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Parenting a Gender Fluid Child/What to say to Douchey People

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Over the last 10 years I’ve seen a huge shift in the way gender is expressed in children. Where parents are less enforcing of gender binaries children are allowed the space to explore their own and other genders. I think this is a wonderful step forward for humanity. I long for a world free of toxic masculinity, (and toxic femininity), free of the strictly enforced gender binary system. a world where humans can just be humans, and can self identify in whatever way is comfortable and enjoyable for them.

I have a 6 year old son. He lives with me and 3 of his siblings 4 days a week and spends the other 3 with his dad. When he is at my house he likes to wear clothing traditionally associated with girls. I have no idea if this is a passing phase, if he is just a curious child exploring gender options or if he will grow up to be a transexual, or a drag queen (I should be so lucky!), or even if he may be transgender. I cannot know where his love of dressing up will go (if anywhere). So I treat him the same way, I don’t make a big deal out of any of it, I love him and support him and follow his lead at all times in this regard. I let him know the same message that I have been teaching him since he could understand me ‘It’s ok to be you. Live authentically. Be yourself. You are loved’. Last week he asked us to start calling him by a different name, a ‘girls’ name. All of my kids were fine with addressing him by his new name and using female pronouns. He has made it easy for us by saying that he wants to be addressed with the new name only when he is dressed as a girl.

Since then I have become more open about this to the people in our lives. The responses have been overwhelmingly supportive, bar a couple of people whom have come at me with some pretty awful stuff. These are people who would consider themselves to be fairly tolerant. So I wanted to address some of the objections that I’ve heard, as I suspect perhaps there are other parents out there in a similar situation to me, and it may be of some use to them (I hope).

  1. Why does he only do this at your house?                                                                                        I think he only does it at my house because he only has access to dresses, make up ect at my house. Also he feels comfortable to do it at my house. He used to wear nail polish to pre-school but the other kids made fun of him and now he refuses to wear it in public. He LOVES wearing nail polish and has loved it since he was a toddler. I believe he feels comfortable and safe and accepted in my house which is why he chooses to dress in a feminine way when he is with me.
  2. You  must be doing something to encourage him. That is irresponsible. Trans adults wouldn’t be that way if they’re parents hadn’t encouraged them when they were little. (Yes someone actually said that to me.)                                                                              I am encouraging him, this is true, but not in the way you think. I am encouraging his natural expression of himself. I am supporting him in the choices he makes for himself. I am not standing at his bedroom door suggesting he wears dresses or asking does he want me to do his make up. I follow his lead. I feel this is the responsible course of action. I want all of my children to feel supported in how they choose to express who they are. As for the idea that transgender children are a result of overly liberal parenting I can only say that science disagrees. Gender Dysphoria is the medical term. Look it up.
  3. This is a result of your hatred of men and masculinity.                                                             This would imply that trans people are part of an Evil Feminist  conspiracy to wipe men from the face of the earth. As far as I am aware, no such conspiracy exists. Also I love masculinity. I love (a lot of) men. I greatly dislike toxic masculinity. I was raped and abused by toxic masculinity. I see toxic masculinity as the poison of the modern age. It hurts everyone it touches, most especially the men who embody it. Just because I love equality doesn’t mean I hate men. I have so many beautiful, strong, caring, loving, heart-opened men in my life. I love them. I have 3 sons. I do not have a crazy agenda to try and turn my sons into women. Sigh.
  4. You are creating a drama about this when there doesn’t need to be one (ie. discourage this and it will all go away)                                                                                                                  I agree there doesn’t need to be a drama. It’s a 6 year old child who likes to dress up. It may never be more than that. What is the big deal? I will not discourage any of my children from pursuing their truth. I would consider that to be horrendous parenting. I don’t see any of it as being a big deal or a drama. No matter where this goes all I can deal with is what the present moment is offering – and that is a small child who likes to dress up, and that’s fine with me.
  5. Gender Fluid children just lack good strong male role models. (Yep, I know again, can you believe it. Someone actually said that to me.)                                                                    Oh dear, where to start with this one. Everything cannot be explained away with Freudian theory? Now I am no where near to being an expert on gender fluidity or Gender Dysphoria. I know shamefully little about the subjects. But I do know some gender fluid people (probably more than the person who said this to me) and I see them as harbingers of the future. People who are here to lead us and show us a way out of the strictly enforced gender binary system. I admire them their bravery and strength in being who they are in a world that very much would like them to sit in this box over here please and don’t get out. Second to this argument –  why is it that it is just the lack of male role models that concerns? Is there a study somewhere to show that children raised with ‘good male role models’ never grow up to be gender fluid? Can anyone point me to any evidence at all that would support this strange conclusion?
  6. He is just doing this to get attention from you. You mustn’t be playing boyish games with him enough. This is him reaching out to try and get your attention by doing things he thinks you like, like dressing up and make up.                                              There’s a lot to plough through here, firstly it is very sexist to assume that all I am into is clothes and make up. Make up would be very low on my list of interests and while I do like to get dressed up myself I have very little interest in talking about it, or dressing others. Most of the activities I do with my kids are things that ALL of us will enjoy, so we bake together, we go to the beach and build sand castles, we read stories, we make stories, we watch movies, we give each other foot massages, we make art (a lot of art), we play ball games and frisbee and do gardening. These are the things I do with my kids. These are the same activities I did with my older 4 children and none of them have magically turned into gender fluid or trans people  as a result. I do not think there is a logical correlation  between having a mum who doesn’t play much lego with you and choosing to wear dresses. Also the effort to apportion blame (on me) indicates a belief that there is something wrong with him dressing this way, which I do not agree with.
  7. He will end up socially ostracised and it will be your fault for encouraging him.             I believe that hiding what we truly are causes sickness and sometimes suicide. I do not want that for my children. I want them to live authentic lives, rich with love and support and ease. I know that the world hasn’t quite caught up with accepting everyone for who they are and so I try and teach my children resilience, for no one, not even the most privileged escape the inevitable cruelty of others. Emotional intelligence, resilience and self love are things I try and teach my kids, so that when someone is a douche to them they can handle it. It is the best I can do to prepare them for a sometimes cruel world. I also wouldn’t want friends for my kids who wanted them to be something they are not. I wish for true friends for my children, the kind of friend who sees exactly who they are and loves them for it and stands by them. If I had to choose for my kids between them hiding their  true selves to fit in and living authentically and getting shit for it – living authentically would win hands down everytime. 

 

Taryn De Vere is an eccentric dresser, a writer, mother of 5, a conscious relationship coach for Love With Ease Please http://www.lovewitheaseplease.com, a performance artist https://www.facebook.com/A-Chaotic-Embrace-113263035681066 , and a sex positive parenting educator https://www.facebook.com/sexpositiveparenting 

Photo by Eamonn Brown Photography

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Marriage is not Equality: Thoughts on #MarRef from a worried radical queer

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This article is based heavily on the script for the 15/05/15 episode of my radio show, 30 km/s, which airs live online every 2 weeks on www.subcity.org

I also recommend reading this compilation of writings put out by Aidan Rowe, one of the many people in Ireland eloquently providing a radical critique of the very concept of marriage equality, as well as other real problems with the Referendum campaign, from an anarchist-queer perspective.

It’s been with interest and trepidation that I’ve been observing the campaign for the Marriage Referendum from afar, desperately wanting to be there. Between the overt homophobic abuse spouted by the ‘No’ campaign and the rather horrid effect of single-issue liberal politics and policing of identity from the mainstream, acceptable parts of the so-called ‘Gay’ community, I’ve felt quite homesick for Dublin, where I lived for 11 years.

While I’ve resided in Glasgow for the past couple of years, I came out as a trans woman and a lesbian, and began transitioning, in Ireland. I was heavily involved in the LGBTQ community/ies, both with the mainstream and the more radical elements. I’ve been a member of numerous LGBTQ organisations, such as TENI, and the late Queer Spraoi and PinC, and was the content editor for the defunct BoLT magazine, a magazine by and for LGBTQ women and trans people of all genders. I am still a strong part of the community with numerous bonds of friendship and solidarity with my LGBTQ friends living there, and I try to make it over at least a few times a year (especially for my fave Pride festival, Northwest Pride, when I can manage it!).

However, I feel the referendum has brought out some of the worst aspects of Irish society, both the homophobic, bigoted, misogynistic right-wing elements (church-led and otherwise) as well as the assimilationist, clean-cut ‘we are just like you’ part of the gay community, which seems more focused on adapting to a cishet norm than actually fighting for queers in the streets. To the extent of advising people to call the police on LGBTQ people who take down and vandalise the homophobic posters put up by the No campaign.

Let’s start with the basics. If you’re in Ireland, do I think you should vote yes, no, or abstain?

Vote yes. Clearly. Obviously.

Voting no is simply objectionable. Voting yes grants LGBTQ people rights that we should already have. If you’re a particularly politically minded LGBTQ person, abstaining should not be an option, considering the rather ghastly politics that make up the No side, from the homophobic and misogynistic Iona Institute to other typical right-wing, antifeminist elements in Irish society. And for many people, the rights granted are crucial and life saving: Adoption, citizenship, visitation rights in hospital, etcetera are all sorely needed. The state declaring that same-sex relationships are equal in the eyes of the law can have a strong effect on other parts of society as well.

Are we cool on that? Because from this point on, things get complicated.

Let’s start with the institution of marriage. If you’re in love, committing to someone for life, if that’s what you’re both into, that’s rad! Go ahead and do it, more power to you. But why do we need the state to get involved?

On a practical level, the issues around rights I’ve highlighted above are an obvious answer. But I ask you to take a step back and ask yourself: Why does citizenship depend on marriage? The fact of the matter is, historically, the state are heavily invested in regulating who comes and goes from their countries, and how family units are organised -a cursory look at the last 30 years of Irish history is proof of this. At different points in history, states will encourage immigration or discourage it through policies as well as promoting xenophobia, like we have seen in recent years. So I pose another question: why are our rights limited by whether or not we get access to a specific state-sanctioned form of relationship? What if we need those rights but we do not want the state involved in our affairs? What about the other things we have a right to but are often marginalised in? Housing and homelessness, unemployment, poverty, which studies in Ireland, the United States and UK show LGBTQ people overrepresented in those categories in proportion to the general population? Not to mention many other areas of discrimination in every day life I couldn’t hope to cover. Check out the following studies and reports that show marriage isn’t the only, or even the central, issue:

Ireland

List of publications by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (I couldn’t link just one they’re all bloody important)

United States

Injustice at Every Turn – A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey

New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community

UK

An Examination of Poverty and Sexual Orientation in the UK

Debunking the ‘Pink Pound’ – LGBT Poverty and Place in Scotland

One answer is that marriage equality is something that is achievable within our lifetime. All of your radical ideas about no borders, abolishing capitalism, etcetera, are all well and good, but they are unrealistic and impossible to achieve, the argument goes.

But let me ask you: would we have gotten to where we are now in terms of achieving same-sex marriage in many countries, if people had not fought for that specifically? The interesting thing is that back in the late 60s, when queens and dykes and faggots were being beaten up by police in New York, incarcerated and abused in my native Argentina, when the revolutionary voices of Stonewall and so many other places rose up, were they calling for a seat at the table of mainstream acceptability? Were they asking for marriage equality?

No. They were saying the table rests on the back of people like us. the poor. the disabled. the ones who are not acceptable faces of a marriage campaign. The migrants, the sex workers, the people of colour, the people with mental health issues and physical disabilities. Not to mention the majority of people who live in poverty. In the face of this, Gay Liberation was a call to arms for us who were considered deviant by society due to breaking gender and sexual norms, for us to reform society from the ground up for a radical concept of equality. Not equality based on a single law, a single yes or no question, but rather on true equality for all.

My problem isn’t with marriage per se, but marriage does not exist in a vacuum. The fact is that same-sex marriage will change absolutely nothing for 99% of queers I know. I accept that is a biased sample, but most of the LGBTQ people I know fall under one of the many following categories: Disabled with either physical or mental disabilities; people of colour; survivors of abuse; migrants; with experience of homelessness; sex workers.

What does marriage do for us? We are poor. We are kicked out of welfare systems designed to keep us in poverty. Trans people are frequently targeted to be kicked out of social welfare system due to conflicting documentation.

We have an asylum system in both the UK and Ireland that is despicable in its utter dehumanisation of people. And if you add to that the extra scrutiny afforded to LGBTQ asylum seekers, the picture is grim.

Sex workers struggle with the violence of a state that will deny the right of vulnerable people to try to make a living, often in really difficult situations.

Racism in Ireland and the UK is an everyday occurrence, as is xenophobia, ableism, misogyny.

And let us not forget the elephant in the room: how marriage equality does nothing for those members of the LGBTQ community that need an abortion and are not able to get one in Ireland.

We can’t address all of those issues at once, of course. But is ticking ‘yes’ on a box all we can really do? Is our political imagination so constrained? Why must we accept reducing everything we are and all we live and suffer through to whether this referendum passes?

Here’s where the rub comes in for me: the famous saying that a society or community can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. Let’s not kid ourselves: the Irish LGBTQ community as a whole has an appalling record in this regard. Racism, misogyny, ableism, and even transphobia have been rampant and unchecked for a long time within it, and not enough has been done to fight this. The mainstream LGBTQ community does precious little work for asylum seekers and people of colour. There’s virtually no campaigning around LGBTQ people with disabilities and/or in poverty.

So, with all of these issues, I have more questions to ask: Why are we campaigning for marriage now, instead of working to help the vulnerable sectors of the LGBTQ community in Ireland? Where is the money coming from for all the signs, vans, etcetera? And after the referendum, if it’s a Yes, where will all that money, energy, door-to-door canvassing, go to? If Ireland follows precedent, all that political mobilisation will vanish overnight. If we’re lucky, it will help mobilise for gender recognition for trans people as it did in Argentina, but even that will not fix all the other problems I’ve mentioned.

The fact of the matter is that marriage, in general, is a reform that is easy to attain and does not disturb the capitalist, patriarchal status quo. Marriage has always been, from the point of view of the state, about organising workers and property, determining who lives where and how. It is not a revolutionary institution and it will not bring about the change the most vulnerable LGBTQ people in Ireland sorely need.

Will the money and huge organising energy from the Yes campaign go to campaigns to abolish the direct provision system? Will money be raised by the big orgs to help out LGBTQ asylum seekers? What about campaigns to help improve the standard of living in local communities?

Ireland has a chance in this regard, because in all other countries, once they got what they wanted, these campaigns disbanded. They didn’t mobilise the LGBTQ communities over which they have so much sway to fight poverty, police violence, or for the decriminalisation of sex work. The system of global capital will still stand. Will the Yes campaigners stand with us?

Bi+ Ireland Upcoming Events

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Hello, my lovely bisexual, pansexual and queer readers! If you’re in or around Ireland in the next week or two, Bi+ Ireland have been busy organising meetups in (literally) all four corners of the country. If you’re anywhere under the nonmonosexual/romantic umbrella and in this part of the world, we’d love to have you along. If you’re not, though? I’d appreciate it a ton if you could share the events and let people know about them.

And before I go, remember: Bi+ Ireland isn’t just our public page and events! We have a thriving worst-keptsecret FB discussion group as well- just send us a PM for an invite.

Here’s the details:

OCT 17: Bi+ Ireland October Meetup Dublin

Accents Cafe in Dublin, Ireland 19:00

(FB Event Page)

OCT 17: Bi+ Ireland October Meetup Galway

The Secret Garden Galway in Galway, Ireland 20:00

(FB Event Page)

OCT 18: Bi+ Ireland Belfast October meetup

Queen’s Arcade in Belfast, United Kingdom 15:30

(FB Event Page)

OCT 25: Bi+ Ireland October Cork meetup

Bodega Cork in Cork, Ireland 15:00

(FB Event Page)

Boundaries, Thresholds and Love: Why it’s time to take back ‘bi’.

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One of the most important divisions within how bi+ people navigate and experience relationships is not between whether the people we date are men or women- it’s whether they’re queer or straight. Queer/LGBTQ culture, with its DIY attitude towards gendered roles in relationships and with our common experiences of self-discovery, coming out, and being out, is its own particular thing. It’s a set of shared understandings, and gay people pretty much always have that in common with partners. Bi+ people? Not necessarily. And so much of queer cultures were created as a different way of thinking about and doing relationships more-or-less in opposition to heteronormativity. But as bi+ people, whether or not we come from within queer cultures and ways of doing relationships, our lives are often defined by our relationships happening both within and outside those cultures. Some of the people we love (of all different genders!) will be queer. Some of the people we love will be straight and will not have had- or may not understand at all- queer experiences and their significance. But we still have, and those relationships don’t take from the experiences that we have had and who they have made us.

We occupy a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold. We are forced into a binary.

And then we go outside.

The rest, over at Consider the Tea Cosy.

An Open Letter to Roseanne Barr, From a Feminist Sister

Dear Roseanne,

My name is Ariel Silvera, I’m a latina from Buenos Aires, Argentina who has lived around the UK and Ireland for the past 11 years. I am also a feminist trans woman. Now that the election is over, I hope you’ll have time to take a look at this letter.

I’m going to admit I’m not as familiar with your work as I should be. I never watched your famous show, although a good number of my friends of mine swear by it. I’ve occasionally seen you say some quite brilliant things in terms of politics, and my perception of you until now has been one of a rather kickass woman. So, I’m writing this out of disappointment regarding your recent comments about trans women. From a feminist to another feminist.

I want to start with a reality check. I like talking about material reality, about things that actually happen, rather than conjectures and assumptions. This reality check is about toilets. In a heated twitter outburst, you wrote ‘if she has a penis, she’s not allowed in’, continuing with ‘women do not want your penises forced in their faces or in our private bathrooms’.

Roseanne, I honestly wonder, just what do you think I do when I go to the bathroom? I’m going to tell you exactly what I do when I go to a public bathroom. Don’t worry! I won’t be sharing any scatological details or talk about any gross poo stuff. Ick! Okay, so. My public bathroom routine is, more or less, as follows:

1. Enter bathroom, head to nearest cubicle (I’m lazy, what can I say), or, if there is a queue, join it and wait for my turn.
2. Once in the cubicle, I lock the door behind me. If there is no lock, or it’s broken, I try to find a way to hold the door either with one arm, or a leg, or a bag if I have any.
3. I do my business, and I get out of the cubicle. I head towards the sinks.
4. I wash my hands carefully. At this point, maybe eye contact is made with another woman. Maybe we’ll say hi or comment on the weather. You know, small talk.
5. Leave the bathroom in the knowledge of a job well done.

So, there you have it. This is what I do when I, a trans woman, a woman who was assigned male at birth and has transitioned to female, do when I go to the bathroom. I can imagine that you, a cis woman, assigned female at birth, have a similar routine. Maybe you make witty remarks if someone strikes up a conversation, after all you’re a very intelligent person who can come up with a better topic than the goddamn weather.

What I’m trying to point out here is that at no point did I:

1. Talk to other women or girls in the bathroom about my genitals and the status thereof, or
2. Show my genitals to other women or girls in the bathroom or generally expose myself.

I imagine you don’t do this either. Congratulations. You go to the bathroom in exactly the same manner I do, as a trans woman. And before you ask? No, I have not had sexual reassignment surgery.

In your tweets, you say that people like me should not be able to access women’s bathrooms. I imagine you expect me to go into the men’s toilets. Roseanne, are you aware of the violence statistics for trans people in America alone? The fact that a majority of young trans people report verbal and physical harassment, and a third of trans youth have considered suicide? Given the violent misogyny prevalent in American society today, that if someone perceived as ‘a man dressed as a woman’, or someone simply perceived as female or feminine, entered a male-dominated space, do you honestly believe they would not face violence? Did you know that there were 17 recorded murders of trans people in America alone in 2011?

We are just going to the toilet, Roseanne. We’re not there to molest kids. You’ve brought up NAMBLA, and how you fought against their inclusion under the Gay/Lesbian banner back in the day. Good. I despise NAMBLA. I’m glad you did that work and I’m thankful for it! But, I ask, why do you bring it up? Are you implying allowing trans women into women’s restrooms is the same as opening the door to child molesters, rapists and paedophiles?

Now, I want to ask you to do something. Look up all reported cases of trans women raping minors in restrooms. Or of ‘men dressed as women’ doing this. Now, look up statistics of the violence faced by trans people in our society, and the way it maims and murders us for who we are (or, occasionally, when a black trans woman kills a white man, by accident, in self defense, she is sentenced as a mere murderer).

Ask any trans person, trans men, trans women, genderqueer & non-binary folk, and we will all tell you that bathrooms, for us, are TERRIFYING. Almost every trans person I’ve ever met (and being a long-time activist in the community, I’ve met a few from at least a dozen countries), has a horror story. That time they got beaten up for being in the ‘wrong’ toilet, whether it corresponded to their birth-assigned gender or not. The time they got shouted at. The time someone stabbed them. And this violence is mostly faced by those whom patriarchy, heteronormativity and a racist capitalism makes the most vulnerable: trans women of colour. 

You are asking us to face real violence because of the fact that a small percentage of us (just like a small percentage of ANY GROUP IN SOCIETY) may be rapists or paedophiles. There’s probably paedophiles or rapists in your own party, Roseanne, statistically speaking. By your own logic, we shouldn’t let members of the Peace and Freedom party into women’s bathrooms either.

You’ve brought the misogyny present in much of the LGBTQ movement into this conversation. I couldn’t agree more that this is a hugely important thing to address, and we need to continue to make LGBTQ groups understand that misogyny exists, that women are particularly oppressed in this patriarchal society. I think we can agree on this quite easily. I’m a long-time feminist activist, and have seen how misogyny tears movements apart, and how we must bring a feminist consciousness to bear on these problems.

Near the end of this blog post, you talk about vitriol aimed your way by members of the trans community. Threats and misogynist insults are unacceptable! But when you imply that an entire community is made up of rapists and paedophiles, many people are going to be angry and upset. And they may have very base reactions based on the fact that a massive percentage of us deal with massive self-hatred, and are made to feel alienated and suicidal by a society which, largely, promotes hatred towards us. A hatred we have to confront in the streets, every day, when we leave our front door.

Your reaction to the anger of members of a persecuted and marginalised community, which you ignorantly insulted, was this:

“The level of their misogyny is akin to racist fascism from the nazi’s in 1930′s pre war berlin-The GLBTQ community needs to confront this and challenge it.”

As a trans woman who is also jewish; as a trans woman who is also the daughter of parents who survived two military dictatorships (in Uruguay and Argentina, supported by America, might I add); as a queer feminist activist fighting for liberation, as a person who has seen her friends bleeding after being beaten up at protests, evicted from their homes, as someone who fights the good fight against oppression, just as you do… This is disgusting and offensive.

The anger and vitriol from a bunch of pissed off people with very, very little power is not comparable to the campaigns of terror perpetuated by the Nazis in the build-up to their ascension to power. And that’s just the key here: power. Do you think that trans people really have the institutional and societal power to oppress you? In the United States, trans people keep being murdered, keep surviving horrible violence and discrimination, particularly trans women of colour, as I said above. Do you really think that their communication of anger through twitter is the same as a bunch of german dudes beating up an elderly jewish shopkeeper? Is this it?  I eagerly await your compilation of tweets, which the blog post promises.

I don’t know how to end this, Roseanne. I was shocked to hear you treat trans people as if we are your enemies, as if we are part of the powers that be, which continue to keep people fighting against one another, in poverty and misery, fighting wars for profit and propagating patriarchal attitudes. I hope you read this letter, and that you consider my words in it.

I leave you with a link to a video of me giving a speech encouraging Irish LGBTQ people to become allies of the pro-choice movement, at the March For Choice, Ireland’s largest pro-choice demonstration in 20 years, only a few months ago. One of my main involvements in feminism for the past five years has been campaigning for free, safe and legal abortion in Ireland, something which I imagine you strongly support. We have a lot in common Roseanne. I hope you consider what I’ve written here today.

Regards,

Ariel Silvera

Trans Health Forum

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TENI banner

On Monday, TENI, the Irish Transgender Equality Network,  hosted a trans health forum in the Civic Offices in Dublin. This forum’s purpose was to discuss the current context and situation of trans health in Ireland. It was divided into two parts. To start, TENI’s Vanessa Lacey presented some prelimiary results from the recent Trans Mental Health And Well-Being  Survey, which was carried out in July and August of this year, as well as a survey of HSE workers of their knowledge and opinions regarding trans health and working with trans people. After this, attendees were divided into groups to talk about different health issues facing trans people.

The results showed, above everything, the magnitude of issues that need to be dealt with, the impressive work being done largely by volunteers as well as paid staff, and the limits of what can be done without getting the wider community and health service providers on board.

The numbers here are stark. Preliminary results show that over three quarters of trans respondants have considered taking their own lives. Between a third and a half have attempted suicide, and most of these people have made more than one attempt.

And these, of course, are just the people who survive. Over 80% of respondants said that they had thought of ending their lives more before transition than during or after. Our society stereotypes and demonises trans people so much. How many more people would be here today if they had known that transition was a possibility? That meaningful, happy trans lives are possible here in Ireland? We don’t know. Researching suicide is notoriously difficult. But it’s certain that there are people whose lives would have been saved by transition, and that self-harm and suicide among trans people is a major health crisis right now. Something needs to be done. But what?

Discussions at the forum centred on three major areas- trans specific support groups and community, health service providers, and society as a whole. Each of these has its own part to play, as well as its own specific needs and issues.

Trans support groups and community has developed and expanded hugely in recent years, thanks in no small part to the work of TENI. There are now trans support groups, online communities, and social and lobbying groups working throughout the country. The trans community is more connected and visible than ever before. This kind of networking- going beyond simply support groups into forming real, deep community and connections, bringing in families, partners and other allies- was emphasised throughout the room yesterday. Because support and community groups are largely volunteer-driven, however, there are gaps in provision. For example, in many areas there is an age gap between youth groups and support groups mainly attended by older people. Consistent support is difficult to provide, since busy volunteers don’t always have the time and energy to keep up with running groups. Groups can hinge on the work of one or two people, and as people’s lives go on and they have other commitments, support groups can disappear. Keeping up long-term momentum is so difficult in what are often very small local groups. But these groups can be a lifeline.

Health services for trans people in Ireland are a mixed bag. While not everyone who identifies as trans goes through medical transition, for those who do it can be immensely important to their well-being. Unlike in the UK, there is no specific transition pathway in Ireland. We don’t have a gender clinic. There are very few medical professionals here who provide transition services. This means two things- firstly, many people have to travel long distances, taking time off of work or college to access services only available in Dublin. Secondly, a person’s ability to access these services, which may be urgently necessary, can depend on the whims of one or two professionals. There isn’t scope to get a second opinion, or to choose who you deal with. This means that regardless of the professionalism and ethics of the medical care providers involved, they have ended up in a gatekeeper position to transition in this country. This disempowers trans people, leaving them immensely vulnerable.

The lack of a dedicated clinic specialising in all aspects of transition in Ireland is also problematic. People not only often have to travel considerable distances to access medical care, but this is compounded by the different services being provided in different places. Some services, such as laser hair removal, are officially considered ‘cosmetic’. This means that people have to find trans-friendly providers  themselves, as well as paying out-of-pocket.

In addition to the lack of dedicated services and service providers outside Dublin, awareness of the transition needs of non-binary people was raised. Even professionals who deal with trans people can be stuck on a particular binary idea of gender as well as specific ideas of who trans people are and what medical pathways they will follow. Non-binary people often seek and need medical transition services too, though. Their needs- and their existence- need to be understood.

But trans people don’t only access medical care for transition-related treatment. They- of course- have to access general medical care as well, and these providers are often utterly unaware of how to deal with trans patients. Over 90% of HSE staff surveyed said that they’d received absolutely no training relating to trans people. They also reported that most of their contact with trans people was as rthe result of unprovoked attacks in public places. While a person might be normally capable of giving their doctors and nurses Trans 101, is it really okay that they would have to do this af ter being assaulted? That victims of assault then have to face even more stress, to have to worry about ignorance or transphobia in the A&E?

After trans communities and healthcare providers, the third group that needs to be educated on trans people is, of course, our society at large. Trans people don’t just show up from nowhere. We all live in local communities, go to schools and colleges, live in neighbourhoods, go to jobs. Trans kids growing up should know that there are other trans people out there, and so should the cis kids growing up with them. They need to know that they’re not the only one out there. The media have a huge role to play here in providing positive and varied non-stereotyped portrayals of trans people. Trans people are part of our society, and it’s time our society started acting like it.

To find out more, read Gaelick’s report on the forum. An overview of preliminary results of the Trans Mental Health and Well-being Survey is available at TENI.ie