LGBTQIA+ Pride Month isn’t just about celebrating same-sex relationships, and sexual orientation, it is also used to highlight many issues that are faced by the LGBTQIA+ community. One area that has become hotly contested in the UK is the topic of gender identity, and how this affects the transgender community. For pride month, we hope to shed some light on this and provide some educational food for thought.
What is Gender Identity?
To put it simply, gender identity is a way to describe how someone feels about their gender. For many people, they identify themselves as a boy or a girl, while others may find that these terms don’t feel right for them, and identify as the opposite sex given to them at birth or somewhere in the middle. Gender identity has nothing to do with someone's biological sex, assigned gender at birth, or their sexuality.
There are different types of gender identity:
- Cisgender - where someone’s gender identity is the same as the gender they were assigned at birth
- Non-Binary - someone who doesn’t identify as either male or female. They could identify as both or neither
- Transgender - where an individual feels their gender is different from the gender they were assigned at birth
Diving into transgender a little more
When we’re born, a doctor usually says we're either male or female based on what we look like, and that’s what gets put on your birth certificate. It also decides how people treat you from a very young age. For example, boys like the colour blue and are into football, and girls, pink and are into dolls. This is an extreme stereotype, but you get the point. But for some people, their innate knowledge of who they are differs vastly from the identity they were born and assigned with. Most of these people describe themselves as transgender also known as trans for short.
Transgender Woman - lives as a woman today, but was born and raised as a male
Transgender Man - lives as a man today, but was born and raised as a female
There is no set timeframe for when people realise they’re transgender and start their transition. Some people can trace their awareness back to their earlier memories - they simply just know. Whilst others may need some more time to realise that they’re transgender. Many spend years feeling like they don’t fit in or avoid talking about their gender out of fear, shame, or confusion. A great example of this is the transition of Caitlyn Jenner at 65.
Gender Identity Vs Sexual Orientation
Often people confuse gender identity with sexual orientation. However, being transexual isn’t the same as being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Gender identity is about who you are inside as male, female, both, or none. Whereas being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight describes who you’re sexually attracted to and who you feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually.
- Sexual orientation is about who you want to be with
- Gender identity is about who you are as an individual
The battle for rights in the UK
No one knows accurately how many transgender people there are in the UK, until the 2021 UK census there weren’t any trans identity questions. However, conservative estimates place around 600,000 trans and non-binary people living within the UK. Trans people in the UK face huge levels of abuse and inequality, with 2 in 5 trans people being hate crimed in the last 12 months according to Stonewall.
Currently, in order for trans people to transition and be recognised in their opposing gender, they have to go through a lengthy process via Gender Identity Clinics, which have long waiting times between 1 - 5 years. Trans people also have to provide heaps of evidence that they’ve lived in their “acquired gender”. In England and Wales, if they’re married, they need consent from their partner before they can proceed, leaving some trans people trapped in abusive and controlling scenarios.
Recently the UK government overturned conversion therapy for LGB (Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual) individuals, but not for transgender people. “Conversion Therapy” is the treatment of psychological therapy that aims to “cure” or change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity. E.g. making someone gay, straight. This new legislation means that therapy to change someone's sexuality will be outlawed, but treatment to try and change people’s gender identity will not. Many charities and members of the general public have highlighted that this isn’t good enough and is “not a real ban”.
When it comes to non-binary people living in the UK, there is no legal recognition of these individuals as gender identity, despite a petition from over 138,000 people. This rejection from the UK government would have legally protected non-binary and transgender people from abuse and made it easier to prosecute if they’re subjected to hate crimes. The UK government is failing to act.
Some sources we love
Below are some useful sources of information to read further upon as well as some great non-binary and transgender activists to follow:
Is an Indian-American performance artist, writer, and media personality who is gender non-conforming and is the author behind the critically acclaimed book “Beyond the Gender Binary”
Follow their Instagram page here
Is a multiple award-winning activist and author living in the UK who champions trans rights and talks openly about her trans experience in the public domain.
Follow their Instagram page here
Is the UK's leading trans charity helping youths navigate their gender identity as well as young adults. They have a wealth of information available
Check them out here
Cal from Sex Education
Representation in media of trans people is slowly becoming more open, normalising the discussion in the general public. Sex Education, a critically acclaimed show from Netflix explores this in a great way in season 3 with the introduction of Cal.
Find out more here
How you can help
We can all do our part to help the transgender community within the UK. It could simply be by starting to use pronouns more in your everyday language, to supporting charities such as Mermaids, which help kids and young adults as they come to terms with their gender identity.
Hopefully, our blog post has been enlightening and helped de-mystify what it means to be transgender within the UK today!