Trans woman flees Scottish town which branded her a ‘witch’

Stephanie Smyth, a transgender woman, was forced to flee her Johnstone home, in Scotland after being subjected to transphobic hate

Trans woman flees Scottish town which branded her a ‘witch’
13 June 2013

A 32-year-old trans woman has fled her small town in Scotland, as she can no longer endure abuse from locals who called her a ‘witch’.

Stephanie Smyth, who worked as an administrator in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland said she received constant verbal abuse making her life in Johnstone ‘hell’.

The abuse started when she begun to embrace her true identity in her 20s, growing her hair and wearing women’s clothes.

Smyth underwent a gender-reassignment treatment last year.

She was hurled abuse in the town’s streets, local shops and supermarkets with people calling her a ‘witch’ and taunting her repeatedly with transphobic hate.

Smyth told The Gazette today (13 June): ‘It was mainly the worst when it came to going into shops in Renfrewshire.

‘I found that a lot of the people who worked in security would be standing around laughing and staff workers would also follow me around, jumping to conclusions.

‘Walking down the street I’d get a lot of abuse sometimes. They’d shout at me a lot, called me gay and even accuse me of witchcraft.

‘There were so many times I almost contacted the police because it had got so bad but ended up scared of the repercussions.’

The abuse got so bad that she felt terrified to leave her Johnstone home fearing transphobic hate.

‘Because places like Johnstone are so small, everyone knows you so you can’t hide away.

‘The only choice I had was to move away from Renfrewshire and start a new life.

‘I feel like I’ve lost a lot of my friends because I had to leave Johnstone. My past was almost completely wiped away,’ she added.

Smyth however decided to speak out so she could raise awareness over the transphonbic hate she faced while living in Renfrewshire.

‘I want to speak out now so that people can realize how traumatic it can be for someone coming to terms with their identity.

‘It’s not witchcraft; people want to burn you at the stake for being a woman when you were born a man.

‘I don’t blame anyone specifically, there’s no-one at fault here it’s just the society that we live in.

‘All I want to do is just make people aware that we are around in this world, sometimes it’s just nice for people to smile and accept us.

Speaking with Gay Star News, Nathan Gale, Project Development Officer, at Scottish Transgender Alliance, commented: ‘It is very distressing to hear that someone felt forced to leave their home because of the abuse they encountered just for expressing their gender identity.

‘Trans people continue to encounter discrimination, harassment, physical and sometimes sexual abuse where they live, and this can lead to homelessness.

‘Although people are starting to become aware of trans issues there is still a great deal of work to be done in order to ensure that trans people can live in our communities without fear.’

Rob McDowall, chair of the LGBT Network charity in Scotland expressed his shock to GSN over Smyth’s experience and stated: ‘My heartfelt feelings go out to Stephanie in what must have been a harrowing a torturous time.

‘Transgender people wherever they live are all too often seen as fair game when it comes to abuse both outside and within the LGBT “community”.

‘This can be much worse in small towns like Johnstone.

‘I too am originally from Renfrewshire and had to move away when I was 16 due to the "small town mentality".

‘Recently we read of a trans woman harassed by a security guard in the Piazza shopping center in Paisley, Renfrewshire when attempting to use the female toilet.

‘I would encourage anyone in a similar position or experiencing similar abuse to contact the police Scotland by calling 101.

‘Much more work needs to be done to tackle transphobic hate and the police need to get on board and ensure this type of abuse doesn’t go unpunished.’

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