Doctor Who actor David Tennant wears trans rights T-shirt by Canadian designer: 'You will have to go through me'

London, Ont., creator Stevie Brocksom says sales for their T-shirts featuring trans-positive messaging have skyrocketed since the actor was seen in one of their designs

Stevie Brocksom is still floored after actor David Tennant, best known for his work in the Doctor Who series, wore one of the trans-positive T-shirts they sent him on a whim. The photo has led to a massive spike in sales of the London, Ont., designer's activist T-shirts which help fund a scholarship for transgender students in Ontario.  

Brocksom and their graphic designer sell a series of T-shirts with trans-positive messaging on their website, "Stevie Safe Spaces." The T-shirts, which are available in sizes S up to 6XL, have slogans on them like “you can’t erase us,” "protect trans kids" and “you will have to go through me” printed in the trans colours of blue, pink and white. The shirts are intended for family members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community.

In an effort to get more attention for their cause, Brocksom started sending T-shirts to creators with large followings. A friend encouraged them to send one to actor Tennant, whose child identifies as non-binary. Tennant is no stranger to allyship, often speaking up and wearing Ts and pins in supports of the LGBTQ+ community on red carpets and awards ceremonies.

Last year, at the press launch for Good Omens‘ second season, he wore a shirt that read: “Leave trans kids alone you absolute freaks.”

Brocksom’ husband found an address for Tennant’s fan mail and they mailed him a package of T-shirts with all their designs.

“I didn’t think it would go anywhere,” Brocksom tells Yahoo Canada. “I thought he’d wear one to a doctor’s appointment with his kids or something, and then the message would be out there.”

On Friday, Brocksom woke up to hundreds of T-shirt orders. Tennant’s wife, Georgia, had posted a photo of him wearing their “You will have to go through me” T-shirt on Instagram where she has more than 410,000 followers. The actor and his family attended their children's school Pride events.

Doctor Who is a wildly popular and long-running show which started airing in 1963. Over the years, various incarnations of the program have featured camp elements and nods to the LGBTQ+ community, including characters who identify as queer. The current season of the show stars queer actor Ncuti Gatwa as the 15th Doctor, who has referred to the character using they/them pronouns. Rupaul's Drag Race superstar Jinkx Monsoon plays the villain.

Because of the show's inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community, it is often the target of homophobia and transphobia online.

Brocksom says they "avoid Twitter like the plague," but they've been told that photos of Tennant wearing their shirt has become a target of mockery and hatred by some far-right agitators on the platform, where owner Elon Musk himself has published anti-transgender posts.

In Canada, the transgender community faces challenges in schooling across the country.

Last year, the New Brunswick government introduced rules that would require parental consent for transgender or non-binary students under the age of 16 to formally use a preferred first name.

In Saskatchewan, a provincial policy requires parental consent for children under 16 who want to change their names or pronouns at school.

A similar law is expected in Alberta, which would require parental consent for children 15 and under to change their names and pronouns, while 16- and 17-year-old students would need their parents to be notified, but would not require them to give consent.

In the U.S., bills targeting the transgender community have passed in several jurisdictions. According to this website which tracks anti-trans bills across the U.S., 604 bills restricting transgender rights — from receiving healthcare to which bathrooms they can use — have been introduced in legislatures of 43 states.

Protesters gathered at Violet King Henry Plaza in front of the Alberta Legislature to rally in support of trans youth in Alberta, on February 25, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
EDMONTON, CANADA - FEBRUARY 11: Protesters gathered at Violet King Henry Plaza in front of the Alberta Legislature to rally in support of trans youth in Alberta, on February 25, 2024, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Before their T-shirts went viral last week, Brocksom had sold 1,000 units worldwide, with $5 from each $35 shirt sold going to a scholarship that Brocksom had set up. The $1,000 Greyson Jones Memorial Scholarship is awarded twice a year to a full-time Ontario-based college or university student who identifies as transgender, agender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.

Brocksom started the scholarship to honour the late Grayson Jones, a trans man who advocated for mental health care, trans rights, and access to healthcare. The first recipient of the award received it last September, and another received it the following January.

Brocksom is now working hard to fulfill the orders they've received over the last few days, including from Iceland, Japan and Australia. They say they've made over $32,000 in sales so far.

“It’s hard to find inclusive sizing in activism T-shirts, so everyone jumped on the bandwagon,” Brocksom says. “I had to turn off sticker orders on the website so I could get caught up.”

As a result of the huge influx in orders, they’ll be able to cover their scholarships for the next few years.

“I definitely think we funded an entire scholarship in one day, at the very minimum,” Brocksom says. “We might be able to fund two, who knows.”

It’s hard to find inclusive sizing in activism T-shirts.