Content warning: transphobia, violence and abuse
In October 2017, a transgender woman was granted asylum in New Zealand after a tribunal concluded that it was no longer safe for her to remain in the UK. The woman in question worked for the IT department of a large international company and received serious hate threats, which worsened after she voiced her concerns to human resources.
The tribunal heard how radically the individual’s life had been affected by the incidents inside and outside of work. Her mental health worsened, and she experienced severe depression and anxiety, leaving her unable to function socially for fear of hostile interactions. Asylum was granted on the basis that forcing her return to the UK would inflict unnecessary suffering and put her in a position of serious vulnerability.
This incident occurred alongside figures released by Stonewall that found verbal and physical attacks on the UK’s LGBTQ+ population have risen 80% in the last four years. For trans people, incidents included physical removal from public bathrooms and refusal to acknowledge their preferred pronouns even after legal documents have been updated.
However, the most prominent form of abuse often takes place in public places, whether that be on the street, in nightclubs or public transport. These incidents occur at all times of day and in all kinds of places, meaning that for trans people just trying to complete daily tasks and live a satisfactory life, there is a constant fear of judgement. This undoubtedly explains the high levels of mental health issues within the trans community as well as the low statistics of trans-representation in higher education and professional roles.
Theresa May has personally pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act, which allows trans people to legally change their gender, yet this proposal was not included in the Conservative Party manifesto. Reforming the act would allow individuals to self-certify their own legal gender without applying to the Gender Recognition Panel, which has come under fire in recent years due to its refusal to recognise ‘non-binary’ as an official gender identity. Recently the Scottish Government unveiled plans to allow for a ‘non-binary’ identification, however ministers are wary of the ensuing costs in hospitals and prisons to accommodate these individuals.
In 2017, the ‘trans-obsession’ has become something of a trendy bandwagon for many public figures to involve themselves with, in order to be on the ‘right’ side of history, but this misses the mark. Tackling the overwhelming violence that trans people face requires systemic social reform. However, in this desperate age of daily safety concerns and a battle for basic human rights, even nominal support cannot be turned down in the face of such atrocities.
Whilst tackling these parliamentary and legal hurdles are important, the major obstacle in making the UK a safer place for trans people is the still-rampant presence of transphobic attitudes within the greater population. Despite many university campuses having extremely active LGBTQ+ groups, outside of younger generations there remains extremely hostile and worrying bigotry that would see trans people denied their right to live as equal citizens. Most notably these sentiments of hatred can be found online in opinion pieces and Facebook posts. Troublingly, it appears th that this war on transphobia is only just beginning. The UK remains an unsafe place to live; every day, more trans people are subject to unnecessarily ridicule, violence and death, while the discourse on trans human rights by political leaders struggles to become more than just that.
Image: Torbakhopper via Flickr