Trigger warning: This article refers to suicide and self-harm as well as transphobia.
Trans Day of Remembrance, November 20, gives the trans community and allies a day to hold space for grief and loss, and a chance to remember all the trans lives lost both this year, and all previous years.
Alice Litman, 20, took her own life in May 2022 after a long struggle with her mental health. She was on the waiting list for gender-affirming care for more than three years. Alice’s family describe her as a “bold and brave” young woman, who had a natural ability to make other people feel comfortable and welcome.
Just after Trans Day of Remembrance last year, the world lost Finn Hall, 16, to suicide. Finn was an active member of his community and spent his time volunteering. His aunt described him as “a really kind and caring person, he always liked to make people smile”.
Most recently, Corei took his own life on October 12, at 14 years old. Corei, like many trans youth, struggled with his mental health and was subjected to transphobic abuse. Despite this, he left a heartfelt letter forgiving those who had harmed him and calling for the world to protect trans kids in his name.
These are only some of the names we know, mainly the names of trans people with supportive families who have come forward to tell their loved one’s story.
Each one of them should still be here today. Finn should still be volunteering in his community, Corei should be getting excited for Doctor Who’s 60th anniversary special, and Alice should still be dancing.
Suicide rates for trans youth continues to skyrocket each year and this isn’t happening in a vacuum.
The UK media has a huge part to play in contributing and propagating transphobic hate with a growing number of articles about the trans community, despite trans people representing less than 1% of the population. For example, The Daily Telegraph published 75 articles about trans people in January 2023 alone – 73 of which were negative, according to PinkNews.
This harmful journalism was highlighted following the tragic murder of Brianna Ghey in February this year. National newspapers published her deadname (a transgender or non-binary person’s name prior to gender transition) with some also using the incorrect pronouns.
Social media adds another dimension to the difficulties the trans community face, due to transphobic users and trolls. Corei’s grieving mother was subjected to transphobic hate and trolling after sharing the news of Corei’s passing.
Sunak’s government has also come under fire for initially not including the trans community in a ban on conversion therapy – before he dropped the ban from the King’s Speech altogether – and for announcing plans to stop trans women accessing female NHS wards. And earlier this year, Sunak even blocked legislation to make it easier for transgender people to self-identify in Scotland – after it had already been passed by the Scottish parliament.
Away from Westminster, the Conservative shadow minister for education in Wales – Laura Ann Jones – has criticised the Welsh government by claiming it is “attempting to push gender ideology in any way they can.”
Others think the reality of being trans in the UK is actually worse than stats show.
Galop, an LGBTQ+ charity supporting victims of abuse and violence, released a statement suggesting the 11% rise in transphobic hate crimes recorded by the home office is likely an underestimate. They said: “The government’s own research showing that over 90% of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes go unreported.”
That suggests official data used to make and justify legislation is not representing one of the most marginalised communities in 2023 – all while the LGBTQ+ community is still not receiving support and many are left feeling isolated.
The waitlist has been stagnant since the closure of GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service), with the last patients being offered a first appointment in March 2023. The guidepost of when new interim service hubs with the NHS will open is continuously being delayed. They are due to open in April 2024 at the earliest. In the meantime, a backlog of almost 8,000 young people are left in limbo, and the waiting times grow.
If a young person is referred to GIDS at 14 years old, they must battle with the prospect of not seeing a professional until they’re over 18, at which point they’ve aged out and must join the adult waiting list which is even longer.
As the inquest into Alice’s death noted: “If you were referred today, you’d actually be waiting for over 20 years for a first appointment.”
For young people who need puberty blockers, a reversible medication which pauses the effects of the wrong puberty, there is an added distress. Prolonged waiting times mean there is little chance of them being prescribed puberty blockers in time to block puberty – and the UK is in the process of making access even harder by requiring young people to join a research protocol in order to access these blockers into adulthood.
This is a scary, frustrating, anxiety inducing and hopeless position to put vulnerable young people in. The mental impact festers and builds in intensity year on year.
Trans young people do not even get respite at school, many young people face transphobia, bullying, harassment, and discrimination in and outside of the classroom – 51% are bullied at school for being trans.
The government is meant to publish guidance for schools around supporting trans and gender diverse young people – yet there are fears it may be less about support and more about limiting trans young people’s rights to privacy, autonomy, and self-expression.
Mental health issues disproportionately affect trans young people, meaning they are at an increased risk of self-harm, that is before you consider the wider context and the additional stress that places on their lives.
Even in crisis, young people are let down by health services with CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) at breaking point. According to trans youth charity Mermaids, young people face a postcode lottery when it comes to being referred to CAMHS via their GP, with desperate young people waiting up to four years for critical help.
The failure of care towards trans young people leads to a devastatingly higher rate of suicide compared to their cisgender peers.
And despite the pain and loss the trans community faces year on year, the government turns a blind eye.
The government does not hold data on trans deaths by murder or suicide. In failing to accurately record trans’ deaths and track the data that would expose the depth of this issue – the government does not appear to be take responsibility or accountability for not applying measures that would tangibly improve trans young people’s lives.
The landscape is hostile but standing up for trans people’s rights is more important now than ever. So, this Trans Day of Remembrance Day, it’s important to hold space to those whom we have already lost, and use our voices, communities and resources to campaign for the lives we deserve, as we don’t want to lose anymore.
Help and support:
- The Gender Trust supports anyone affected by gender identity | 01527 894 838
- Mermaids offers information, support, friendship and shared experiences for young people with gender identity issues | 0208 1234819
- LGBT Youth Scotland is the largest youth and community-based organisation for LGBT people in Scotland. Text 07786 202 370
- Gires provides information for trans people, their families and professionals who care for them | 01372 801554
- Depend provides support, advice and information for anyone who knows, or is related to, a transsexual person in the UK
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
- CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.