By Jay Prebble, student at Queen’s University Belfast (pronouns they/them)
Transgender (including non-binary people) come from all walks of life and backgrounds. We are a diverse, creative, productive group of individuals and despite increased visibility in recent years the trans community in Northern Ireland continues to face discrimination and marginalisation. The suffering experienced by the trans community manifests in the high rates of mental health conditions (over 80% in Northern Ireland). Almost half (40%) have attempted suicide.
Transphobic discrimination in the work place is common, two thirds of trans people experience some form of discrimination and over have left their employment. Likewise, in education trans students experience bullying from peers but also face intolerance, victim blaming and neglect from teachers. The use of a mental health framework for treatment perpetuates the idea that there is something wrong with trans people. Long waiting lists, inappropriate questioning, denial of treatment and enforcement of outdated stereotypes make medical transition an unnecessarily distressing period. Access to non-transition related health care is also challenging as many healthcare professionals become focused on a person’s transition rather than their medical issue.
In addition to difficulties accessing services transgender/non-binary people are frequently the victims of harassment and violence. Over three quarters have experienced verbal abuse and almost a third have experienced violence. While the number of transphobic hate crimes reported has trebled in the last five years, the number of prosecutions has fallen. This is likely to be an under representation as many hate crimes go unreported. The recent deluge of transphobic articles in mainstream media is fostering transphobia in their readership and making society a more hostile place for trans people.
Despite frequently being victims, trans people are often excluded from the conversation on gender based violence with some feminists refuse to acknowledge trans women as women. Thankfully in Belfast feminist movements are giving trans women a platform to speak alongside other marginalised groups. This intersectional approach is essential in achieving an end to gender based violence.
All people should be able to access public services, education and employment. They should be able to walk down the street or use public bathrooms without the fear of harassment or violence. Trans people are humans and deserve to be treated as such. We are not second class citizens and should not be marginalised from society. It is time for people to stand in solidarity, educate themselves and commit to bringing about the societal change needed to end the suffering of the transgender community.