Today marks the beginning of Trans Awareness Week, a time to not only raise awareness about trans identities, people and experiences, but also to emphasize the importance of fighting for trans rights. This year has been a long and difficult year for the trans community, with over 350 trans people having been murdered globally, and with the rights of trans people brought into question in the UK.
For today’s post, we’re going to reflect back on some of the key issues the trans community has faced this year with the aim of reminding our readers of the continued importance of supporting trans and non-binary people not just this week, but every day. There are hyperlinks throughout this post to offer further reading on each topic.
To start, let’s think about how lockdown has hit the trans community. Many trans people, especially trans young people, have had to spend lockdown either in the closet or with un-supportive families. The result of this has included having to deal with being deadnamed all day every day, being called by the wrong pronouns, and having to visually present as the wrong gender. This can have an adverse effect on a person’s emotional health and wellbeing, and finding ways to express yourself and your identity can be especially difficult in this context. To try to help, we created this blog post to offer tips on feeling visible during a time of enforced invisibility.
Outside of lockdown, trans rights in the UK came under threat, with such fears as trans people losing the right to access gender-exclusive public spaces. One significant area of concern was also the fear that trans young people’s necessary healthcare would become less accessible, which would result in significant wellbeing issues for this group. The Q42 blog spoke to these issues here. To help deal with these threats, many members of the community wrote to their MPs, and the Q42 blog offered tips to explain how oppression works and how to resist it.
One hope was that the Gender Recognition Act would be improved, though there were fears that it would instead be changed to make the lives of trans people more difficult. This stress was further exacerbated when these reforms were delayed. Once these reforms came about, while they were not as negative as once feared, they also were not good enough to meet the needs that had been outlined in a large-scale survey. The Q42 Project response to this can be found here.
While it is positive that three new gender clinics have opened in the UK, none of these cater to the needs of trans young people. Furthermore, an independent review is being taken of gender clinics, which, while hopeful that this will lead to positive changes, also comes with the fear and stress that this may instead lead to negative changes instead.
Outside of the law, the trans community also had to deal with a beloved icon openly expressing her transphobia. Harry Potter author JK Rowling used her blog and social media (of which she has many millions of followers) to share trans-exclusionary and transphobic views. For many this was a significant betrayal, and a favourite part of people’s childhoods was irreparably marred. Mermaids offered a thorough critique of Rowling’s views, while the Q42 Project offered alternative readings for those interested in trans-inclusive children’s fantasy.
There was some hope with the introduction of LGBTQ+ inclusive education starting in all UK schools this year. However, the Department of Education released some guidance for teachers on how to engage with topics around trans identity and trans issues that risks doing more harm than good. Trans students already face a great deal of discrimination and hardship in UK schools, and so this guidance risks making things even worse. Meanwhile, a Christian organisation called ‘Truth in Science’ reportedly sent transphobic DVDs to every school in the UK, spreading misinformation and furthering harm to trans young people across the country.
In all of the above problems, a recurring issue has been the way that trans and non-binary young people are often forgotten or additionally oppressed. At the Q42 Project we have endeavored to support and empower trans young people wherever we can, including creating spaces for them to express themselves on this blog. Blog posts have included trans and non-binary young people’s personal perspectives on creating art, transitioning, dealing with the NHS, and overcoming bullying. If you are a trans/ non-binary young person and you want to get involved with the Q42 blog, you can find more information here.
This year has been a roller-coaster of fears and stresses mixed with some good news and some that isn’t quite good enough. And while we haven’t been able to fit everything into this one blog post, we hope we’ve made clear that there is still a great deal more to do in the fight for trans rights and making the world a more inclusive and liberating place for trans people. This Trans Awareness Week, take some time to think about the value of trans lives, and the importance of continuing the fight to support trans people.