Transgender equality, time for change.

Sophia Carter

Sophia is a poet and writer based in Birmingham with a passion for LGBT issues, food, fashion and literature, keen blogger and lover of cats.

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As with all stories of the twenty-first century, this particular one starts with social media, twitter in fact. I tweeted a few days ago, my view that no one has the right to say that cancer patients are more entitled to health care than the transgender community. As I’m sure you’re aware, this came with a backlash, mostly from one particular person, whom I happen to know comes from a very small town in Wales where the exposure to the LGBT+ issues and people is more a rumour and myth than an actual reality. I wanted to point out to this person that I did not specifically say that one should receive treatment over the over, but merely that all should have the same rights. I further had to say the message I am trying to communicate is the lesson of equality. Her response was that she came from a life surrounded by cancer. We have all lost someone from cancer. I have, close friends and family. But then again, as far as I’m concerned, living in the wrong body, being subjected to years of torment, unhappiness and being ostracised by certain members of the public is like life and death.

I have trans friends, and the pain that they have gone through has contributed to the 35% statistic of trans people attempting suicide. Although I may not be Trans, I am a fierce advocate for their rights, why? Because we should not have to ASK for tolerance, or ASK for people to be open-minded, or even ASK to be equal, but the sad truth of this apparently open minded forward thinking age is this: we are all still frightened of what we don’t understand.

This may sound like a simple idea, but if every person who is transphobic dressed up as the opposite sex and lived for one day as such, I can bet you any sum of money they would feel incredibly uncomfortable. Why? Because they are not comfortable as the sex they have spent the day living as. Maybe, if more people thought about this, they would understand at least in some tiny capacity what the trans community has to go through.

No matter how much we want to believe that people’s attitudes are changing (in particular the UK), the comments, stories and statistics do not lie. Here are some of the most current statistics from the UK:

73% of trans people surveyed experienced some form of public harassment including violence.

19% of GPs either appeared to not want to help or refused help in accessing gender reassignment services.

29% of trans people have been refused treatment by a doctor or nurse because they did not approve of gender reassignment.

35% of trans people have attempted suicide at least once in their lives.

With 73% of trans people experiencing some form of public harassment or violence, this shows the prevalence of unchanging attitudes within the UK. GALOP released a hate crime report for 2013 stating the statistics given for hate crimes towards members of the trans community equalled fifty reported last year. What GALOP actually found was well over fifty crimes were committed. This could be as a result of two reasons; the first being, crimes has actually gone down, or the latter, which are LGBT+ groups are losing confidence in the police to stop such crimes. Because of the overwhelming evidence for the latter reason by GALOP we can safely assume that the government is directly to blame for not protecting the rights of the trans community more fiercely.

In another industry, besides the public sector that is somewhat to blame for not encouraging equality is the media industry. Richard Littlejohn is one name that the trans community will not forget in a hurry, and I will hark back to the article written by him about Miss Lucy Meadows who was known previously as Nathan Upton. His column headlined, ‘He’s not only in the wrong body… he’s in the wrong job.’ He then continued to ask if anyone has considered “the devastating effect” on pupils when they were to be aware of Miss Meadows change in gender. He writes:

Why should they be forced to deal with the news that a male teacher they have always known as Mr Upton will henceforth be a woman called Miss Meadows? “The school shouldn’t be allowed to elevate its ‘commitment to diversity and equality’ above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents.

It should be protecting pupils from some of the more, er, challenging realities of adult life, not forcing them down their throats.

These are primary school children, for heaven’s sake. Most of them still believe in Father Christmas. Let them enjoy their childhood. They will lose their innocence soon enough. Nathan Upton is entitled to his gender reassignment surgery, but he isn’t entitled to project his personal problems on to impressionable young children. By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalene’s, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years. It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as ‘Miss Meadows’ at another school on the other side of town in September. No-one would have been any the wiser. But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.

When I read this article I was horrified. I may not be trans, but on behalf of my friends who are, and the community as a whole I was speechless that not only could someone have this opinion, but the mere fact it was allowed to be PUBLISHED! In such a national newspaper that people all over the UK are exposed to. It was only taken down after the tragic death of Lucy Meadows. Too little, too late?

The Daily Mail then goes on to do what exactly? Defend him! The Daily Mail continues on it’s negative coverage of the trans community as this story will show. It headlines:

Want a sex change? Work for Coke: How America’s biggest corporations are paying for transgender surgeries.’

The ‘want a change sex’ has been written in such a way that a sex change is nothing short of a lifestyle choice; the casual attitude taken just demonstrates the little respect the media industry has for the trans community.

Another issue that I have lies with the NHS. This for many has been a controversial subject based on whether sex changes should be allowed on the NHS. Current members of the trans community are having to fork out thousands upon thousands of pounds to give themselves the lives they need. I have seen and heard comments from people who have questioned this saying, ‘if trans people can get their operations on the NHS then why can’t I get my breasts enlarged?.’

I’ll give you an answer. The reasoning for a trans person to undergo such surgery goes far deeper than cosmetic enhancement. You’re giving a person the right to live as they  have always known. Sex changes SHOULD be on the NHS and that has always been my opinion. People often forget the process that the trans community has to go through to get to the point they can choose to have surgery options. People clearly seem to think it’s some sort of Harley Street job where you decide one day you want a bigger pair of breasts, call up your surgeon, and bish bash bosh you got a D cup.

My conclusion is that there is still a long journey to go for the trans community. I do believe, however, that there is progress, but for the trans community I fear it is not quick enough. I’ve been the victim of a vicious attack because I am a lesbian, and so I can truly understand the fear of violence and harassment that far too many of the trans community have been subjected to. However, if the trans community allows themselves to be brushed under the carpet by small-minded and uneducated people like Littlejohn then the fight for equality will be a long drawn out battle. What I say, is fight for who you are, be proud of your community, you should not have to lay down and ask for anything. You have given enough through taxes, work, national insurance and so much more. So it’s time (and this is for everyone in the world who is LGBT+) to stand up and say, ‘WE ARE HERE.’ It’s our time for change. It is time for transgender equality.

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