As Transgender Awareness Week begins (13 -19th November) and ahead of Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November), Dr Bee Hughes (they/them/theirs), LJMU Lecturer in Media, Culture, Communication and Co-Chair of LJMU Together LGBT+ Staff Network looks at the local, national and international picture when it comes to trans awareness and allyship in 2021.
Trans, non-binary and gender-diverse people have been in the news a lot in the last weeks, months, and years. With greater socio-cultural awareness comes greater visibility, and this may lead some to wonder why we need a Trans Awareness Week or Day of Remembrance, or indeed a Trans Day of Visibility (March 21st).
In the UK we have seen positive change, There have been important legal gains, like the affirmation by the Ministry of Justice that the Equality Act (2010) includes protections for non-binary people, and that the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ does not require a person to be undergoing medical intervention. There was the Taylor Vs Land Rover employment tribunal ruling that states that ‘clear… that gender is a spectrum’ and that it is ‘beyond any doubt’ that non-binary people are protected in the same way binary trans people are by the Equality Act 2010.
There have however been a number of legal and legislative challenges. One example is shelving of Gender Recognition Act (2004) reforms promised by the Government, which leave many in the trans community wondering if and when we will have bodily autonomy and the ability to live our lives without going through complicated, costly, and painfully slow medicalised processes.
Popular media has seen a shift away from mocking caricatures towards more positive and nuanced representations of the trans community. Despite criticisms that it promotes a certain, limited, form of drag, RuPaul’s Drag Race has become an international success, with increased representation of non-binary people and trans men in recent series. The documentary Disclosure explores the representation of gender diverse people in film and TV, giving trans, non-binary and gender-diverse actors space to discuss their representation in the media and the impact this has on trans lives in the everyday.
Unfortunately, despite many positive changes, there remain people who question the rights of trans, non-binary and gender-diverse people to live their lives freely. Anti-LGBTQIA+ hate crime – including transphobic hate crime – has risen sharply in the UK. Merseyside has seen a spate of homophobic and transphobic assaults, and artworks celebrating queer lives as part of Homotopia festival were vandalised and destroyed in the city centre in recent weeks.
An International Issue
In early 2021, LGBTQIA+ students at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, were targeted by university administration and police, to international condemnation. In Poland the right-wing ruling ‘justice and law’ party in Poland have stoked homophobia and transphobia in Poland. In 2019 the Gazeta Polska published an issue including stickers to denote ‘LGBT free zones’. In 2020 presidential candidate Andrzej Duda declared ‘LGBT ideology’ was worse than communism. Earlier this year a Polish MEP with a history of promoting anti-LGBT+ views was nominated to join a European Parliament Diversity Group.
In January this year police arrested 3 activists for peacefully protesting against transphobic education policies outside the Ministry of Education in Singapore. The students were protesting interference and blocking of gender affirming treatments, with one trans student suggesting the Ministry of Education blocked her own hormone therapy. They were also protesting a lack of LGBT+ inclusive content in sex education and an overall lack of LGBT+ inclusion in schools.
Myanmar is one country that still has explicitly homophobic and transphobic laws on its statutes. The country’s Penal Code states that same-sex relationships can be punished with up to 10 years in prison, and the Police Act 1945 (Disguise) means trans people can be targeted and face up to 3 months in prison, simply for living their lives in their gender.
In Australia, anti-LGBTQIA+ protesters gathered outside the parliament building in Victoria to protest the government bill banning conversion therapy. In 2019, the American Medical Association called the violence against trans people an "epidemic”. By October 2020 30 trans and/or gender nonconforming people had been murdered in the USA alone that year, and the majority of those killed were Black and Latinx trans women. In July 2021, Taya Ashton became the 31st trans or gender diverse person to be murdered in the USA this year.
Trans Awareness, Solidarity & Allyship
The silencing and oppression of LGBTQIA+ people is an issue locally, nationally, and globally. We still need Trans Awareness Week to keep educating and developing our allies’ understanding of our experiences. Our community needs days like Trans Day of Remembrance to give our community space to reflect and grieve that some in our community are targets of violence, meaning many in the community live with fear as an everyday occurrence. We also need Trans Day of Visibility to give us space to share our stories and the joy that comes when we are supported and safe to live our lives authentically.
The trans, non-binary and gender-diverse community needs our allies more than ever. But more than solidarity and allyship, we also need our voices to be heard and for people to understand that behind any so-called online “debate”, there are real people who need your support.
Dr Bee Hughes
Lecturer in Media, Culture, Communication
School of Humanities & Social Sciences
Co-Chair LJMU Together LGBT+ Staff Network
If you would like to join the LGBTIQ+ Staff Network or have any questions, please contact the LJMU Equality Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At LJMU, above all else, we want everyone who studies here, works here or works with us, to feel respected, and respect others.