Why Transgender Day of Visibility matters

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by Cal Russell-Thompson, Project Officer, FBL

Transgender Day of Visibility takes place on 31st March. It was founded in 2009 by transgender activist Rachel Crandall to celebrate transgender and nonbinary people – and mark their struggle for civil rights around the world.

What is being transgender?

Gender identity is who you are, your self-perception, and how you would describe yourself.

Most people feel comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth based on their primary sexual characteristics (cisgender).

Some people are transgender (trans). Trans women are typically presumed to be male at birth, but actually feel feminine, and would much rather live as women. Meanwhile, trans men are typically presumed to be female at birth, but actually feel masculine, and would much rather live as men.

In addition, some people are nonbinary, meaning they don’t see themselves as strictly “male” or “female”.

Each trans and nonbinary person is unique, and the community is as diverse as any other. Being trans and nonbinary is not a “new” phenomenon; gender fluidity has a documented history spanning thousands of years, and is likely as old as human society.

What’s it like being trans in the UK?

It would be amazing for Transgender Day of Visibility to be a simple day of celebration. But while public attitudes are broadly positive, two thirds of British trans people still hide their identity, fearing that others might react negatively.

Many things motivate this fear. 25% of British trans people have experienced homelessness, while 28% have faced domestic abuse from a partner. Transphobic hate crime is also increasing, with trans people in England and Wales currently twice as likely to suffer crime. There’s also been an increase in negative coverage of trans people in British media over the last decade.

This is complicated further by legal barriers to recognition. You still can’t legally self-define your gender outside of the “male” and “female” binary; and if you’re a trans man or woman, you still can’t legally change your gender without medical permission.

Sadly, these system-wide factors have exacerbated poor mental health outcomes for many trans and nonbinary people in the UK.

What does the future look like?

There are glimmers of hope. Social attitudes are changing, and this is beginning to have an impact. A recent employment tribunal ruling extended protection against workplace discrimination to nonbinary and genderfluid people. Eventually, medical barriers to gender recognition will likely disappear altogether, as in countries like Norway, Brazil, France, India, and Ireland. And as trans and nonbinary voices become more prominent in the media, the world will start to feel like a safer place to come out.

So, there does appear to be a better future for trans and nonbinary people. But it can only be realised if progress continues to be made in how society represents, treats, and understands us.

It is for this reason that we celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility: as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.

LGBT History Month: events, allyship, and trans inclusivity

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By Liberty Strong, LGBT+ Officer, UWE Students Union

This year the LGBT+ Society, UWE Feminist Society and The Students’ Union brought together a cross campus programme of events around the theme of allyship. We invited the UWE community to #ShowYourTrueColours and join us in a month of celebration, education and awareness. This included free films, HIV fast testing, workshops on  gender & intersectionality, discussions about pinkwashing, arts & LGBT+ resistance, Bisexual Visibility, queer history monologues and LGBT+ takeover of Lock In! As well as an incredible reading & resources list produced in collaboration with UWE Library.

Image of Rainbow map of UK on quilt cover thanking MP's who supported same-sex marriage in 2013
Politics and textiles: Oliver Bliss’s quilt project celebrating equal marriage

Our main goal this February was to invite UWE students to #ShowYourTrueColours, encouraging LGBT+ students to be proud of who they are, and to not be afraid to express themselves at university. We achieved this through launching our Ally Campaign. This meant bringing together student representatives and staff members from across the university in a show of solidarity for the LGBT+ community, promoting the idea that you don’t have to be a member of the community to support it.

None of these events could have been possible without the incredible work of the LGBTPlus Society Committee and members. They managed to come up with a broad range of activities to ensure that there was something for everyone this month. Together, with Marianna the SU’s National, Faith & Identity Societies Coordinator, we have had a more diverse and well organised LGBT+ History Month than ever. It’s important that we appreciate the work put into this month, as it is important that the students here raise awareness of the issues faced and milestones achieved by the LGBT+ community from UWE and beyond.

Trans Awareness and gender neutral toilets on campus

As LGBT+ Officer, I have become very involved in the conversation on trans student rights. After the SU wellbeing survey revealed 98% of trans students have suffered from mental health issues, I felt it important to facilitate trans students needs and make their university experience easier.

Poster promoting UWE bathroom as a safe space for Trans and Gender Questioning Students
Trans awareness posters to be put in toilets

Therefore during February, I have also started liaising with the UWE facilities team through the SU to establish more gender neutral toilets in the university. At present, the only gender neutral toilets exist in the SU building and the new X Block. The university has agreed to change any single cubicle gendered toilets around the university into gender neutral toilets. They have also committed to building gender neutral toilets into all new buildings.

As part of the LGBT+ Month campaign and the theme of allyship – working with the university we have developed Trans Awareness posters to be put in toilets across all three campuses. We are encouraging students to respect others’ privacy, identity and continue as normal if they are questioning someone’s right to use a specific bathroom.

This is important because transitioning students may find it hard to adjust to using their preferred gender toilets. This may be due to fear of judgement. Having a bathroom accessible to either gender is a safer option. We are doing everything we can to make the environment for students transitions as comfortable as possible.




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