I have mentioned before about feeling I should become more active in the transgender movement. I am troubled by the rising transphobia in the press and how transgender people are portrayed. In the same way being an activist has connotations of being someone who attends rallies, shouts and protests maybe having confrontations with the authorities. I cannot see myself being an activist in that way. So how do I go about raising my voice.
The beginning must be to stand tall and be visible. How can I speak if I am in hiding. I am in a reasonably good place. I have come to understand my gender dysphoria and have transitioned full time leading my life as the transgender woman I am. I am transitioning medically, sadly with very limited help from the NHS. I will come back to that. So why do I need to do anything? Well the more I understood about myself and also what it means to be transgender in our society in the UK, I realised how difficult the struggle is to be able to live freely as a consequence, the more I feel the need to try and do something. It is not enough to just carry on life quietly. I have been privileged in that I have largely been able to carry out my transition by funding it myself. I am a late transitioner and so had deliberately plotted a way to enable me to transition without being reliant on the NHS.
I had tried three of my GPs, at different parts of the country where I lived, and none of them considered it necessary to refer me to the GIC. I found the Gender GP and started private hormone treatment. Again none of the GPs were prepared to enter into a shared care arrangement. In time after another move I found a GP who was willing to assist with the prescribed meds on the NHS, followed, after another move, by a GP who wouldn’t and lastly I have found one more GP who will. The point is this should not be haphazard, the luck of the draw. Then of course there is the question of surgery. You have to be referred. I ended up seeing the leading GIC psychiatrist privately to circumvent the NHS log jam. That should not be necessary and probably should not be possible. The same with the endocrinologist.
Why privately? Well the waiting list for a referral to the GIC clinic is running at about two to three years before you get your first letter of appointment. Then you have to live two years in your preferred gender in the real life test. So that is four to five years!
I read today the story of a girl in her early twenties who has been on the referral list for five years without receiving her first appointment letter. She has decided to emigrate to New Zealand by seeking asylum from transphobic UK. A woman was granted permanent residence in New Zealand specifically on that ground. What does that say about the UK?
So how to be an activist. Firstly be visible. All of us are activists by simply being out there, by existing and being in the community. Every act however small raising awareness that trans people, gender diverse people exist, are “normal” and entitled to equal rights. One person can only do so much in this way, but by being seen and educating by example it will bring about change which will have a knock on effect that will grow.
Then along the lines which I mentioned in a recent blog follow the path suggested by Paula in her blog Paula’s Place. Paula considers the slanging match between the TERFS and the outspoken trans activists is often counterproductive. A view with which I agree as the positions are so entrenched the chances of change is remote. She describes it as “being in a culture war that for the vast majority of people is seen as being irrelevant and as a Toxic Debate rather than the fight for survival it feels like.”
She goes on to say ,
“all the time we are defensive, all the time we are responding, we are allowing a very small, highly toxic, highly vocal, but very small minority to set the agenda. Sure they are well funded and have much of the main stream media on their side, but being on the defensive only plays into their hands ~ we end up playing their game, with their ball, to their rules ~ we simply can’t really expect to win in those circumstances now can we.”
The suggestion is to get the political masters on side. Easier said than done considering the stand taken by the Equality Minister which has caused the recent resignation of three members of the advisory panel over the Government’s position on trans rights in particular. However that means we have to try harder and with some trepidation I feel I will have to add my voice to this task.