I have a friend, let's call him Dave. Dave has the best beard that I've ever seen anybody grow, and has a voice about three degrees shy of Barry White. He's got a decent enough job, but like a lot of people in their late twenties, doesn't necessarily have a couple of hundred quid to throw around.
Dave wasn't born Dave, and while it's easy enough to change your name in the UK, the current process of getting official documentation that recognises your gender involves going in front of the Gender Recognition Panel to prove that you're "trans enough" and have been for 2-6 years, providing certification from a medical professional to prove that you are yourself, and paying £140 for the privilege. That's just for the certificate, never mind the other £75 to change your passport. So what does Dave do? Dave shaves closely, and prays maybe it'll work out fine. After all, it's not the first time.
There was that time that he tried using phone banking and somebody thought he was an imposter trying to access his account and put it on lockdown until he went into the branch to prove his identity. Which he did, but to be honest, that caused more confusion than anything else. That'll be the beard, I suppose. I don't know what my excuse was when it happened a couple of months after I started testosterone, or to anyone else that I know who it's happened to. We're policed on a daily basis, with people trying to work out who we are. On the rough days it's people trying to work out what we are, and if you've ever thought "I wish someone would just say this stuff to my face", I'm here to tell you, that's not as much fun as it sounds.
So Justine Greening's announcement that the government may introduce measures to make official documentation a little bit easier for trans people to access, by allowing us to self-identify, has caused outrage and furore in people who don't understand what's going on. The idea that Dave might be able to just change his documentations instead of having to pay through the face to "prove" himself is a welcome one to people like Dave. However people such as the Grassroots Conservatives are horrified that it might be moderately easier to do something it's already quite easy to do providing you have enough expendable income. Enter the typical protests that occur as everyone runs around screaming that the end of days is in sight, and nothing will ever be the same again. Good old transpanic, rearing its ugly head again.
This is a matter of paperwork. It's not about toilets or changing rooms, which is lucky because once again for the people in the back who are rarely listening, the UK has no laws enforcing gendered facilities, so a piece of paper isn't going to change anything there. It's not about legitimising attempts to violate women's spaces, or leave vulnerable people in ever more vulnerable situations. It's not about making "changing your gender easier" (the phrasing of the show's and not mine). It's about making sure that a clogged bureaucratic system doesn't get in the way of our daily lives, and those really exciting trans shenanigans we get up to. Like being able to pay our bills, and vote, and travel, and work, and eat, and live.
Anybody who thinks that "changing gender is easy" hasn't been paying attention, or just can't cop to the fact that they're stirring up hysteria for no good reason. Which isn't even the worst part of the Grassroots Conservatives' attempt to discuss this on BBC Radio 4. The worst part was Mary Douglas pretending to care about us trans folk, while suggesting that we are inherently lost souls without hope - who are doomed to a life of depression, mental strife and suicide.
In fact, there are many reports which indicate that those who undergo medical transition experience an easing of dysphoria, and general improved quality of life. One of the realities is that life can be made harder by the way society treats you. You try growing up in a world that sees you as fair game, so that at 7.30 on a Monday morning you can hear all about how hopeless a person you really are. For as long as ill-informed groups continue to knee-jerk response about how life shouldn't be "too easy", and continue to insist they know what's best for other people's bodies, the number of vulnerable young people being let down is going to continue to rise.
Of the hurdles trans people have to jump, other people are definitely one of the hardest. Young people hear, and see, and absorb everything around them, so before you start pretending to care about our mental health, please let me say this in no uncertain terms: our bodies, like our gender identities, our sexual preferences, and our tastes in everything else, have absolutely nothing to do with you. We are none of your business. We do not owe anybody answers any more than you do, but for as long as you continue to politicise and attempt to police our bodies, you're going to keep hearing from us. I wrote this before and it seems like for now it's my lot in life to keep repeating the same thing: won't someone please think of the children.