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We're More Visible Than Ever, So What's Next? | Trans Day of Visibility 2022

In the background of the image is a collection of British newspaper titles. The colours of the transgender flag lay over them and there is a title which reads 'We're more visible than ever, so what's next?' and a subtitle which read 'Trans Day of Visibility 2022' Credit: lenscap photography / Shutterstock.com

 

Every Sunday, a portion of the UK wakes up and prepares to wince. What is still traditionally seen as a day of rest for many has been tainted by the waves of predictable, yet no less alarming, news stories that wash across the mainstream UK media with a focus on one particular group of people.

Long gone are the days where any coverage was seen as a rarity, a topic we rushed to discuss on niche internet forums, furiously typing small essays on whether or not it would help us or hurt us.

Back in 2009 when Chaz Bono came out about his transition, I remember the electricity that shot through my body, the incredible excitement that someone like me existed out in the wider world, someone that wasn’t just living at home with his parents trying to figure out how to convince his Doctor to agree to fund his referral to a Gender Identity Clinic. I was 20, and this man was visible, and I felt like I could be visible too.

 

Chaz Bono, a white trans man, shown from the chest up. He is wearing a suit jacket and a checked shirt. Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

Chaz Bono - Credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

In 2020, Elliot Page came out about his transition, and I remember that same giddy feeling of excitement at someone I already idolised reflecting a part of me and the community I love being immediately dampened by an impending sense of dread. I was 31, and just like today, any positivity that I experienced as a result of trans visibility was ruined by sick anxiety in my stomach.

I knew that he would be discriminated against within seconds and it would be plastered all over social media, and two years on it still hasn’t stopped.

Even when exposure to trans people in the media was primarily centred around circus acts like Jerry Springer, I had a sense of optimism that with more awareness we would eventually be led to more acceptance. As a queer person in my early 30s, I have seen a change in the treatment of me and my community, from teachers refusing to defend me from homophobic bullying due to Section 28 to the introduction of civil partnerships.

But the sad fact is that visibility means exposure, and right now in the UK trans people are being exposed to an onslaught of bigotry that is taking people’s livelihoods away. It used to be a truly momentous occasion when you worked up the courage to use the public toilet that matched your gender for the first time, whereas now there are people like Kellie-Jay Keen encouraging men to take guns into toilets in case of a trans woman being present. [1]

 

Image of a toilet door with a sign reading 'All Gender Restroom'

 

Every Sunday there is a flood of articles in the UK media about trans people and they are overwhelmingly negative, with an agenda of fear-mongering designed to villainise and smear trans people as perverts, predators, and fetishists. If you don’t perceive the existence of trans people by now you are simply living with your head in the sand, because we have more visibility than ever before, and it is killing us.

I truly believe that when Rachel Crandall founded Transgender Day of Visibility that she did so with the best intentions, it was designed to counterbalance the fact that our only other day of note was a day of mourning, Transgender Day of Remembrance. Trans Day of Visibility is designed for us to be able to stand up and be seen, but unless things change we cannot stand up and be counted for without risking our lives, leading to a vicious cycle that is at odds with Rachel’s concept.

So, how do we get back to a place of pride and celebration? We need to prioritise building a foundation upon which we can stand. This is not just a job for the trans community, we’ve been working ourselves to the bone. Instead, we need true allyship and labour from those who preach our equality.

We are far from invisible anymore, you’ve perceived us, so now you need to step forward and fight with us.

 

Before we can genuinely have a Trans Day of Visibility, we first need to have a Trans Day of:

Healthcare

The waiting times for a first appointment alone to an NHS Gender Identity Clinic is obscene, the average wait time as of 2021 was over 3 years, with many anecdotal reports of people waiting up to 6 years. That’s just for adults, it’s over 4 years for youths looking to go on puberty blockers, which completely goes against the point of puberty blockers in the first place. [2]

There’s a ridiculous notion in the media that trans youths are groomed into taking irreversible drugs and surgeries when even adults have to fight for years to even be seen by someone to discuss the possibility of having hormone treatment, and they need two appointments minimum and a haul of life experience and evidence before a specialist will even consider a prescription, with an average time of at least 5 years to get a prescription.

That’s if you even get a referral to a Gender Identity Clinic in the first place. Many GP practices are still ill-educated on trans patients and their needs, and the process of referring to a GIC. Back when I first saw my GP at the age of 18, waiting list times were far shorter, but it took over 10 years before a GIC would see me and prescribe hormones.

 

A person holding a protest sign which uses the colours of the transgender flag and reads 'Save Trans Lives - Masks On - Stay 2m Apart - GRA Reform NOW' Credit: Jessica Girvan / Shutterstock.com

 

Gender Recognition Reform

We were promised a reformation of the Gender Recognition Act to be more accessible and inclusive by Theresa May way back in 2018, four years later and it’s still being repeatedly debated, changed and those promises remain unfulfilled.

At present, the GRA remains an overcomplicated hurdle that is lacking in transparency and completely denies any existence of non-binary people.

On that note…

 

Non-Binary Recognition

Not every non-binary person considers themselves to be under the transgender umbrella and that is completely valid, but a great many do and non-binary identities must be included in the conversation when it comes to trans topics.

Nearly every legal process is invalidating of non-binary people and trans healthcare is still far behind where it needs to be in order to adapt to non-binary people instead of using an outdated cookie-cutter model.

 

Detransition

Speaking of an outdated cookie-cutter model! We know that the majority of people who decide to detransition do so because of external factors, such as discrimination in their immediate vicinity, rather than because they regret their decisions.

There are rare instances of people who experience regret due to many different factors, and it is crucial that they are supported and given the same level of medical and emotional care that we expect for trans people.

The majority of people who detransition are fully supportive of and often still part of the trans community. We need to make sure that our community is a safe space for people to judge what actions they need to take in order to live life to the fullest because “transition” is not a one-size-fits-all process.

 Protest sign reading 'Fight for Trans Rights the Way We Fought For Yours'Credit: Jessica Girvan / Shutterstock.com

Anti-Racism

The UK is systematically racist, and marginalised groups are not exempt from racist behaviour, it truly is as simple as that. Not only is transmisogyny a serious issue both outside of but also within the trans community, but it is often coupled with racism.

We know that trans women of colour are by far the most impacted by transphobia, it is absurd that they should need to be concerned about their wellbeing within queer spaces too. We need to ensure that the trans community practices serious anti-racism if we are ever to be truly inclusive.

The LGBTQ+ community as a whole has a serious racism problem, and too often we benefit from the hard work of queer BIPOC folks who make up a huge percentage of activists, without recognising how we may be disrespecting them in our daily lives as white queer people.

 

Sex Worker Inclusion 

Trans sex workers, especially trans sex workers of colour, are more likely to experience discrimination and violence in their work due to being trans. The sex work community is overwhelmingly inclusive and trans-positive and has often worked alongside trans activism to fight for our rights, and it is fundamental for them to be recognised and respected.

 

Healthcare.   Gender Recognition Reform.

Non-Binary Recognition.   Detransition.

Anti-Racism.   Sex Worker Inclusion.

 

This is only a handful of issues facing the trans community right now, without even touching on the ever-looming issue of a Gender Critical-lead campaign to remove and reverse fundamental human rights from trans people in the UK.

Bigots have enough visibility and they have been controlling the narrative for far too long. It's about time that we took it back and got to work on the fundamentals of securing our human rights, whether they like it or not.

 

[1] https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/01/30/gender-critical-feminist-posie-parker-men-guns-womens-toilets-twitter/ 

[2] https://genderkit.org.uk/resources/wait-times/ 

 

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 Felix F Fern | Writer Bio Pic

This article was written by Felix F Fern (He/They). Felix is a disabled, mspec and non-binary transgender activist and co-founder of the grassroots activism team Trans Activism UK.

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