Looking at Eddie Izzard now, one can hardly imagine a time when the actor, stand-up comedian and political activist was anything but what we’ve come to know him as: a fierce and outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community and a host of other causes.

Perhaps one of the roots of this force of nature’s activism lies in his speaking out about his gender identity in a time before trans rights got the attention that it is getting today. When Izzard came out as transgender in 1985, gay rights were at the forefront of the conversation, while the rights of trans people would only be in the spotlight years later.

Eddie Izzard identifies as a straight transvestite, and has also referred to himself as “a male lesbian”, “a lesbian trapped in a male body” and “a complete boy plus half girl”. His candid approach to clothing was refreshing and unusual in the early 90s.

Since then, Izzard has continued to do highly successful stand-up shows all across the world, and has even had political ambitions.

Closer to home, South Africans might remember Izzard’s campaign to raise funds for Sport Relief in 2016. Commemorating Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison, Izzard completed 27 marathons in 27 days, running more than 1,127 kilometres in total.

Watch the video below to see Izzard explain his gender identity while getting his nails done between marathons in South Africa.

Eddie Izzard’s autobiography, Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death and Jazz Chickens takes centre stage on the GaySA Radio Book Club on Tuesday, 11 December. To listen to our full discussion about this riveting read, tune into Rainbow Talk on GaySA Radio.