December 10th is International Human Rights Day, and the theme for 2021 is Equality. We all have some idea of what we think human rights and equality mean, but what do they mean for trans+ people specifically?
I am not going to cover why trans+ rights are human rights, as I take this entirely as read. Trans+ people are people, after all. If you disagree with that, this is probably not the blog for you.
Equality covers many things. For trans+ people this often is as simple as the ability to use a public toilet in peace, or even just walk down the road without being followed or shouted at. For others, it could be as simple as where they work having a policy that covers transition in the workplace.
Imagine that you belong to a group of people who are often very visibly different, regularly shown in the media as predatory, sex pests, rapists, and/or mentally ill. Imagine knowing that you are at high risk for being assaulted in the street. Imagine that you are in a group of people who have an annual day on which you remember people just like you, who have been murdered in the last year. This year the number on that list was 375 people.
These are some of the downsides of being a trans+ person in 2021.
So how can you help?
Work: Encourage your employer to write trans+ people into policy. You can use a trans+ specific example in bullying and harassment policy and I urge you to write a transition at work policy. Get Beyond Reflections to deliver workplace training about trans+ people. If you are unsure about how to best write trans+ people into your policy, we also do consulting. The payment we receive for this funds supporting people so you’re doing double goodness!
Home: Speak with your loved ones about trans+ people and normalise the fact that not all people are cisgender. Challenge great uncle so-and-so if he makes a comment about someone trans+ and encourage friends and family to see trans+ people as first being people. There are some wonderful children’s books that include trans+ characters without making it about their transness.
Out and about: If you see someone who is visibly trans+ looking uncomfortable, you can do something as small as giving them a smile, or saying ‘morning’ as you walk past them. You might just make someone’s day, or their week, just by showing some basic kindness.
Witnessing transphobia: If you see something transphobic happen, speak with the person (if safe to do so) and ask if they are okay. You could even pretend to know them and show others that this person is not alone and vulnerable. If it is not safe to directly intervene, call for help, film the incident, be a witness. You might just make the experience a little less traumatic by having someone’s back, even if they don’t know about it until afterwards. You also show others that you do not condone their behaviour.
I try to avoid this blog becoming too political or too downbeat. I much prefer to talk about the ways in which we can look more positively at the trans+ experience. This year has made it a little hard to do so.
There are many ways in which being trans+ can give people unique and positive perspectives on the world. Today I wanted to have readers of this blog see a few of the downsides.
I urge you to support trans+ rights. When trans+ people are safe, they thrive. Allies can help create that safety.
If you want to help us support people to thrive, you can apply to volunteer with us here.