Scene from the Sofa – Five minutes with… Beth Easton

Graham Robson May 31, 2020

Beth Easton is an illustrator, comic artist, and zine maker from Brighton whose work centres around LGBTQ+ experiences and feminism. Currently living in Northampton, Beth makes a variety of things, including patches, pins, prints, totes, stickers, and zines. Graham Robson caught up with them to find out how they’ve been coping in lockdown and their plans for the future…

Hey Beth, tell us a bit about yourself…

Hi I’m Beth, my pronouns are they/them, and I’m a non-binary trans illustrator and art activist. I mostly create LGBTQ+ specific art which aims to educate and inspire our community. I try to raise awareness of trans issues through my art including advocating for inclusive language and encouraging people to fill in surveys and petitions to support trans rights. I’m originally from Brighton, but I’ve been living in Northampton for four years now. I miss Brighton every day but I really love that living in a smaller town has allowed me to organise and get involved in a lot more LGBTQ+ events. I ran an LGBTQ+ youth group for a couple of years, I work with Q Space Northampton organising and running events and training, and I run my own sketchbook club.

How have you been spending your time during lockdown?

Mostly I’ve been trying to keep my head above water. It’s a very difficult time and it definitely isn’t helped by the way the government is conducting itself. My girlfriend and I have a four year old who has taken up a large portion of our lockdown time, but it’s actually been really good to be able to spend that time together. I’ve also been running my queer sketchbook club online every Saturday since the beginning of April which has really helped maintain a community feeling when we aren’t able to see each other physically.

Has it been difficult to adjust to working from home?

As a freelancer I’ve always worked from home, but it’s definitely an adjustment to have my girlfriend also working from home. She’s taken over my studio space to use as her home office and I’m working basically anywhere and at any time of day. Our son is considered higher needs so he is still attending nursery on his usual days which is really helpful, but keeping him entertained and safe inside has been a challenge.

What’s been the biggest impact to your creative output?

Definitely the negative effect the pandemic and lockdown has had on my mental health. I drew a piece in mid April about the pandemic being a trauma and the importance of realising that. We can’t all be expected to carry on as if nothing has changed. It’s okay to feel numb in times of high stress, it’s your brain’s way of coping.

Seen much online? 

In terms of creating supportive communities I’ve seen a lot of great stuff. A group of queer people have set up a global online pride Instagram account called @farandpride, they have been running story takeovers with a variety of queer people. I took part talking about a trans history zine I made for Trans Day of Remembrance. At the beginning of April, Mermaids did a fundraising livestream which was incredibly wholesome, I really enjoyed being able to see that. I think there’s a lot to be celebrated about online community and social media, as a chronically ill queer and trans person being able to make connections and find resources online has always been incredibly important to me, it’s all about curating your online experience to create the community you want to see.

How is lockdown affecting the trans community?

We’re a resilient bunch, but there are obvious difficulties for trans people during lockdown. Isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming especially if you live in an unsupportive household, or even if you only live with cis people. The camaraderie and understanding you get from interacting with other trans people is irreplaceable. My friend runs our local trans meet up group and when lockdown began he set up a discord server as a replacement for that physical group. It has been great to be able to interact with the whole group as easily as if we were all in one room, we’ve had pub quizzes, film watching parties, and craft activities so far. It is obviously disheartening that transphobia in the media and in the government has persisted during the lockdown, you’d think Liz Truss would have more important things to do than harassing trans people, but like I say we’re resilient. We feel our feelings and then we get up and fight.

What are your plans for when this is all over? Anything on the horizon? 

Honestly I find it hard to think too far ahead at the moment. I can only deal with about two weeks at a time, which has been working alright for me so far. I’d really like to be able to do more community building once we’re out of lockdown, but what that means and how it’ll work I don’t know yet.

Any tips to keep us busy? 

There are so many free resources online at the moment, use them! Off the top of my head I know that @hellomynameiswednesday has made a few different activity packs you can do, plus organisations like Gendered Intelligence and the Albert Kennedy Trust have huge lists of resources and support on their websites. There’s something for everyone.

Do you have any work you’d like to share with us? 

My Trancestry zine, which you can view here:

I made this zine for Trans Day of Remembrance, it aims to celebrate the trans people throughout history who we normally wouldn’t hear about. The idea was that although Trans Day of Remembrance is a sad day we should think about all the trans people who came before us and lived happy and full lives. It encourages people to look into our community’s past so they can see their own futures.

Any words of wisdom to help us through?  

Make an effort to think about how you’re feeling. I know its not the most fun thing in the world but feel your feelings and then make art about it! I started making a daily quarantine diary when we went into self isolation (two weeks before lockdown) which has really helped me remember the positive things that happened each day and stopped all of the days blending into one. Also I recommend getting dressed up for no reason, playing with make up, dying your hair, whatever makes you feel more comfortable in your skin. Lockdown is a great time to play with your gender and presentation.

Instagram @ betheastonart