Sun, November 18, 2018 - 16:57

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance is on 20th November. The aim of the the day is to  memorialise our sisters, brothers and siblings whose lives were lost due to transphobic violence over the past year.

I was asked the question, "Are you happy being trans?" This was at my first assessment at Sheffield's NHS Gender Identity Clinic. It took me by surprise. Was this a time to be honest? No. Getting the medical treatment I needed depended on giving the right answers.

I shuffled on the hard green chair, too nervous to lean back on the purple cushion behind me. Cushion and chair were two garish splashes of colour in a room of white, beige, cream and light grey, a standard outpatient hospital room. Were they reading my every movement? Did they notice my fidgeting hands? I considered my answer and gave one designed to please.

"Transphobia and gender dysphoria are hard to live with but I'm glad for the knowledge about gender that comes with being trans. I wouldn't change that."

A careful response. Am I happy being transgender? I am still considering my answer.

The UK's current state of transphobia has repeatedly been compared to attitudes towards the gay community in the 1980s. More people, celebrities and especially young adults, were coming out as gay resulting in public backlash. Thatcher's Section 28 came into force preventing any mention of the LGBT+ community – or teachers being openly LGBT+ themselves – in schools and local authorities.

Similarly in the present, there has been a huge surge of awareness of the existence of trans people without an accompanying improvement in public opinion, actually making life as a trans person more difficult in some respects. I've only been openly non-binary for about three and a half years but I've noticed changes.

When I first came out, people didn't know what I was talking about but they'd often listen with open minds. I first heard non-binary mentioned on BBC news in late 2016 when a student came out to Barack Obama in a Q&A; less than a year later and we were being called a contagion on Good Morning Britain. More and more I find people have been inundated by transphobia in the media – fiction and news, on TV and online – and already have their own ideas of what I am and how I should be treated.

If there is a symmetry between homophobia in the eighties and transphobia in the present, then that offers hope. Attitudes and portrayals of same-sex couples and of lesbian and gay people has, overall, improved since then suggesting that the trans community's trials will also lessen with time.

We undeniably live in troubled times though. Simple human kindness seems increasingly finite and conditional. I hope that one day we will look back on this time, on the lists of murdered trans people, and ask how it was borne, be shocked that things were once that bad. Let it one day be history.

Find out more about the Transgender Day of Remembrance here.

University of Hull LGBT+ are holding a candelit vigil on November 20th to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, find out more here.

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