People Latest - - by Fanni Rodek

Transgender visibility: more news, more patients?

Transgender visibility: more news, more patients? Transgender flag [IMAGE: Flickr]

As The Guardian reported last week, the number of people being referred to gender identity clinics have increased by several hundred percent in the last decade. With a considerable amount of articles – news and features as well – on transgender issues published every week, we try to understand the correlations a bit better.

Although it’s hard to determine how many people live with gender identity incongruences in the UK, the numbers are far greater than the help available. If we look at the ones who changed their passports or were granted gender recognition certificates, it would seem there’s only 5714 trans people living in the UK. There are approximately 15000 gender identity patients – 12700 adults and 2700 children. Studies suggest there could be 130000 people who experience gender incongruency to a level to seek medical help.

The majority of these people is yet to start on their trans journey but the waiting lists can already be several months – or even years – long. The average time between being referred to a gender identity clinic and the first appointment is 9 months with one in six adults having to wait for over a year. At the Leeds clinic – where the referrals went from 131 in 2009-10 to 414 in 2015-16 – new patients would have to wait 4 years at the moment.

“People are completely on their own, sometimes for up to three years, dealing with issues around gender that are potentially life-threatening … It’s not surprising that people get desperate in that timeframe.” – said Louie Stafford, trans programme cordinator of the LGBT Foundation.

Dr Leighton Seal, consultant endocrinologist at the Charing Cross clinic was talking about the increase in transgender people coming out: “I think the societal change has been really important, society is more tolerant, more accepting and people who are gender-nonconforming are a lot more visible. I think trans people have also found their voice as well.”

YouTuber Jamie Raines takes a selfie every day to see the changes his body’s been going through since he started taking testosterone

Transgender news from the last two weeks

Even though society is still really far from being truly accepting, positive changes allowed transgender and non-binary people to come forward. They get more coverage in the media that also helps making their issues visible. This tendency is not new but the frequency and intensity have spiked up recently.

Equalities minister Nicky Morgan unveiled a package to reform Gender Recognition Act 2004, including the legal process to register a change of gender. Transgender people no longer have to show a medical letter to change the gender on their passports. A third, ‘X’ option may not be coming to the UK – it is offered in Australia for people who don’t identify with either gender – but an upsetting process was stopped in the government’s decision, welcomed by activists. They are also looking at ways to improve NHS training and put up a fight against bullying in higher education. The government is planning on conducting a research to explore Britain’s transgender population.

The Boarding Schools Association issued an official guidance to help “queering the education system” and teachers to navigate in the field of new terms and different gender identities. Elly Barnes, author of the new guidelines highlights the importance of overcoming binary categories as more children come out as transgender in boarding schools. Teachers are required to address trans pupils with their chosen pronoun – that could be they or the new ‘zie’. The regulations are met with concerns and questions, as teachers feel like they don’t know enough about these issues. In Essex, trans support organisation Gendered Intelligence is running summer camps for transgender children and young adults. The four-day holidays include activities most of the campers haven’t been able to do in years – swimming for example.

After appearing in Louis Vuitton’s recent womenswear campaign, wearing a skirt, Jaden Smith is becoming an icon for gender fluidity. Son of actors Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, this 18-year-old boy is fighting stereotypes in the hope of a better, more accepting future for the next generations. In August’s cover story in Nylon magazine, he speaks about his reasons, saying: “So, you know, in five years when a kid goes to school wearing a skirt, he won’t get beat up and kids won’t get mad at him. It just doesn’t matter. I’m taking the brunt of it so that later on, my kids and the next generations of kids will all think that certain things are normal that weren’t expected before my time.”

In the meantime, feminist academic Julia Long is questioning why more and more children get diagnosed with gender dysphoria. “The widespread acceptance of these ideas is facilitating a wave of medical interventions that are likely to have grave consequences for children in their future adult lives.” She argues that critical questions are silenced with the accusation of transphobia, fearing that medical treatment might have an affect on their wellbeing in adult life.

The Independent reported that at least 95 per cent of the pupils are not taught about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender relationships when it comes to sex education in school.

The past two weeks have been busy in the US as well. The Pentagon decided to lift the ban on transgender people serving in the military, highlighting the fact they are not less able to serve their country. There is still a lot of controversy about the Obama administration’s bathroom law – allowing transgender people to use restrooms consistent with their identity. Following an earlier lawsuit, 10 states decided to challenge the policy. In Virginia, 17-year-old transgender schoolboy Gavin Grimm’s case made it to the fourth circuit, where he was granted permission to the boys’ bathroom. The school board asked the supreme court to block the order, saying that other students’ privacy could be violated with this decision.

All these news, The Guardian publishing transgender people’s stories, Jaden Smith fighting for issues gender non-conform people face – things like this have probably been here all along. What’s changed is they get publicity in major media. The general public still doesn’t know much about transgender and non-binary people, they need guidelines to learn from. Science also has a lot of questions they have to find answers to – transgender issues are still very much a work in progress. But as the numbers show, people are coming out as non-binary and there is conversation about these topics.

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