The Conservative conference in Manchester made one thing known above all else. Trans+ people are under attack.
The Government is no longer hiding its contempt of Trans+ folk. During a now infamous speech, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said, “We shouldn’t be bullied into believing people can be any sex they want to be, they can’t. A man is a man and a woman is a woman.”
The transphobic statement was made in conjunction with Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s announcement that the Conservatives will prevent trans women from accessing women-only wards in hospitals, despite the fact that not one single complaint has been made against trans people on women’s wards in 102 NHS hospitals surveyed.
According to their 2020 hate crime report, which examined the breadth and impact of transphobic violence, highlighted the crucial need for Trans+ people to have better access to specialist care.
Nadia Whittome, MP for Labour, hit back at the “obsessive” tirade, calling for the Conservatives to give their ideas back to the far right.
“The trans community is coming up against serious backlash and hardship at the moment and they need as many people to unite and help support equal representation and visibility as much as possible,” says Alex Lynam, an inclusivity advisor from Beyond the Binary.
They explain that: “People need to help with supporting campaigns and raising the vibration in this very relevant and challenging time that we are in when coming up against hate and ignorance.”
Sunak’s transphobia is just one example of how deeply rooted Trans+ hatred has become in the UK. What was once a simmering distrust has become overtly violent, bubbling into a full-blown attack on Trans+ people’s safety and access to vital healthcare services.
Let’s set the record straight.
Three years ago 81% of participants of Galop’s research had experienced a form of transphobic hate crime. From 2021 to 2022 Galop recorded that hate crimes against Trans people increased by 54%.
Trans+ people are some of the most marginalised people in society, even more so when other socioeconomic factors like gender presentation (i.e. being trans non-binary, trans woman or trans man), class, race, religion and disability intersect with trans identity. So much so, that according to Stonewall, 41% of transgender people and 31% of non-binary people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.
The same study found that over a quarter of Trans+ people experience domestic violence and that two in five Trans+ people will change or adjust their clothes because they fear discrimination and harassment.
Another study that examined the experiences of trans women in the San Fransisco Bay Area reported that 45% of its participants suffered transphobic hate crimes. And of those, only 51% reported incidents to the police.
Zoey explains that for her, transphobia is predominantly felt online. “There’s definitely a lot more keyboard warriors who are happy to go and find Trans+ creator’s content and comment hateful things on it. And that’s across every platform,” she tells me.
For trans women like Zoey, online hate crime in the digital sphere is a pervasive issue. In TransActual’s 2021 report, Trans Lives Survey 2021: Enduring the UK’s hostile environment, 99% of Trans+ people surveyed experienced transphobia on social media, which negatively impacted mental health considerably.
Unless things change across media, which includes social, print and digital, Trans+ folk are going to become more marginalised and harmed by a fiction being peddled by the Conservative government.
Media, Businesses and Advertisers need to act now
In March 2023, Campaign reported that there had been a 217% increase in stories about Trans+ people over the past five years.
Marty Davies, Joint CEO of Outvertising the marketing and advertising industry’s LGBTQIA+ advocacy group, explains that in 2022, the vast majority of over 7,000 articles had negative framing. They report that, up until the murder of Brianna Ghey, a young trans woman from Warrington who died from fatal stab wounds in February this year, there was an average of 38 articles a day about Trans+ people.
This trend isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, either and, advertisers are profiting from the hatred being levelled at transfolk.
“From January to the end of September this year, there have been 4,629 articles about Trans+ people in the UK news media (excluding Pink News) – the majority with negative framing. All with advertising around them,” Marty tells HuffPost UK.
“In 2018 over the same period that number was 823. That’s a 462% increase. (Source: Community database Dysphorum).”
They explain that the last five years of published hate crime data from the government reveal an increase from 2,329 > 4732 incidents of reported transgender-related hate crimes across England and Wales. “The latest figures published on 05 October reveal an increase of 11% from the previous year - taking it to record-breaking levels. And we know that most go unreported according to Stonewall,” they say.
Marty says that one way advertisers and businesses can help move the needle away from moral panic and persecution is to put their money where their mouth is. “It is demonstrably true that ads are helping to fund a media demonising Trans+ people with sensationalised disinformation for clicks,” they continue, “Every business needs to think about their role in this supply chain, and the downstream impact of their spend. Advertisers have the power to choose where their ads are placed based on their values and commercial objectives.”
Marty explains that this is a fundamental exercise of commercial freedom – and one that could help to dissipate transphobia.
Company structures, policies and workforces generally need an overhaul too.
Tate Smith, a Trans activist, consultant and speaker explains that: “Businesses must not stay silent and need to take action against this increasing hostility towards trans people, many of whom will be their employees or family members.”
He reminds us that Trans+ people do not have the emotional bandwidth to deal with these daily attacks whilst trying to bring their full selves to work, so it is up to businesses to take this emotional burden off them.
“The biggest impact comes from the top,” he continues, “So, C-suite executives should look to send a firm-wide Call to Action setting out what is happening, why this is wrong and how the business will support the community.”
He advises taking immediate action like donating to a trans-led organisation and creating an emergency safe space for trans employees to come and voice concerns.
Here, senior leaders and allies can listen and make a positive impact. Tate also suggests that for greater impact, businesses should look to join forces with others in their industry and sign an open letter addressed to the Government that pledges their commitment to trans inclusion and the consequences that transphobia will have on working with these businesses.
″Businesses have long had diversity and inclusion statements that prepare them for this moment, now it is time to put those into action,” he states.
When companies make positive changes, the impact can be profound on the Trans+ workforce.
This is something that Nora Del Rosario, a DE&I speaker, trainer, and consultant focusing on Transgender awareness and issues in the workplace, knows first-hand. She tells us that when her employer went above and beyond to make her feel included, she felt was able to come out at work.
“My boss took it upon himself to make sure all of my team felt heard and appreciated. It was under his support and outreach that I felt comfortable coming out to him, the rest of my team and my company,” she says.
What can be done on a community level?
While large shifts like these can help to dismantle the moral panic surrounding Trans+ folk, community support cannot be underestimated or overlooked. For Zoey, seeing her friends share in her Trans joy and speak up on behalf of Trans+ folk helps her feel safe in her community.
“It gives you more encouragement that you’re not going crazy and it’s the government and other parts of the world that are the crazy in the whole story,” she says.
This sentiment is shared by Gabbi Tuft, former professional wrestler and one of WWE’s first transgender women, who says; “Allies can help by simply being decent human beings. Using someone’s pronouns, as strange as it may feel to you, can make a massive difference in that person’s day and even their quality of life.”
Acknowledgement and acceptance is such a simple thing to ask for. It’s part of our human makeup to need this in order to be able to flourish and survive. When looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a motivational theory in psychology, we can see just how crucial things like access to healthcare and belonging are to our personal development. It explains that without establishing safety, we are unable to find community, love and self-esteem.
So when the Government strips away Trans+ people’s access to healthcare, they’re stripping away their place in society.
“We need dialogue, openness and strength to include all parts of each other. It won’t be easy but if some of us that have capacity and willingness step into that now maybe we can avoid repeating the cycles of pain and trauma and move closer to a more understanding and sustainable society,” says Jaden Adams, who is currently touring in one-man show Transparency.
Katie Neeves, Trans Ambassador, founder and director of Cool2BTrans, tells HuffPost UK: “We just want to get on with our lives and be happy. We’re no harm or threat to anyone.”
She shares in Jaden’s call to action, saying that the time for saying and doing nothing is over: “If you say and do nothing, then you’re siding with the oppressor. And that oppressor is Rishi Sunak and his trans-hostile chums.
“We can’t afford to do that. Now, if you say nothing, then you’re saying that actually what he’s doing is okay, it’s not okay. And we’ve got to stand up and fight against it.”
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