How the far right is attacking the lives of the transgender community - and what we can do to stop it

Lowenna Waters
Friday 25 May 2018 16:30
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Picture:(Getty Images )

For a long time now, the transgender community have faced an unrelenting barrage of attacks, vilification and unacceptance in the UK.

From the long-lasting legacy of the homophobic Section 28 in 1983 by Margaret Thatcher that made the discussion of LGBT+ issues illegal in UK schools, to the use of derogatory language such as 'tranny' rife in the right wing press, being transgender in the UK has meant constantly fighting against a tide of abuse.

The list of examples of the transgender community being negatively represented in the press is extensive and damaging.

When transgender couple and activists Jake Graf and his now wife Hannah Winterbourne got married in March this year, the Sun ran the headline: 'Tran and Wife'. Speaking to the Huffington Post, the couple called the headline 'sensationalist and tacky'.

In November 2017, when the Church of England said that boys should be allowed to wear tiaras, the Daily Mail responded with a goading front page splash.

Alongside the aggression in the media and the law is that meted out by 'trans-exclusionary radical feminists', spearheaded by high profile figures like Germaine Greer, who peddle a view that trans women aren’t women’, and who argue that transgender women shouldn't be allowed in women-only spaces.

The repercussions of this type of negative portrayal has on the transgender community is huge, and illustrated by the worryingly high levels of

self-harm, suicide, and abuse suffered by those with gender dysphoria.

Recent figures published by LGBT+ charity Stonewall make shocking reading. In 2017, more than a two in five (41 per cent) of transgender people in the UK suffered a hate crime, with the figure shooting up to 51 per cent in those aged 18 – 24.

Trans people are also twice as likely to be a victim of a hate crime as other members of the LGBT+ community. The figures are equally as disheartening among children and young people. More than a quarter of all young trans people (27 per cent) have attempted to commit suicide, and nine in ten (89 per cent) have considered suicide. 72 per cent have self-harmed at least once.

Picture: Paul Grace(Paul Grace)

However, a number of charities and organisations, accompanied by some great role models and activists, are working tirelessly to combat the fear-mongering narrative perpetuated by the media.

One charity that works tirelessly to help transgender children and young people is Mermaids. Established in 1995, Mermaids provides invaluable support to young transgender people and their families. It campaigns tirelessly to raise awareness around gender non-conformity in young people, as well as lobbying for improvements in professional services.

Director, actor and trans activist Jake Graf is one of the charity's patrons, and he explains why their work is so important:

The absolute magic of a charity like Mermaids is immeasurable: that it allows trans and gender non-conforming children to feel at ease, understood and far from alone at such a young age is surely life changing.

He continued:

Whatever isolation they and their families may have been feeling soon melts away, as strangers become allies and friends, and suddenly being trans doesn't seem quite so challenging.

Another organisation working to improve the representation and lives of transgender people in the UK is GIDS (the Gender Identity Development Service). Supported by the Tavistock and Portman trust, GIDS provides support for young people and their families who experience difficulties in their gender development.

In research published in May, they reported that the number of referrals to their service saw a 25 per cent increase in 2017 / 18 compared to the year before.

Dr Polly Carmichael, Gender Identity Development Service Director and Consultant Clinical Psychologist, said:

There is no single explanation for the increase in referral figures, but we do know in recent years that there has been significant progress towards the acceptance and recognition of transgender and gender diverse people in our society.

Another key force fighting the right wing attacks on the transgender community is the tireless work of activists themselves, who fight day in and day out to challenge the status quo.

Activists and transgender people such as Jake Graf, Monroe Bergdorf, Hannah Winterborne, Lily Madigan, and Shon Fey all use their platforms to chip away at the negative propaganda.

Despite being subject to a barrage of abuse on social media platforms like Twitter, and some even reporting the receipt of death threats, their high-profile presence ploughs the furrow for younger gender non-conforming people, and gives them role models.

For Jake, one of the most important thing is that the cisgender community can do to support transgender rights is to get on board and support the transgender cause. Speaking to indy100, he said:

Now more than ever, allies' support is vital as there are too few of us to always make our voices heard

More: We asked 14 trans activists how cis people can be better allies in 2018

More: Trans man shares his incredible before and after photos.

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