This week is Transgender Awareness Week (Nov 16th – 20th) an opportunity for transgender people and their allies to take positive action to educate the public about what it means to be trans, by sharing first hand experiences along with insights and information. The activity is all geared towards one objective: increasing understanding in order to reduce prejudice.
This type of advocacy work is bread and butter to me as a trans woman. In just being myself, talking to people, showing them that I am just getting on with my life, that I am nothing to be feared, I am helping to normalise the notion of what it means to be transgender. This idea of ‘trans normalcy’ is a key part of the advocacy work being done daily at GenderGP – but it’s not always an easy task.
Change takes time and it relies on consistency, people standing together saying the same thing over and over again. Of course, it becomes even harder when the narrative that already exists actively seeks to harm and marginalise. For years the stereotypical representation of a trans person was that of a man in a dress, a villain in a movie, a pantomime dame or a sensationalised story on the front page of a newspaper.
As time has moved on, people have become more open to accepting that the cisheteronormative experience is not everyone’s truth. While there will always be those who do not accept the notion of ‘different’ the majority (research suggests it sits at about 70% of the UK population) does.
The challenge we face is that the majority of people just want a quiet life. They are not looking for a fight, they just want others to be able to get on with their lives, trans, gay, black, white, whatever, just be happy to “live and let live”. The minority on the other hand can be LOUD and when they are fuelling the anti-trans rhetoric which we see daily in the media and which paints a picture of a country besieged by trans people, actively recruiting, infiltrating public rest rooms with a hidden agenda, trying to corrupt innocent cis people – that hurts and harms.
This picture is false, fake news, utter rubbish and yet it endures.
If we are to have any hope of changing this narrative, we need the majority to stand alongside us and call out these myths whenever they crop up.
Common myths include:
The ‘sudden’ explosion of trans people” – In truth, trans people have always been here, they’ve just never had the opportunity – or the language – to be visible before.
Puberty blockers for trans youth being unchartered territory” – This medication has been used in the treatment of precocious puberty in children as young as three for decades. Experts in gender variance agree that they are the best form of treatment for trans youth.
Predatory men becoming trans women in order to gain access to safe spaces” – Trans women are women, predatory men pretending to be a woman are something else altogether the media must stop conflating the two.
The list goes on.
The impact that this has on our mental health cannot be underestimated and while the strongest among us continue to battle, fighting for those who are just too tired to engage, there is no doubt that this year has been particularly challenging. Lockdown has compounded the situation, stuck inside our four walls with literally no escape. Is it any wonder that rates of self harm and suicide are so high among trans individuals?
This is why it is so important for us all to stand together. Luckily we are seeing more and more brave trans men and trans women prepared to fight for what they believe, we’re seeing experts who are providing solutions, pushing the boundaries and finding ways to help trans people live their lives more easily. We are also seeing allies who are prepared to stick their head above the parapet, despite the vitriol that often ensues.
The stark – not so newsworthy – reality, is that trans people are no more of a threat to our society than cis people. This group of individuals is simply trying to navigate a world in which they do not ‘fit’ in their assigned role, and they are course-correcting so that they can get on with their lives.
So let this Transgender Awareness Week be the the start of new era, an era in which no one is afraid to speak up against the bully, in which the majority realises that it can make a huge difference just by standing up for what is right.
And if you prefer the idea of a quiet life, if you feel it’s an argument you just don’t want to get involved with, take a moment on Friday, Transgender Day of Remembrance to reflect and to acknowledge all of the people who have lost their lives that year because they were brave enough to live their truth.