At the September All Members Meeting (AMM), Basingstoke Constituency Labour party (CLP) unanimously passed a motion in support of trans rights and standing firmly against all forms of transphobia. As part of that motion, it was agreed that transgender awareness training would be made available to the CLP, so that we could better understand and support both our trans Labour Party members, and also the wider trans community.
On November 21st a mixed group of the Executive Committee, Councillors and wider members, met for a two hour training session by Andi Mentos from the charity Chrysalis http://www.chrysalis-gii.org/ . Chrysalis provides support for gender diverse people and their significant others as well as providing a range of types of training. Based in the South they hold a variety of support groups in Southampton, Portsmouth & Fareham, Bournemouth and Basingstoke. Andi has a wealth of experience supporting trans people and was brilliantly placed to give not only their own perspective, but that of the many trans people of all ages that have been in need of support.
One of the first things that struck me was that non-binary people are so often hidden when cis people (including myself) think about trans people. The intense focus from the press has been on trans men and women who have transitioned, or are in the process thereof. A recently published National LGBT Survey (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-lgbt-survey-summary-report ) found that over half of trans respondents were non-binary (i.e. they identified as having a gender that was neither exclusively that of a man nor a woman). Although it is a good idea to be cautious in generalising from the survey, it is clear that trans people include a really wide variety of gender identities, with non-binary making up a significant but often overlooked group. The training was helpful in helping to understand these different groups and the importance of personal pronouns, including ‘they/them’. That’s not to say I won’t get it wrong or slip-up sometimes, but I’ll certainly be more alert as to how people might describe themselves (or avoid describing themselves) and think about how simple things like registration forms and meetings could be more inclusive.
A second part of the training that really stuck with me was the gender incongruence that trans people often feel, especially when they are growing up. I was already aware that trans people can feel that they have the ‘wrong body’, and that gender dysphoria is a recognised condition. I’d never really thought about trans people feeling that no one, including the people they care about the most, can really see them for who they are. It’s not surprising then that teenage years (which are hard enough for most of us) can be particularly challenging for trans teens, who not only have to figure out their own identity, but can face so many barriers and obstacles in having that identity recognised and accepted by family, friends and schools/colleges.
Andi explained the process of transitioning, which is broadly speaking divided into a social transition and, for some, a medical journey as well. The social transition includes ‘coming out’ to friends, family, workplaces and society more generally and may be accompanied by a change of outward appearance, or expression of gender. Other aspects of social transitioning can include changing your name and/or gender by deed poll for relevant legal documents. More complicated, time consuming and costly is the current process of gaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The medical journey (via the NHS) is for the vast majority, an extremely lengthy process, with waiting lists of up to two years for an appointment at a gender clinic (assuming the GP is willing to refer you). The entire process can be long and challenging, and for many it can be lonely and isolating. No wonder then that a worrying high proportion of transgender people have mental health struggles.
Of concern to our Basingstoke CLP members was the high incidence of transphobia in Basingstoke, relative to the somewhat larger population of Southampton, with 20 recorded incidents in 2017/18. It is likely that many more go unreported. If you are the victim of, or witness a transphobic hate crime (or any form of hate crime affecting the wider LGBT community) you can find out more about Hampshire’s Lesbian and Gay Liaison Officers (LAGLOs) and how to report it here: https://www.hampshire.police.uk/police-forces/hampshire-constabulary/areas/au/about-us/our-commitments/equality-and-inclusion/
Thanks to Andi for the really interesting and informative training session. Everyone who attended learnt something new and I would highly recommend anyone who is a little unsure of trans issues, or wanting to be a supportive trans ally but not knowing quite how, to attend a training session if possible. I’ve found it valuable at work and really helpful in understanding how I can be a better trans ally.
Chrysalis the charity supporting transgender people and their significant others, registered charity 1116321 http://www.chrysalis-gii.org