Are Trans People Moving out of the UK?
Britain is a nation still clinging to its prejudice. Minorities continue to be silenced over the issues that affect them everyday, as well as experiencing hate crime. Ethics are changing. As people's voices became louder with social media, it seems that it is minorities who get repeatedly challenged by nationwide bigotry. Transphobia is one of those problems. It has always been around, but it seems to be elevated by the voice of the press. It became more apparent as the social acceptance of trans people grew in recent decades, and sadly the UK is far from providing a safe environment for all of them.
In April Liz Truss announced a reform to the Gender Recognition Certificate, which could arrive over summer. Reading between the lines, her propositions seem to be centered around reducing the freedoms and medical care of transgender people, such as the restriction of single-sex spaces and the reduction of medical support for trans children under the age of eighteen.
Some trans people have said that her proposals were not to be taken seriously, although numerous LGBT people have written to their MPs and charities to ask for more context from Truss around her statement. The choice of language chosen for the whole article, however, has led the majority of the transgender community in fear of losing their rights in public life. It even increased the number of transphobic attacks and have drawn celebrity figures to join in.
Although the government's intentions are likely to be less severe and promise to make a positive change to the GRA, numerous trans people are still frightened for their safety. This horrifying situation led to some of them planning to leave to other countries.
Gay Star News highlighted the actions of some transgender people, as they are considering a move towards more LGBT friendly countries. It mentioned many people are planning to move into places like Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. It could be in response to Truss' apparent attacks on their rights, which could be at worst be placing their lives at higher risk of discrimination and violence.
One of the people interviewed even bought a stab vest, as she was subjected to numerous assaults from people in public. She hopes to move away to start a new life, who believed the attacks escalated after the Brexit referendum.
I talked with Kim, one of the trans women who is currently planning to move to Ireland soon. The rampant transphobia was the main reason for the move, which made Britain an unsafe place. She would have stayed otherwise, despite the political issues and the weak healthcare system.
"The fact this human rights violation is happening during a pandemic, and few people are aware of it, leaves you feeling helpless"
"The attitudes towards trans people have grown increasingly hostile due to transphobic narratives, which have emboldened people with an anti-trans bias," she said. "Even as someone who 'passes', I am not 'unclockable"."
Liz Truss' proposals are causes for concern, which could lead to increased hostility. She believes there is a risk of a 'bathroom bill', where people would use facilities based on their biological sex. If something like that were to pass into British law, then it would give transphobes more ammunition to abuse trans people, shoving them away from public life.
"My mental health was in an extremely bad place during the weeks after Liz announced her proposals, and I am not the only one," she continued. "The fact that these human rights violations are happening during a pandemic, and few people are aware of it, leaves you feeling helpless."
Kim has considered pausing or stopping her transition entirely but has opted to move outside the UK to live authentically. With enough savings and a range of demonstratable skills at her disposal, she plans to move over to Ireland for its proximity to the UK. She talked about the bonuses of a fully trans-inclusive feminist network and Self-ID laws, which adds to the low-hassle environment.
"The best advice I can offer is to manage what isn't beyond your control," she concluded. "Confide in your friends, especially if they are cisgender, making them fully aware of what's going on. If you know and trust people in influential positions, talk to them. This helped me immensely." "It would mean virtual house arrest for many trans people, myself included."
It all seems that the blame is on the rampant transphobia, and it would be too much for trans people to stay and instead move away.
I also talked with Kate, a Penzance ambassador of Cornwall Pride. She prefers to stay, for many other countries have worse records on LGBT rights than the UK. Despite the reoccurring causal transphobia, she believes Cornwall is safer than the other regions in the UK. Kate does not have much faith in the political system to solve the problem of a recession on trans rights. She has no confidence in the Conservative government to make things better and not much more hope in a future Labour government either.
"It would mean virtual house arrest for many trans people, myself included, who could not countenance being forced to use the wrong bathroom," she said, commenting on the Liz Truss' proposals. She talked about her fears in the change of trans people's rights, she talked about toilets and other single-sex spaces. She is also worried Truss would be limiting trans children's access to hormone blockers, which could lead to higher suicide rates among them. She hopes, though, that her proposals would be challenged and not reduce their rights in society.
"I am far more hopeful about general society, a majority of whom I believe support greater rights for trans people," she said. "I can't imagine my rights improving. I just hope positive campaigning by trans people and our allies can stop trans rights declining too far."
"I think leaving would send the wrong message."
Not everyone is planning to move away, for some trans people stay for specific reasons. It can be an exhausting process to study other countries and move with as many belongings as they would need. But the other reasons could stem from the possible reactions around transphobic communities.
"No, I wouldn't move. The UK is my home," said Juliet, a trans woman who is transitioning after a couple of years and just started on HRT. "I think leaving would send the wrong message. I understand those who would, but I think it's important to stand up and be counted for what you believe in."
Juliet saw conversations from other trans people online who intend to move away. Truss' proposals, however, was concerning for her. She believed they would propagate a lot of myths around trans people. Although she noticed a lot of MPs, even from the conservatives, have condemned Truss' comments. She was hopeful it could mean they would not progress that far.
When asked about her thoughts on moving, Juliet said it would improve one's wellbeing, but argued it wouldn't support the trans community in the UK.
"At the moment we need to wait to see what her proposals actually are," she added. "If they are what we fear they may be, then there will be several actions we can take. Writing to your MP and signing petitions will help. There would undoubtedly be marches and protests you could take part in. But what we need most right now are cis allies, especially cis women. Sadly their voices will lend much more weight than ours."
"At the moment we need to wait to see what her proposals actually are,"
It is true actions are being taken to challenge Liz Truss' proposals. Thousands of cis women are taking a stand against the minister, and even signed a letter in support of trans people; it recommends focusing on other vital issues, including domestic violence during the pandemic lockdown. And Zarah Sultana, the MP of Coventry South, recently wrote to Truss for answers on the reform and questions about the influences towards it.
There is no doubt that there is some LGBT support in Britain, and it would apply friction towards the changes to the law regarding transgender people. However, when it leaves the EU at the end of 2020, it's fairly likely the UK would leave the European Court of Human Rights, which is essential in securing trans rights in the nation. That departure would also make it harder to leave the country, which could accelerate more trans people to take action right now, in the event of extra pushes for transphobia in the nation.