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09th Jul 2024

‘There’s a little bit of decadence to coming out’ – Sara Phillips on being a trans woman in Ireland

Kat O'Connor

Sara Phillips opens up about the reality of being a trans woman in 2024

Speaking to Sara Phillips is nothing but inspiring. She calls herself an “accidental activist” but her passion for ensuring the trans community is heard and respected is second to none. She shares her own story with in a bid to raise awareness and prove to the trolls that trans people just want to live their lives in peace.

Activism is something Sara has always been drawn towards, from attending Rock Against Racism in the 70s to campaigning for marriage equality in Ireland in 2015.

It’s evident from talking to her that Sara simply wants to make the world a better place.

She shared, “I started to come out in my thirties, but I spent more time in the background, working and providing support for others. I spent a lot of time trying to make sure that I knew what I was and who I was.”

“I had to find treatment and support which was difficult because obviously I was married and had children. And then you wonder how you do something like this in 90s Ireland.”

Sara explained that although some progress had been made, Ireland was still an incredibly dangerous place, especially for a trans woman.

“It was still quite regressive which we tend to forget. You know homosexuality was only de-criminalised in 1993 and this was the period when I’m starting to find myself and come out.

“I needed to know exactly what steps I was going to take and make sure I brought the right people along with me.”

Sara was heavily involved in support groups and campaigning. She has bravely shared her own story with the public with the hope of making others feel less alone. She’s one of many activists who have undoubtedly made Ireland a better place for the trans community today.

“There’s a little bit of decadence to coming out because you’re doing something society doesn’t want you to do”

Coming out as a trans woman was both terrifying and empowering for Sara. She explained that you experience such a mixture of emotions during this time.

“It’s dangerous on one level but exciting on another because you’re finally coming out. There’s a little bit of decadence to coming out because you’re doing something society doesn’t want you to do.

“On the other hand, if you look back now from this point, there’s so much positive change that has happened since the 1990s, especially when it comes to gender recognition,” Sara shared.

As incredible as that progress is, it’s important to note that there is still so far to go.

“Our healthcare has degraded and it can be difficult to get access to it, but also when you do get access to it, it can also be very invasive.”

“Then there’s this backlash within social media with some women’s groups and from politicians who think trans people are something to be afraid of.

“They think we are a danger to women and children and that our rights should be rolled back.”

“The community is getting younger and they feel safer coming out”

Sara would’ve been able to tell you the name of every trans person in the 1990s, but the community is constantly growing now.

“You now have so many trans people who are willing to be out. You’re starting to see more activism happening. You’ve got trans pride and trans healthcare.

“The community is getting younger and they feel safer coming out,” Sara added.

But what will help the trans community move forward and live their lives as normal? Education, Sara stressed.

She explained that all the trans community wants is to live like the rest of us. They want to go to work, go to the shop, visit friends, go to concerts, and travel. Education is the most powerful tool to help the trans community progress, Sara said.

“Education plays the biggest part of it. There is backlash about that at the moment, about libraries, about schools, or whatever.

“But if a child of four or a child of six or a child of 10 learns that some people are gay or some people have two daddies and some people have two mammies or some people are trans, actually it becomes no problem whatsoever.

“It’s not an issue as you grow up because it’s part of the normal education process. Some people have a different colour skin or come from a different country.

“All these things are just normal education processes.”

Sara Philips is appearing in Aviva’s Pride video series. To find out more visit