Speakers’ Corner: Leeds City of Varieties?

Susan Platt

This month we talk to local drag-superstar Susan Platt for her opinions on cultural diversity in the city and what it’s like to be an out-and-out transvestite in Leeds.  By day, Susan is called Ian and works at a large telecommunications company, but on Friday nights a transformation takes place and Susan becomes hostess and DJ-extraordinaire at nightclub Xibit.  As well as this, Susan is heavily involved in Leeds Pride and the annual event Drag Idol, where competitors of all ages and genders dress up in their finest to compete.

When we met her, Susan had just run over a mile in killer scarlet heels to raise money for breast cancer, but somehow she found the time to give us her views – as well as still looking every bit the lady despite a few grazes and laddered tights (it seems the sponsored walk was not without its mishaps!).

“Cultural diversity is really important, so that you can be who you are.  When I was younger, you simply couldn’t do a lot of the things that you can today.  Some members of the public would tend to stereotype and perhaps certain labels would be attached to certain groups and then just stick; silly things, like young men being yobbos, or punks always being violent and so on.  Whereas actually most of them are just quiet, normal people with normal day jobs – they just happen to like dressing that way and listening to that sort of music.

I DJ every week at Xibit and it’s a really great, supportive place where all are welcome.  I always play a really varied mix of music – we’ve even played Black Lace! – and people love it.  We had 20 or 30 people doing the conga round the room the other week.  It was the first place in Leeds to host a monthly event for trans people, where anyone can come and relax and be at ease and not feel at all on edge.  It provides a safe and friendly space and can be a real family affair.  It caters for everyone – so you never know what’s going to come through the door!  That keeps things interesting.

I find that Leeds is generally very accepting of diversity.  I can walk anywhere in the city, though of course I do get a few looks sometimes.  I live on a council estate and it isn’t the most affluent of areas – maybe it’s got a bit of a bad reputation – but all of my neighbours know who I am and everyone there is always very supportive of me.  If I do ever get abuse, I always say that there are two ways of dealing with it: you can either ignore it and walk on by, or you can give as good back.  I find the latter works for me!  If I’m walking past, say, a group of young lads, and one of them makes a comment, I’ll just answer them back jokingly with “What are your mates going to say when you get decked by a man in a frock?”  They back down pretty quickly then!

As an event, I think that Leeds Pride really showcased the diversity and inclusivity that we have in Leeds.  Everybody there just got on great.  In the end it wasn’t just an LGBT event – it truly became a city event.”

Susan Platt DJs on Fridays and Saturday at Xibit down by the canal at Bridge End, Leeds.

Drag Idol is one of the biggest events in the Leeds LGBT calendar and takes part on November 10th this year.  For more information, or to dig out your sparkliest pair of tights and take part, please visit the website.