By Iman Ali Mounged
Please consider that this article is an extremely brief account of the depths of trans issues and gender concerns in the UK, let alone in the world. This is only the starting point of diving into the problems and recognising the potential solutions to move forward.
Transgender (trans) people are identified by their gender identity that differs from the sex they were assigned with at birth. The important distinction to make here is the difference between sex and gender. Sex is biological. Sex is your chromosomes, hormones and genitalia. Gender is your identity. Gender is your expression. It’s your performativity. It’s who you identify yourself to be.
Transgender people can sometimes (although not always) transition from their sex assigned at birth to a gender expression that mimics the gender binary (so from female to male and vice versa). This can be done both with and without medical intervention. However, some trans people do not feel the need to undergo procedures that alter their physical bodily expression to match their identity. It goes without saying that all trans (and gender nonconforming+) identities are valid. And all identities should be legally recognised.
Is that really the case though?
In order to “legally” change your gender in the UK, you need to follow the steps shown below that are dictated by the Government Equalities Office.
Source: Government Equalities Office.
Gender dysphoria is characterised by the feeling of discomfort and distress in one’s sex assigned at birth. It’s when one does not feel like their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth. However, this is only valid (legally) for transgender people, over the age of 18, who want to medically transition within the binary dichotomies of “gender” (woman-man). Legislation in the UK has actually only just changed to allow parents of transgender children to consent to puberty blockers on their behalf.
To “qualify” for gender reassignment surgery and legal recognition of gender reassignment, you must present two medical reports from a gender specialist confirming that you have gender dysphoria. It is expensive and it takes 3+ years to access a Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) to access those resources.
Legally transitioning or acknowledging one’s gender does not take into account gender nonconforming or nonbinary people. They are still invisible to society.
On a more optimistic note, there has been a cultural shift over the years that has brought trans issues to the forefront of social media and global news. LGBTQ+ campaigns have been amplified through various platforms of work, school, society and medicine. The 2010 Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) are examples of government legislation in place to protect UK citizens from discrimination and violence. They cover issues that include ensuring no biases towards people based on nine characteristics including gender identity, sexual orientation and civil partnerships.
We’ve also seen this through high-profile celebrities with platforms that have influential power in acknowledging and spreading the awareness of these issues. From Laverne Cox to Caitlyn Jenner and Elliot Page; people breaking the barriers that society holds against trans people. Slowly, we’re finding our way to claim our space and amplify our voices in the face of intolerance and hostility. But is this enough?
Despite the fact that there has been notable progress in securing LGBTQ+ in the UK in the past 30 years; there are still severe issues imminent in UK society. Just to highlight how divided the UK can be across securing these rights; Northern Ireland officially legalised same-sex marriage only in 2020.
Stonewall suggests that at least 1% of the UK’s population includes trans (and nonbinary) people. That would equate to about 600,000 people, 240,000 (two fifths) of who suffer from hate crimes. This doesn’t factor in race and ethnicity, as violence and oppression are significantly higher for trans people of colour. Also, since the GRA does not extend to nonbinary people and under 18s, it deprives them of the legal recognition and rights to their identity and ultimately their safety.
- 1 in 3 employers in the UK wouldn’t hire a trans person.
- 50% of trans people have hidden their gender identity at work in fear of discrimination.
- 48% of trans people feel uncomfortable using public toilets.
- 25% of trans people have been discriminated against in when looking for a home to rent or buy.
People tend to think that the societal conflicts trans people have to deal with start with being misgendered through using wrong pronouns and end with not having access to the right restroom facilities. Although these issues are factual, we’ve clearly seen that is not the case in terms of the extent of trans inequality.
The struggles are much deeper than that. Although pronouns and restrooms are highly problematic concerns to confront (on a daily basis), they don’t end there. Trans people have to face problems accessing medical healthcare, including mental health services and sexual health consultations, homelessness, violence, surgery costs and so much more. Trans people also have to endure “debates” of the validity of their identity. “Are they feminine enough to be legally considered female?” “Are they feminine-presenting enough to be allowed in female bathrooms?” “Are they worthy of she/her pronouns?” “Are they worthy of he/him pronouns?” “Why should they use they/them pronouns when they are trans?”
Trans struggles are increasingly sensitive and intersectional, but they must be recognised and documented to assert any hopes in securing the progress of achieving trans equality. In hopes of making trans people visible.
The movement doesn’t stop at trans rights.
It continues to strive for the safeguarding of all marginalised identities of society.
Happy Trans Day of Visibility!
Helplines for trans people:
Instagram pages to follow: