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Toilets to Politics - Why Trans Inclusion Matters

15/04/2016 17:44

When I was in school just a few years ago, transgender issues weren't talked about at all in lessons, and there was very little knowledge in mainstream society. I came out as a transwoman in my last month of secondary school but the headteacher had no idea about trans issues and encouraged me to keep it quiet. When I left school I made the decision to properly begin my transition.

Two years on, I am now the first openly transgender Spokesperson for a national political party. That in itself is something I am proud of, never mind the fact that I am only 18, also making me the youngest national political party Spokesperson.

Since I came out two years ago, transgender issues have been increasingly finding their way into the headlines - helped, no doubt, by the coming out of celebrities such as Kellie Maloney and Caitlyn Jenner.

Recently the Association of Teachers and Lecturers has called for better support for transgender and non-binary young people by allowing them access to the appropriate facilities for their gender, and training to help raise awareness of trans issues amongst school staff, something which has been Green Party policy since 2015.

If this support had been there when I was in school my time in education would have been significantly more productive, as well as happier. Instead, I faced secondary education, arguably already some of the hardest years growing up, being pressured into being someone who I was not, which brings with it depression, anxiety, isolation. Of course this meant my education and my qualifications suffered as a result.

Teachers unions aren't the only ones who know that change is essential to help trans students like me have a better education. At the beginning of this year, The Commons Women and Equalities Committee also concluded that teachers should be given more training to help protect trans students - but they also found that problems were widespread in other areas such as the NHS and the prison service . The teachers' union decision is welcome recognition of the struggles trans students face, but it is clear we still have so far to go. Trans young people under the age of 18, and non-binary people of any age still don't have legal recognition.

And change is always hard won. Despite the US Department of Health making it clear that trans students have an equal right to appropriate facilities such as bathrooms, intrusive and discriminatory 'bathroom bills' calling for genital checks in public bathrooms are currently flooding the US. As an openly trans politician I receive hate, purely based on the fact that I am trans, on a near daily basis. On Twitter I now have close to 400 accounts blocked, and I still wake up each morning to around 20 notifications containing the most vile content.

Small positive steps such as extra training or a safe place to go to the toilet can be the foundation to key long-term change to make our society we live in today more inclusive. But, as the traditional activism saying goes, "Nothing about us, without us." To go forward as a society we need more trans and non-binary voices in politics. I've been lucky with the opportunity to be able to stand for election, and to raise the profile of an inclusive society, but more could be done. After all we live in an amazingly diverse society, surely our politics should reflect that?

Luckily more and more people are agreeing - but there's still some small changes we need to make to get there. And there's nowhere better for Parliament to start than with some gender neutral toilets.

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