LGBT Foundation’s response to “Where Does the British Public stand on Transgender rights?”
Published: 16 July 2020 Tags: By Michael Petch
This morning, YouGov published findings from a recent survey looking at the opinions of the british public with regards to the rights of trans people. Whilst it is heartening to see that most British people find accept that trans women are women and trans men are men, there are various parts of this report which we find quite alarming. We understand that this may be upsetting to our trans and non-binary friends and family, and want you to know that we are still here if you need us. Our helpline is open from 9am-9pm on weekdays and 10am-6pm on weekends at 0345 3 30 30 30.
Firstly, trans people's identities are not for debate. Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Non-binary people are non-binary, and all trans and non-binary people are valid. Whilst these statistics can, at times, be informative for trans rights movements to understand what work in creating a fair and equal society still needs to be done, these questions need to be worded in a way that does not question the identity of trans and non-binary people. Additionally there is an erasure of non-binary identities in these results, which is again disheartening.
The government has already carried out a robust public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act, which is the legislation which allows trans people to legally change their gender. Whilst we are still waiting to see the results of this consultation, it has been widely reported that it found an overwhelming level of support from British society as a whole, with trans and non-binary people, LGBT charities and other public figures providing detailed explanations and reasons as to why the process of legally changing gender needs to be easier and more accessible.
We find the distinction made towards the end of whether “the transgender person in question had not had gender reassignment surgery” to be especially worrisome. It suggests that surgery is the normal option, and there are many trans people who do not or cannot choose to have surgical transition interventions. Equally, this question refers to a “surgery”, where there are actually multiple different surgical options available to trans people, depending on what they feel would alleviate their dysphoria. When they ask about the surgery, are they referring to a tracheal shave? Meta/Phallo? Chest surgery? None of these are compulsory to being a trans person, and none should dictate the acceptance of trans people in wider society.
“The surgery” or “gender reassignment surgery” also often serves as a coded way for cis people to refer to trans people’s genitals, and to create a distinction between “pre-op” and “post-op” trans people. This ignores many other important aspects of transition in a stigmatised belief that transitioning is all surgical. There are many milestones trans people celebrate including hormones, someone changing their name/title/pronouns, exploring gender expression. But none of these are essential to being a trans person.
Sadly, the consequences of this kind of transphobia are far reaching, with it leading to a policing of single-sex spaces, with women’s spaces often being central to these discussions. This is based on the idea that it is possible to identify a trans person based purely on appearance, which is not the lived experience of many trans people. Instead, this culture of policing women’s spaces punishes gender non-conforming women, cis and trans alike. This impacts greater on lesbian and bisexual women, especially those who are butch or prefer a more masculine presentation.