The UK Government is killing trans people

I do not make such claims lightly but I can’t keep quiet this time. The UK Government is killing trans people. David Cameron, Jeremy Hunt, Simon Stevens, virtually every single politician and the NHS are all complicit in the deaths of transgender people in the UK. They are responsible for the broken lives of the families and friends of gender variant people, it is their fault that the mental health concerns of gender variant folk are ignored and exacerbated, forcing people like me into ever worsening positions, marginalised by the very people who are supposed to look out for us.

NEARLY HALF OF YOUNG TRANSGENDER PEOPLE HAVE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE read the shocking headline in The Guardian today.

A survey found that 48% of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, and 30% said they had done so in the last year, while 59% said they had at least considered doing so.

By comparison, about 6% of all 16- to 24-year-olds say they have attempted suicide, according to the Adult Psychiatry Morbidity Survey.

The figures on suicide attempts by trans youth were higher than those found in previous studies across all age groups. A US study in 2006 found that 32% of all trans people had tried to take their own life. And the Trans Mental Health Study of 2012 (pdf) found that 35% had attempted suicide once, and 25% a second time.

The Pace research also found that 59% of transgender youth said they had deliberately hurt themselves, compared with 8.9% of all 16- to 24-year-olds.

The thing is though, these figures are not shocking to trans people, there have been studies that show time and time again how we are many orders of magnitude more likely than anybody else to attempt suicide, harm ourselves and have our mental and physical health suffer. We know these dreadful figures all too well, we live this every single day of our lives.

Imagine if the headline read “almost half of nurses have attempted suicide” there would be headlines on BBC news, outpourings of support from charities and everyday people. Instead the above Guardian article didn’t even make their front page, it’s hidden away under a ‘transgender’ section where only the people who have searched for it can find it.

The reasons why transgender people try to kill themselves are also well known, the NHS failing to properly fund gender identity clinics despite clear increases in demand, 11% year on year increase in referrals by GP’s and a 50% year on year increase in referrals for people under 18 to these clinics. The waiting lists have spiralled out of control, people now regularly wait more than 18 months to even see a gender specialist, waiting times for surgery are even more out of control, the doctors acting as gatekeepers, making us jump through impossible hoops to fit their dangerously outdated definitions of what it means to be transgender and worthy of their treatment.

People are dying and the government doesn’t care. Any human with an ounce of decency would read these figures and be shocked to their core yet the people in charge of gender identity services do nothing. You would think that the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt would be shocked to hear how high the attempted suicide rate is for trans people, you’d think that these numbers would be so shocking to see that the head of the NHS, Simon Stevens would implore PM David Cameron to take action to stop the harm that is being suffered by UK transgender people, you’d think that any MP would kick up a fuss about this, you’d think at least something would be done, wouldn’t you?

The UK government is killing trans people by their inaction, it is the governments fault that the NHS gender identity services are in a chaotic crisis and failing UK trans people, it is their fault that our mental health needs are ignored, the government is responsible for the shattered lives of so many people.

Am I transgender?

A question I get asked all the time over email and during interviews with the press goes along the lines of the very simple ‘am I transgender? What next?’

I think that if a person is asking themselves if they are transgender in the first place then that means they are at least feeling a bit uncomfortable with their current gender role so the answer to this question is yes. The word ‘transgender’ is a bit of a catch all word to describe anybody who feels that there is a difference between how you experience your own gender and how everybody else perceives your gender to be. If gender is a wide panorama of possibilities rather than the restrictive, over simplifying male or female boxes people would have you believe, then transgender or gender variant can be used as terms to describe a heck of a lot of people.

If the answer to ‘am I transgender?’ is yes, it’s important that you know that this can mean almost anything you want, but most importantly, it doesn’t mean you have to do anything. Identifying as a transgender person doesn’t mean you will be forced to do something you don’t feel comfortable with, you don’t have to have surgery, you won’t even be forced into transitioning by some trans ninja mafia or something. Although these steps often help people who feel uncomfortable with their gender, there are no rules to being trans.

One of the things that I struggled to understand for years was that my experience of being trans didn’t fit the stereotype ‘trapped in the wrong body’ narrative, I just knew that the people I met everyday perceived me as male yet I knew that was wrong. Realising that I didn’t have to force my gender expression to fit into somebody else’s jelly mould was the one magic lesson which finally brought me some peace. Speaking to other gender variant people helped me come to this realisation, hearing their wide and varied stories about how they experienced and lived their individual gender showed me how we all must dance to the beat of our own drums if we ever want to be happy in our own skin.

If the answer to ‘am I trans? is yes then it’s also important to mention how for some, this means a long and difficult journey ahead. For the people who’s internal gender is so different to their external bodies that they will need to come out to their family and friends, transition and deal with all the challenges it brings. Transition is a period of time we talk about when somebody begins change their external gender expression, for me this meant that I changed my name and started to live my life as female. Transition is another open-ended term, for some this is a set period of time after which they will have finished and moved on to another state, but others believe that life is one big transition and the lines are a bit too blurry to say where one gender ends and the other starts.

If you think you are transgender you will need to help yourself though, I won’t sugar coat it, life is tough at times and there will be setbacks in the future. You’ll have a better chance of being happy if you reach out to other trans people, speak to people on the internet or even better, find a local support group where you can meet and chat with people who have similar experiences, working out who I’m not was far more important for me than working out who I am, if that makes sense. Speaking to a specialist gender identity doctor might be the next step, in the UK that will probably mean first asking to your GP for a referral to the NHS Gender Identity Clinic or if you can afford it, getting a private appointment with a specialist.

Gendered Intelligence have a great resource section if you would like to read more.

Please add your own links in the comments and I’ll edit them into this article over the coming days!