Headed to friends for dinner in London on Wednesday evening, my wife Hannah, a decorated Captain in the British Army, froze as she saw a full page spread in the Metro from anti-trans group Fair Play For Women.
The garish, sensationalized ad, placed by this small, vicious and particularly vocal group, implied that Hannah, and indeed all trans women, were predatory, opportunistic and in fact not women at all. The aim of the ad was to instil fear and suspicion for trans women, painting them as villains.
There was no basis whatsoever in fact. It’s the most blatant and dangerous form of scaremongering.
We sat reeling and stunned that such overt transphobia should be allowed to appear in such a widely distributed free newspaper, yet worryingly unsurprised. Although widely criticised across social media, the damage has already been done. We feared it could lead to another of the frequent spikes in transphobic abuse and attacks.
Another blow to the community
The advert was another blow to an already hurt minority. 2018 is an unpredictably difficult year for the UK’s transgender community. With promises of long overdue reforms to the once groundbreaking Gender Recognition Act circulating, the anti-trans lobbyists rallied the troops and began an unrelenting outpouring of hate that shows no signs of slowing.
A disproportionate level of bile has been directed at the trans female community. Some accusations are so wildly absurd as to quickly become laughable, yet gain high levels of support from much of the mainstream Press.
Any opportunity to vilify us was leapt upon, and daily life became rather wearing. For those of us who have lived as trans for much of our adult lives it’s difficult. For those people at the start of their transitions, witnessing the current onslaught must be truly terrifying.
It’s always harder for the younger ones
I transitioned at 26, having spent much of my late teens and twenties in an alcoholic, self-medicated haze fuelled by the knowledge that I was in a body that didn’t align with my gender. Things didn’t of course change overnight, but from the first psychologist’s appointment where I was immediately diagnosed as ‘gender dysphoric’, life began to brighten.
I began my lifelong prescription of fortnightly testosterone injections, soon followed by top surgery to flatten my chest. I finally walked tall for the first time since I was twelve and the future looked hopeful. My decision to apply for my Gender Recognition Certificate was an easy one, the process much harder.
Proving to a board of faceless, cisgender people whom I would never meet that I was ‘man enough’ to be legally confirmed as such rankled, but with no trans connections at the time I just took the advice of my doctor and went ahead.
Having known since I was two that I was male, being forced to gather ‘proof’ to that effect felt demeaning. The considerable financial cost and the knowledge that if I ‘failed’ there was no appeal process made the experience unpleasant, stressful and time consuming. That was 10 years ago, and as neighboring countries embrace the right to self identify as trans, the UK is falling behind in terms of transgender rights and needs an update.
People are just trying to live their lives
Despite the current unrest, most of my friends within the community are quietly getting on with their lives, finding love, happiness, stability – and giving much needed hope to our younger generation. Growing up in London some 30 years ago, I had no points of reference for what I was, let alone positive role models.
Now, they are everywhere: writers, actors, directors, police, military officers and beyond are all visible for our young folk. The UK transgender community arguably has some of the best legislative protections in the world, but change still needs to happen.
When Hannah transitioned some 4 years ago, she made a conscious decision not to apply for her GRC, and as such is not legally recognised as a woman. As an Army officer who has served her country for nearly a decade, it seems unjust that our laws currently prevent her from determining who she is without verification and validation.
She is awaiting the reform with hope that soon she too will be able to have her identity recognised and her birth certificate reflect her female gender.
What can you do now?
The Gender Recognition Act consultation needs to be completed by the 19 October.
The trans community is smaller than the gay or lesbian communities, but we are attacked, bullied and beaten by the same bigots. There is still a lot for us to learn about each other, and much needed understanding needs to grow. Yet we have stood together historically, and ask that you stand with us now.
The transgender community are particularly vulnerable; our men are practically invisible in society, our children are viciously bullied in schools, non-binary people are wildly misunderstood and our women portrayed as the worst kind of predators.
We are not predators, nor are we asking for anything more than the same rights as anyone else. We want to simply be ourselves. The right to self identify has long been law in Malta, Denmark, Argentina, Portugal and Ireland, with no abuses of those systems. With so many case studies out there, why would the UK be any different?
92% of people have never knowingly met anyone transgender, and 50 years ago most had not met anyone openly gay. Hearts and minds had to open for the gay rights movement to succeed, and all that we ask is the same happen for us.
None of us want to live in fear of attack, judgment and persecution, but for trans people that is currently our daily life. Be on the right side of history. Complete the Gender Recognition Act consultation.
Captain Hannah Graf says:
What must be kept in mind is that these adverts and campaigns are largely diversionary tactics designed to scare the general population into believing that reform is a bad thing. The reality is that these reforms will not affect access to spaces, or safeguarding issues which have been governed by the 2004 Equality Act quietly and without issue for over a decade.
The GRA consultation is merely proposing a reform to a dehumanizing and costly process that means trans people’s validity and identity are judged by a faceless panel, before they can be legally recognised as themselves.
As someone who has principally resisted applying for a GRC, the GRA reforms would allow me to be legally recognised as the woman that I have always been. This may not seem like much to other people, but for me it would mean the world. I only ask that you see me for who I am, and respect me as I respect you.