According to new research, transgender citizens are not safe in the UK.
On 19 October Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive at the LGBT rights charity Stonewall, penned an op-ed for The Huffpost UK to denounce the situation. “Britain is at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people”, she wrote, describing the UK as an “unsafe, unwelcoming and frightening place” for this part of the society to live. Hunt said, “Every day, trans people continue to be mocked, excluded, bullied and attacked, simply for existing”.
LGBT: Hate Crime and Discrimination, a survey commissioned by Stonewall to the online market research agency YouGov, found that 41% of trans people have experienced a hate crime or incident in the past year. In addition, four in five LGBT people avoid certain areas for safety reasons. This was the case for a British trans woman who, after suffering abuse and discrimination in the UK, last month was granted asylum in New Zealand on humanitarian grounds. The Immigration and protection tribunal in Auckland considered that forcing the woman to return to her home country would have been “unduly harsh” because of the years of “persecution” she experienced.
In her op-ed Hunt went on saying, “Everyday transphobia in Britain filters down into our schools too.” In June, The Stonewall School Report 2017, in partnership with Cambridge University’s Centre for Family Research, revealed that 45% of trans pupils experience bullying at school. The effects on their mental health can be dramatic: 84% of trans young people have self-harmed and almost half have attempted suicide.
The responses of the institutions are often insufficient: according to 68% LGBT pupils, the school staff only ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ react properly when hearing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language. Luke, a 17-year- old student at a secondary school in the south-east interviewed for the report, said, “My anger at bystanders who I knew were good people, as well as a staff who didn’t intervene, was what particularly ached. I felt isolated, alone, and like the whole world was against me”.
Ruth Hunt’s call for change includes journalistic activity: “Many mainstream media voices – from newspaper columnists to social media commentators – seem to have stepped up gearover recent months in their attempts to make vile transphobia acceptable, questioning the right of trans people to even exist.”
Institutions are asked to make efforts in order to meet the needs of a growing part of the British society. The number of children and adolescents referring to Britain’s Gender Development Service (GIDS) is showing a rapid increase: 1,986 people under 18 who feel they were born in the wrong body — a distress clinically dubbed ‘gender dysphoria’ — were accepted for ‘gender realignment’ treatment in the past year, the youngest patients being three years-old. In 2009-2010, the number was around 94.
Ruth Hunt is now working towards the reformation of the Gender Recognition Act, which “has the potential to transform the invasive and bureaucratic system that governs how trans people get legal recognition of their gender.”
Last week, at the Pink News Awards, Theresa May has vowed to “streamline and de medicalise” the gender changing process and update the Act in order to reflect that “being trans is not an illness”.