I have worked with LGBTQ+, Women’s and Equality organisations for over two decades, and while we have faced many challenges – overall until a few years ago I would have said that we were generally moving forward, with advances in legislation and social attitudes gradually creating a more equitable society, where we do what we can to challenge discrimination and recognise the needs of some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society.
However increasingly in recent years it seems we need to fight to just not go backwards and lose the rights we already have with an increasingly divided society seeing rises in hate crime and active campaigns to deny basic rights to some of those already most marginalised
While we are not the only group to be impacted, LGBTQ+ people are one of the groups who have been disproportionally impacted by this period of post Brexit / Trump / Covid – and within this young LGBTQ+ people, and specifically trans and non-binary young people.
We know that figures show young LGBTQ+ people are disproportionally impacted by poor mental health outcomes, higher rates of abuse and homelessness and that this has only worsened during the pandemic. We have seen our referrals increase by 300% over the past year, with support needed now more than ever.
For many however, the support just simply doesn’t exist, or they face significant barriers in being able to access they services they need, and we sadly have small campaign groups trying their best to make this even more difficult.
We have seen over a year of legal cases attempting to restrict young trans people’s access to healthcare, and while these have now been overturned, the impact on waiting lists and the mental health of those faced with a seemingly never ending wait to access support will be felt for some time to come.
Elsewhere in healthcare we have seen discussions this weekend around people who may fall through the gaps of cancer screenings. All women are routinely invited for cervical cancer screenings, however it was recognised that trans, non-binary and intersex people who may also have a cervix and be at risk of cervical cancer may not receive automatic invitations or be aware that is something they should request. Rather than reinforce the NHS message that anyone at risk of cancer should attend the appropriate screenings, our Secretary of State for Health took to Twitter to send scientifically inaccurate and transphobic messaging which could ultimately cost lives.
And this is not a party political issue, we have seen a failure to condemn anti-LGBTQ+ prejudice from the opposition party, with one member recently choosing bisexual awareness week to double down on their well-documented public anti-trans statements and add biphobic messaging.
Trans people make up an estimated 0.6% of the population, yet there are stories in the mainstream press about trans people on an almost daily basis, mostly negative articles written by non-trans people, without hearing the voices of trans people themselves.
While we know that the vast majority of people of course are not homophobic/biphobic or transphobic – seeing some of these messages repeatedly go unchallenged in the mainstream press and from media and political figures with large followings, impacts further on the mental health of LGBTQ+ young people.
Back in 2019 we launched our Call It Out project. The basic premise of this project was:-
“We have identified a group of survivors of domestic and sexual abuse, who are more likely to experience abuse, but are far less likely to access any support.
We, working alongside Domestic and Sexual Abuse services want to raise recognition and enable these people to access support. We want to let people know that our services are for all survivors and we are here to support them.”
I don’t think there is anything anyone would find objectionable about that, that is until you mention that group we are talking about are LGBTQ+ and within that specifically trans and non-binary people, then a small but very vocal section of the internet suddenly get very angry – apparently when they said all survivors should be supported, they meant all except the group they don’t think deserve basic human rights or should exist at all. That is the dictionary definition of transphobia.
At SAYiT we have a zero-tolerance approach to transphobia or any other form of anti-LGBTQ+ abuse or discrimination. We work with all young people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, any other minority sexuality or gender or those questioning their identity. Our priority is the safety and well-being of all young people and creating safe spaces where they are supported to achieve their full potential.
Heather Paterson, CEO SAYiT, September 2021