Transphobia: the epidemic no one is talking about

TRANSPHOBIA: THE EPIDEMIC NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT

By Georgie Andrews

TW// depression, suicide, mental health.

Trans kids are being attacked. In this so-called ‘progressive’ society, trans people are still seen by many as dangerous, and threat to cis gender people.

Sadly, transphobia bleeds into almost every aspect of life in British society. From the workplace, at home, in government and across social media, anti-trans abuse is commonplace and a serious problem.

Trans kids are particularly at risk. Aside from the serious absence of education around LGBTQ+ identities, many parents still refuse to accept their child’s gender identity – be this for lack of understanding or prejudice. As a result, over 25% of trans people have experienced homelessness in their lives, for the most part due to being forced out or experiencing domestic abuse. A shocking lack of support for young trans people leads to severe mental health issues; as well as dealing with gender dysphoria, anxiety and depression rates are dangerously high within the trans community.

Almost half of trans people have attempted suicide, 48% to be exact. And many more deal with suicidal ideation and crippling mental health issues every single day.

Trans healthcare

As recently as December 2020, the government announced drastic restrictions to trans healthcare. The ban on the use of puberty blockers – which delay the physical effects of puberty – in under 16s is a direct attack on the British trans youth. Puberty blockers have been shown to be effective in minimising the symptoms of dysphoria and cause no lasting health issues for those who take them. They can be lifesaving for young people discovering their gender identity.

However, following the case of Keira Bell suing the Tavistock NHS gender clinic, the government announced that the use of blockers in under 16s will require a court order. This is a huge step back for young trans people; forcing them to suffer through a puberty process that doesn’t align with their gender is traumatic and can cause severe mental health issues.

While people who de-transition – just like Keira Bell – very much exist, they are the minority. Less than 1% of people who come out as trans eventually de-transition, which isn’t to say that’s insignificant, but it is comparably much smaller than some tabloids – like The Daily Mail – would have you believe.

Denying all young people the right to delay puberty until they completely understand their gender, seems absurd. Young trans people will suffer more from preventable mental health issues. Not only is the government not helping, but they are actively legislating against the trans youth, doubtlessly stemming from institutional transphobia.

In the UK, trans rights are protected under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Despite being some of the earliest legislation for trans rights, the GRA is deeply flawed and, in 2018, Theresa May promised to carry out serious reforms to make the act more inclusive and less medical.

The suggested changes included allowing trans people to self-identify. Amongst other things, this would mean that you would no longer need a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria to change your gender identity. Of course, this change would only apply to the social aspects of transitioning.

These plans would have changed the landscape of trans rights; de-medicalising the process would have ameliorated the medical stigma surrounding gender identity on a social level, and enabled trans people to feel safer coming out.

However, under the new Tory government, these plans were scrapped, and only small administrative changes will be made to the act. This left many trans activists outraged as, under the current law, there is no way for non-binary and trans people who are under 18 to access trans healthcare.

As it stands, the GRA medicalises transitioning, meaning the current government does not recognise the social aspects of gender identity. Trans bodies are being politicised, yet actual trans issues remain ignored.

TERF culture

In explaining why there has been little reform to the GRA, Liz Truss (Minister from Women and Equality), argued that she wanted to “save” single-sex bathrooms. This is a common narrative presented by Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) groups which argues that trans people are somehow a ‘danger’ in single-sex spaces, the most common argument being that trans women are a threat to cisgender women in women’s bathrooms. This argument has, countless times, been proven to be unfounded, across many US states and here in the UK. Trans people are not problematic, transphobia is.

Seeing TERF arguments coming from the government is incredibly concerning. This feeds into the scaremongering that TERFs rely upon in order to exclude trans people from their ‘activism’. In this way, Liz Truss is normalising transphobia, and essentially denying equal rights to trans people in the UK.

Following JK Rowling’s series of transphobic tweets last year, TERF narratives have been seen more and more in British media. In June 2020, Rowling – author of the famous Harry Potter series – retweeted an op-ed, criticising their use of trans inclusive language. She at first rejected the validity of the term ‘people who menstruate’, and this was swiftly followed with a series of tweets in which she defended her transphobic views. By arguing that trans activists were erasing women and claiming that ‘sex isn’t real’, Rowling found herself labelled a TERF.

Since then, both The Guardian and The BBC have published articles in support of J.K. Rowling, sharing similar beliefs that trans people pose a threat to cisgender people – cis women in particular.

Spreading such ideas has not only added to the fear surrounding gender identities, but also enabled more transphobia in society and everyday life.

The ongoing battle

Last year, anti-trans hate crimes rose by 16%. It is increasingly dangerous to come out as transgender and trans kids face countless battles with mental health, as well with the rising transphobia in society. This combination can be fatal.

The lack of change to the GRA, or any meaningful protection for transgender identities under UK law is shocking. It is nothing short of negligence by the current government and failing to support trans kids is seriously hurting them. There is still no legal representation for non-binary people. Debating the existence of queer identities is unproductive, and shifts the focus away from the actual issues at hand. Yet the government is complicit, in its refusal to change the conversation to one of protection and support for queer people.

Combatting transphobia has never been more important. Taking a stand against hate crimes, protesting with organisations like Stonewall, and calling out transphobia (if it is safe for you to do so) are all important steps to a fairer, safer society.

Even in day-to-day life, normalising giving your pronouns and using non-gendered language can make trans and non-binary people feel more included. Small changes can make a big difference, and it is all of our responsibilities to enable change.

Featured image: “Unlearn Transphobia” by Pat Scullion is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/