Saturday 19th November 2016 marked the second vigil for TDoR for Reading and Pride and MyUmbrella and was my first as a committee member. On a cold, rainy winter evening, the turnout was better than any of us expected. Competing with noise from the nearby funfair, as well as the rain and wind, we read speeches, poems, and a list of victims’ names. It was remarkably clear given the vast number of names just how big and widespread a problem transphobia is (especially as it was not an exhaustive list). Many of the names also revealed that a large proportion of victims are from other minority groups. We observed a 2 minutes’ silence, taking the time to remember those who have lost their lives – in whatever way - at the hands of transphobia.
To those who are unsure what transphobia consists of – and it’s a fair question to ask – it varies in its form. It can mean the physical or verbal assault of a trans person (or a person perceived to be trans), discrimination due to gender (or perceived gender), belittling or demeaning behaviour, deliberate misgendering, mockery and/or inferring that a trans person is deceptive by concealing their “true” identity (amongst other things). Examples within popular culture are rife – films and TV shows commonly show trans females in particular as people to be mocked and straight men are often wrongly shown to be being ‘deceived by the man in drag’ into sleeping with or dating them. Even now, words like ‘tranny’ are employed in order to gain a cheap laugh. Trans people are all too commonly hidden from view, or used in a mocking way to entertain others. It’s a sad state of affairs when here in the UK we have had two openly transgender winners of the reality TV series Big Brother (Nadia Almada in 2004 and Luke Anderson in 2012) yet we have cisgender people playing trans parts in films and TV and cannot embrace trans people in all other aspects of entertainment as well as in day to day life. It appears society takes one step forward when it comes to trans acceptance, followed immediately by two giant steps back.
As a teacher, it fills my heart with joy every time a student comes out to me. In my time working in education, I have known several trans teenagers, and many, many more non trans teenagers who accept others for who they are and are willing to defend them. I have been teaching for over 8 years and I have seen attitudes change greatly in that time. I have witnessed both students and teachers become more accepting and schools increasingly embracing their LGBT+ students. It is progress like this that we must persist with. If the children of today can accept that there are more than 2 genders, why can’t society at large?
The political unrest both here in the UK and over in the US have resulted in an increase in hate crime and transgender suicides are on the increase. This is due to the uncertainty amongst the community about their protection, particularly from the government. As a community, we must rally together to protect our trans friends and family, showing support in whichever way we can.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is a significant day in the LGBT+ calendar, and one we must continue to mark, in order to honour all those who have died. We must continue to bring awareness to the issue of transphobia and persist with our fight for acceptance. Perhaps one day we will no longer need to. Maybe one day the abuse will stop. But until then, the fight continues…
If you, or anyone you know, needs someone to talk to, call the Samaritans Reading free on 116 123.