Transgender – Who Cares?
By Steve Barkess, Community Development Coordinator, VOICES
Following my article focusing on Transgender and Poverty myself and a member of the expert citizens CIC were invited to attend an event hosted in partnership with Healthwatch Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire University focusing on the issues faced by people who identify as transgender.
The aim of the event is to create a platform of awareness raising and give people a better understanding of the needs of transgender people of all ages. The latest figures from the Gender Identity Development Service (Gids) revealed that 969 under-18s in the UK have been referred from April to December 2015, including nearly 200 aged 12 or under. This compares to just 94 in 2009-2010. (Source, ‘The Independent’ February 10th 2016).
The event brought variety of professionals NHS, CCG and Local Authority and individuals with lived experience or knowledge of issues that transgender people faced daily. Various subjects were covered throughout the day and there was a packed agenda of people speaking and sharing examples of steps being taken to improve access to support transgender people. To my surprise I was first on the agenda to speak and felt quite nervous about this as this is something that I am no expert in. I am however, a member of the LGBT community and wanted to highlight the issue of poverty and homelessness and how this affects people, or possibly prevents people transitioning and how problems such as being of no fixed abode or having no identification can be problematic. I highlighted the issue around complex needs and how this can also mean that a person gender identity can become secondary to other (perceived) important areas of need.
Following this there were many other speakers throughout the day. An individual who had transitioned around 15 years ago explained how terminology had changed and that in some ways we are seeing a backlash towards people who are identifying as transgender due to negative or misguided media coverage. It was also good to hear how parents are supported to understand the needs of their trans children and how Mermaids (a Transgender support organisation for those under 19 and their families) is providing support to people under 19 on a national level. This also laid truth to many of the myths and assumptions that people make, and I was surprised to learn that there is no surgical intervention for people under 16 whatsoever and that for any hormone therapy there is a two-year waiting list.
It was clear throughout the day that there are many steps being taken from an NHS and CCG perspective and that some of the barriers for transgender people are such as the correct medical screening, being referred to as their chosen name, speaking to family or partners about their current situation, progress or prognosis. Social media was also something that was discussed and the way in which this can be dealt with by those receiving it. During the Q&A session this question was put forward to the panel and it seemed that there was agreement that responding on a public platform can sometime provide them with more promotional activity then actually getting your point across. One of the speakers explained her experience of this after appearing on questions time and talked about how she dealt with this. Which was really to let it pass for reasons like those previously mentioned.
Overall the event was informative, thought provoking, well received and helped to challenge a lot of myths and stereotypical ideas about how transgender people of all ages can access support and what needs to happen to increase this.