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design by Myla Yeomans @myla.yeomans

5: Changemaker Series

interview with Dr. Ronx Ikharia

“You cannot be, what you cannot see.” This is something of a mantra for A&E doctor and TV presenter Dr. Ronx Ikharia, a gender non-conforming, community-driven, suit-and-trainer-clad mobilising force. Dr. Ronx is proof that you should be the change you want to see in the world – but is also determined to create spaces for others to inhabit alongside them.

Alongside their role in Operation Ouch, a science show for children making biological facts fun and accessible, Ronx is also deeply invested in the young people in their local community of Hackney. Testament to this was their request that the shoot and interview took place in Hackney Quest, a local community space where Ronx volunteers with young people facing threat of school exclusion. Supporting young people lies at the crux of Ronx’s philosophy. For lasting cultural change, we need to support the children leading the next generation and people like Dr. Ronx are leading the way.

photography by Inès Hachou @ines_hachou

What does change look like in your industry?

Wow, what does change look like… so, I’ve got many hats; I work as a A&E doctor, and I work as a TV presenter, and I guess I do public speaking and bigging-up-youth-work. Change in my professional job means, for me, people being aware of the lived experience of other people, and being open to change, and accepting that there are some things that they don’t understand – but being willing to accept that this is just life, and it doesn’t mean that we should regard people with suspicion, prejudice, or fear – simply because we don’t understand them, their choices or ways of existing.

Especially as healthcare providers, this translates as ensuring that we give absolutely everybody the best care that we can and pay a considered attention to minority and marginalised folk who may will need to be signposted onto specialist services.

And then in terms of my TV world – I want to be really visible and authentic, so that when people – especially young Black and Brown people – watch telly, they’ll be like, “oh my god, there are options for my existence, and there’s somebody out there who is being absolutely themselves, and that’s what I should be.”

So, that’s what I hope for in my TV world. I am also passionate about physical and mental health and untold stories. I want to amplify the voices of folk who at times continue to be unheard.

Visible diversity is key.

In my public speaking world, again, I want all kinds of people to listen to my story which is about how I have become the person that I am, the struggles and the challenges that I’ve been through.

It is imperative that folk accept that things are changing the world is evolving – nothing stays the same for long – but, ultimately, we have to be moving towards a more progressive, open minded and respectful society.

I talk to young people, especially kids, “on a level”- I am age and ability appropriately honest with them, in ways that I wish folk were with me when I was younger. They need to see and hear stories so that they know that there are options of existence available to them – dreams can be reality!

photography by Inès Hachou @ines_hachou

What changes are you contributing to in your work?

For me, in the beginning, the change was letting people know that there are Black, androgynous, Queer doctors out there – that we are existing and thriving in professional capacities. As I’ve got older and more experienced as a doctor, I really wanted Black and Brown people to accept the multiplicity of womxnhood. It is imperative that we be move away from investing so much into being “socially acceptable” and be open to deviations from constructed norms.

And now recently, I have adopted a trans identity, I have had a bilateral mastectomy and this has brought me more in-line with how I see and feel.

Not female or male or even non-binary, I feel trans as a separate entity – not aligned or compared to cis- ness. So with this evolving identity and by being just me, visible, unapologetic authentic me, in conjunction with the access I have to so many different cohorts of people, I hope that I am contributing to a wave of change that is chipping away at the fixed, unhelpful, and often dangerous societal constructs which keep us so closed minded and resistant to difference.

What are some of your biggest successes of 2019?

At the beginning of the year, I filmed a live show of Operation Ouch. I never ever thought I would film a live television show! The second one was being on Blue Peter and getting my Blue Peter badge! We filmed that live, which was absolutely wild! Another success has been filming my own TV show, which we just wrapped last week… I can’t believe a TV show with my name in the title has been made, that is bloody bizarre.

Personally, I continue to be and more comfortable in my body. I have better control over my mental health and am kinder to myself when I am sad and have an emotional self-help tool kit which I draw upon when I need too.

This year I pursued chest surgery, I worked hard to be able to afford the private costs needed to bring myself in alignment with how I need to exist.

2019 has been big with me and I don’t think I have really taken time to review the sum of my achievements yet!

What is the importance of grassroots activism in implementing change at a higher level?

I no longer feel like effective and sustainable change can be achieved by a top down model alone.

Grassroots are everything. Community is everything.

Those who can make positive lasting community centred changes at a higher level should but many of us can’t.

I am surrounded by so many people using their platforms to enact change and draw attention to local small causes which are overlooked. I believe in the ripple domino effect and hope that if we all participle positively locally then when we join up the dots, we see a massive picture of joined up puzzle pieces.

photography by Inès Hachou @ines_hachou

What’s next? What are your goals for 2020?

There are my professional goals, in terms of being a doctor… I have exams that I need to complete!! So there are practical things!

In terms of my TV world, I definitely want to be doing a lot more shows which centre marginalised people, using my platform to amplify the voices of folk with unique and nuanced experiences to tell.

I will be mentoring more as I just have so much belief in our young people.

My experience of navigating the trans health has deeply inspired me and I have a few projects that are in the development stage which I want to bring to fruition in 2020

I have this urgent need in my belly to deconstruct the rigid ways of thinking and being that we are forced to adopt during our childhood and early adulthood.

In every way that I can I want to join local and international movements challenging perceived “norms” whilst trying my best not to burn out!

design by Myla Yeomans @myla.yeomans

See more of Ines’s photography on her website and instagram

Interview carried out by Hannah Robathan and Isabella Pearce, co-founders of shado

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