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Podcast transcript: Adam, Tulsi and Phil on our #VisibleHate campaign film

Please find a full audio transcription of “Adam, Tulsi and Phil on our #VisibleHate campaign film” below.

Moderator questions in bold, respondents in regular text.

Unable to decipher = ( inaudible + timestamp ), Phonetic spelling ( ph + timestamp ), Missed word = ( mw + timestamp ), Talking over each other = ( talking over each other + timestamp )

Introduction:

Welcome to Changing Faces, Voices of Visible Difference. The podcast where we talk about having a scar, mark or condition that affects our appearance.

Adam:

And welcome back to the podcast. As ever, I am your glorious host here, Adam Pearson and heads up, today, great one. Loaded one but absolutely great one and as always, I am not alone. I am joined by two very dear friends of mine and co-campaigners. You might say they are also legends of the game. First of all, let me introduce you to my good friend Tulsi. Tulsi, how are you doing?

Tulsi:

Really good. It does feel very surreal, especially now that we’re in this lockdown, but it’s great that we’re doing something like this with the podcast, connecting with each other because we don’t get to see each other face-to-face. So, yes, here we are.

Adam:

And also we’ve already heard his voice at the top of this podcast, my good friend Phil. Phil, how’s it going good sir?

Phil:

Everything is just tickety boo, thank you Adam. Living the dream here, yes, everything is great. Thank you very much. How are you getting on?

Adam:

All good, thank you, all good. Christmas and New Year are well and truly out the way, the hangover has finally subsided. Let’s just talk about-, hear more about both of you, how you got involved with Changing Faces and again with what the nature of your visual difference is, just as much as you feel comfortable sharing. Tulsi, let’s start with you.

Tulsi:

So, my visible difference is I have burns to my face and body. I sustained them in a plane crash when I was ten years old so waking up from this deep coma to realise that my life was changed in a split second, not only have I lost my family but suddenly I look very different. I felt different because I didn’t look like anybody else. Having dealt with that for many, many years from the age of ten, I just felt really alone and isolated because no one around me understood, and it’s not every day that when you’re walking around you see someone that looks like you. And then so I got involved with Changing Faces about four years ago now and I did some stuff when I was a lot younger but actively campaigning for about four years now.

Adam:

And what about you, Mr Phil, how did you come to be involved with Changing Faces and how did you get to meet me? I think that’s the most important thing in all of this.

Phil:

Adam, how I met you was at a party, I think. Anyway, moving swiftly on from that party, so I got involved in Changing Faces about fourteen years ago. I was really struggling and the reason I was struggling was because I’ve got a birthmark that covers three quarters of my face. I’m highly visible, the birthmark is down my arm, on my chest, on my leg. So, I was struggling with actually just walking out of the house. Every time I see someone or every time somebody sees me, they take a double take or they stare. If there would be a child walking with their parent, they would be pointing and asking very loudly so that everybody could hear, “What’s on that man’s face?”, and I just got to the point where I just couldn’t cope with it anymore. That’s why I sought out Changing Faces and I ended up having quite a few counselling sessions and spending a lot of time learning how to cope. Predominantly the last two or three years I’ve been more involved in supporting the charity as much as it supports me, to be fair, and then more recently with the hate crime stuff and that has been-, I would say it’s been life-changing for me, the response and the output from that has been extraordinary in the last year.

Adam:

And I’m glad you both really touched on that because that’s what we’re here to discuss, the Visible Hate campaign we did, the thing on hate crime and before we get into the meat and potatoes of it, I think it’s really important we understand what we mean by hate crime. So, legally hate crime is any kind of act of aggressions or hostility aimed at someone based upon their membership, perceived membership or associating membership to a protected characteristic. So, that’s specifically what we’re talking about. So, Tulsi, what kind of things have you experienced, just to give people a context of what we’re actually discussing here?

Tulsi:

Yes, like you have to relive this moment again, this is how it feels but this is as real as it got. I was unemployed at the time, again struggling to get a job and a lot of it did have to do with my visible difference. And on my way to the job centre to sign-on, waiting at a bus stop, there wasn’t anyone there is was just me. There’s a set of lights near the bus stop, a car pulls up, there are four guys in the car. They wind the window down saying, “You’re so effing ugly, you should have died.” And at first I just looked around thinking, “Well, they’re not talking to me, I’m sure there must be somebody else”, and then I looked around and it was me, and then it was like there’s a bus coming, I don’t want to do this anymore. This is just one too many that I’ve experienced now, and what do I do, do I just end it all here? Because as that bus is coming I can stand in front of it and that’s as real as it got. I just remember feeling so sad that day that, “Is this how it’s always going to be? Every time that I’m out in the public, is this the reaction that I’m going to face?” And I just felt so isolated. I couldn’t share this experience with nobody, and when I’ve shared it in this public domain and my friends and family have heard that they’re like, “Are you for real? Did this actually happen?” and I was like, “Yes.” So, I just couldn’t talk about it because I was so ashamed.

Adam:

How long did it take you to realise that you in fact weren’t the problem in that situation and it was those four guys in a car? I’m assuming it’s a Golf because it’s normally a Golf.

Tulsi:

Yes, it took me a really long time because this is where I had no confidence. So, all the confidence that I had, I used it in me getting out of the house. I guess it too me a really long time and to be fair I suppose meeting a charity like Changing Faces, I suppose it hit home more that it’s not me, it was them. So, considering the incident happened however many years ago, I was still carrying it as if it’s my fault I look this way and it’s my fault that this abuse is happening, but it’s not. We know that it’s not but that’s how it’s made me feel.

Adam:

If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. So, as part of the Visible Hate campaign we created a video where we all went into the studio, sat down in a chair and just said out loud some of the things that have been said to us either in the street or online and what have you, and became part of what is now Changing Faces’ largest, most successful campaign ever. And whilst on the face of it it sounds really easy, sit down, say words, go home, there’s a real almost emotional turmoil that comes when you actually have to read these things out with the same amount of venom with which they were written. And, yes, I found it a lot harder than I thought I was going to. How about you guys?

Tulsi:

For me, any kind of work that I do with Changing Faces, it’s like I get to see all my friends, my peers and have a good laugh, do the filming and off you go, but sitting in that chair, saying those words with actual depth and seriousness, that was really, really, really tough. Just so gutted that this is what we have to experience pretty much on a daily basis, being stared at, the names that we’re called. And I think it was another reminder of what I’ve been through as well and how much I’ve accepted as if this is normal, but we know this isn’t normal, this isn’t acceptable, but it was just sad, just really, really sad listening to all those words. I don’t know, it was just really dark and it was horrible, but I know we had to do this.

Phil:

Yes, and I think I echo what you say Tulsi. I think for me I was reading out some lines there that had been said to me previously and I was already prepared for those, so I knew they were coming, but reading out some of the stuff that had been said to you guys, it was heartbreaking for me because I knew that you’d suffered as I had and in some cases probably worse with some of the things that had been said. So, yes, it’s one of the toughest things that I’ve done ever, but probably the most rewarding.

Tulsi:

You know, what Changing Faces does and the campaigns that it has been running since it started, it’s just not only is it crucial but it’s a reminder of how much more work there is for us to do to be seen, to heard, to be represented.

Adam:

So, just to raise the mood a little bit because I know it’s important to talk about the reasons for these campaigns and what have you but it isn’t always doom and gloom and I certainly know from my own experience of being involved in this campaign that when it dropped, in the main the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Did you guys experience the same thing?

Phil:

Yes, I definitely did. As a result of doing the campaign I was asked to do quite a few other pieces of media work and one of them was for the Joe website and there were over 1,200 comments from people ( timestamp 00:10:00 ) that saw the piece on there and only four of those comments were negative. The rest were positive, supportive messaging. And when the four negative comments did go on there, they were actually shouted down by other people responding to them. So, yes, I found it amazingly powerful for myself and one of the TV pieces I did, right at the end of it I was asked at the interview, “How would you want people to respond to you, Phil?”, and I said, “I’d just like to say hello,” and two days later I walked out of the petrol station where I live and a lady said, “Hello”, and I say hello back, not really knowing who it was. It wasn’t until I got home I actually realised she must have seen the piece on telly and she was saying hello, but she had such a smile on her face and I just thought at that point, do you know what, that’s made a difference, what we’ve done. That day in the studio, going through that bit of pain, but the subsequent effect of that has had a positive effect so there’s somebody out there who has looked at somebody who looks a bit different and has said hello to them with a smile on their face.

Adam:

And how about you Tulsi, did you have anything similar to Phil?

Tulsi:

For me it was having the opportunity to go on Sky News to talk about this campaign and then the next day I was actually flying off to Australia, and at the airport I had several people come up to me like, “Weren’t you the person that was on the news? Oh my gosh, that campaign is just amazing. I just didn’t realise just what you guys must go through.” And it was so nice that, (1), I got recognised and, (2), to go to the Sky studios is always great but just to really talk about something that was so important and it’s finally being taken seriously, if that makes sense. So, I think that was one of my cherished moments.

Adam:

I’ve also had very similar experiences and I think the real beauty of doing campaigns like this is the feedback that you do see is only a really small part of what the overall impact is. I mean, when my mum saw it she just looked at me and went, “Do people really say those things to you?”, and I’m like, “Yes, all the time.” “Everyday?”, I’m like, “Yes, most days I get an out of place, uncouth comment on a video or a tweet or something of that nature.” And I’m at the point now where I don’t care. There’s a rock bottom for a reason, you correct the grammar and you move on. And the funniest bit of feedback I got and I think you’ve said it also, Phil, one of the comments I got was, “Man, that one guy swears a lot.”

Phil:

Yes, you got all the bad language parts, haven’t you Adam?

Adam:

I got all of the really harsh ones. And so, what’s next? There will be people listening to this who may have a visual difference, who are still bothered by those comments, who might be struggling. What advice would you give to those people?

Phil:

I would say do as I did and reach out to some support. Look up Changing Faces on the website, google them and have a conversation with some professionals. What has been most powerful for me has been hanging around with you guys. Just meeting other people that looked a bit different to the norm and spending time with people who know what it’s been like, who have been there, done it, got the t-shirt has been a massive benefit to me. So, I would say do take the opportunity to pick up the phone or to drop an email to Changing Faces and make contact and just give it a go. Reach out and get some support.

Tulsi:

Absolutely.

Adam:

And if someone thinks that they have been the victim of an instant hate crime, what should they do Tulsi?

Tulsi:

Recognise that if something doesn’t feel right, it means it’s not right. This is one of your quotes actually. So, definitely report it, report it to the police, there are quite a few places you can report. If you are stuck, do go on the Changing Faces website and there are lots of details on how to report the hate crime. Like for myself growing up, I didn’t know I could report something that I felt like was actually a crime, so now I know after doing this campaign that I can report this. Now, what happens after, that’s not for me to worry about. The fact that I need to report this is important. You might not be able to do it yourself or you may not feel comfortable but maybe somebody that is with you, they too can report this and it will get noted, and that’s what is important. And we do need to talk about this more. It is actually serious and it’s impacting people’s lives.

Adam:

And Phil?

Phil:

Yes, report it, definitely report it and maybe let the person know you’re going to report them as well. But if you’re not prepared to let them know, do report it to the police.

Adam:

Yes, I’m a big proponent of if it feels wrong it probably is wrong. It’s not my job to figure out the legalities of it. I’m not in the judiciary system. I just know I feel like I’ve been wronged or grieved in a way that is outside the parameters of what is socially and legally acceptable. I think to expect me or either of you or anyone else to accept it as the norm and to sit in silence about it is completely and utterly ridiculous. So, I completely concur that we should all be reporting it when it happens and give it the response that we would if we saw it happening to someone else in society. And if it happened in the real world you would certainly report it, so if it’s happening online why is that any difference? I think this idea that how we can behave online and how we can behave in the real world are different things is absolutely no longer true. So, rounding up, guys, what’s next? What’s the next big thing you guys want to do and want to achieve in this area? Phil, let’s start with you.

Phil:

Yes, keep the conversation alive, keep it going, making sure that any other people out there with a visible difference are aware of what help is available to them. That education piece is so important. The more we can get into educating, whether that is at children age groups or older, the more we can get involved in that kind of stuff the easier it’s going to be for those people out there that are still struggling with a visible difference and not quite able to deal with it as well as we’ve learned to.

Adam:

Tulsi, what about you? What do you want to do next?

Tulsi:

Like Phil said, getting into the schools and stuff. Obviously everything is online at the moment, and even if we can deliver something online that will be really good, interact. But, yes, I guess keep sharing more about this and talking about it even more. So, keep the conversation going.

Adam:

I mean, and again I completely agree. That would be a really weird ending to the podcast, if you both said that and I went, “I disagree, we need less education.” No, we completely and utterly need more. And so, with that, thank you very much for talking to me. Not only has it been a pleasure discussing this with you both today, it’s been an absolute delight to be working on this whole campaign with you. I’ve made many good, new friends during this campaign who I didn’t know that well before and I regard you two part of that and I hold you both in high regard. So, if you enjoyed this podcast, don’t forget thumbs up, five-star review, all that jazz, and if you’ve been affected by anything we discuss or you just want to know more then absolutely get in touch with Changing Faces and tell them Adam, Phil and Tulsi sent you. So, from me, Adam Pearson, and from Tulsi and Phil, take care, adiós, rock and roll.

Phil:

Bye.

Tulsi:

Bye.

Conclusion:

You have been listening to the the Voices of Visible Difference podcast from the charity Changing Faces. If you would like to get in touch, share your thoughts or find out more, you can contact us via the Changing Faces website or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.