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I don’t feel safe to visit the US as a trans businesswoman

Trump and Brexit are limiting the places I can do business

I don’t feel safe to visit the US as a trans businesswoman
Trump and Brexit are a double blow to Helen Belcher's business.

On the face of it, President Trump proposing a ban on trans people serving in the US military has little to do with me – I’m not a US citizen and I’m not in the military.

But it’s not just one ban. Trump has rowed backwards the advances made under President Obama. He has made it clear LGBTI issues are not treated like other human rights issues. He has rescinded the protections for trans students in schools and dropped lawsuits which would protect LGBTI equality.

Since the introduction of the bathroom bills, I have not felt save visiting the USA as a known trans woman. Goodness only knows what it must feel like to live there. I’ve found the torrent of misinformation directed at trans people following the UK Government’s announcement of a review of gender recognition laws hard enough to deal with. But that’s our government looking at advancing rights, not removing them.

Big deal – I can’t visit the US.

Brexit and Trump bad for business

But as well as campaigning for trans rights and standing for the UK parliament, I have run a small but growing software company for 13 years. And every business owner looks to expand their business into new markets.

So a couple of years ago we started looking at markets in the EU. It was geographically close to us. We already have a few customers in Ireland and Malta. The trading rules were clear.

And then a narrow majority of people in Britain voted for Brexit. It was no longer clear what the trading rules were going to be. The decision to leave the EU meant we had to shelve that project until the rules became clearer. A year on, they seem no closer to being clear.

The UK government appears to be strongly recommending we look to other, non-EU, markets as our new trading partners – countries like the USA and the Gulf States.

Now you see the problem. We have replaced one market which I felt safe in with others one which I don’t feel safe visiting. And so government policy is limiting the expansion opportunities for my company.

This is discrimination against trans people who run businesses, like me. It doesn’t affect just me – it affects all those who work for me.

So it is a big deal that I don’t feel safe doing business in the US, especially in those states which would seemingly insist that I use the gentlemen’s restroom.

And I suspect that, like internet filtering which also seemed to adversely affect my company, it’s one of those issues our government hasn’t really thought about.


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