were reaching people for the first time on a bigger platform. But that bigger platform will hopefully mean that more trans people feel seen. 

“I am by no means a role model,” Lexa says. “I’m just a young girl trying to be herself and trying to find her own happiness. So if anything I want for my career, it’s just to inspire people to create their own art and process themselves through creativity and not feel alone.”

Christmas, in particular, is a time when trans people across the country may be experiencing loneliness. And it’s something Anthony Lexa, who is going back to Devon this Christmas, can understand. “It’s always quite a grounding thing to feel not surrounded by my community, because then it makes me appreciate what I have when I come back. 

“I can relate to that thing of going back to Christmas no matter how many years after I’ve come out and still being misgendered by certain family members or there’s now this wall there between certain family members or friends that wasn’t there before. 

“You can tell they’re overthinking what they’re saying or when they say the wrong thing, you’re causing awkwardness. You just have to know that it’s not your fault. They’re judging themselves for getting things wrong and for not knowing what to say. They’re not judging you.”

The Trans Secret Santa is run by Think2Speak and they need your help to get gifts out to young people. Image: Think2Speak

Anthony Lexa is such a passionate advocate for the Trans Secret Santa because it is all about spreading joy and, at a time of so much hate, that simple act of spreading happiness is powerful. 

“It’s just so important that trans people feel seen at the moment when the world is weaponizing us and making us feel othered when we’re not,” Lexa says. “We’re human. And we’re beautiful, like every person on this planet. We’re just trying not to be scared of ourselves. We’re not scared of you. 

“It would mean a lot to be able to give gifts and have our reach go even wider so that we can just inspire trans people to carry on living, being authentic, being beautiful and bringing positivity to this world. That little bit of happiness over Christmas could save someone’s life. So if in any way you can help us reach more people, or be able to do more with Trans Secret Santa this year, that is so appreciated.”

Find out more and donate to Think2Speak’s Trans Secret Santa here.

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