Special feature article for Transgender Awareness Week
13th-19th Nov 2021
The individual experiences of trans people can vary significantly from person to person. Even in ‘developed’ countries, where advances have been made, scope for enhancements always exist. Set backs are an inevitability on the path of progress as demonstrated by the backlash following the revision of the U.K’s 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in 2015. For Transgender Awareness week, it seems fitting to cast a wide scope over events experienced by trans and gender diverse people of the world.
Huge political, social and legal disparities exist from country to country. In some European nations, Canada and the USA for example, established accessibility to services and health care provision exists. Although waiting lists continue to grow and treatment demand far exceeds provision, services have at least continued to expand and evolve. Increased awareness of gender identity and trans individuals rightly continues to grow. But in these modern times of increased political polarisation and social media, discrimination remains prevalent and a sometimes overwhelming source of distress for many.
In the U.S, the first passport with an ‘X’ gender marker was issued in October 2021. In the same month, 4* Admiral Rachel Levine also became the first US trans Public Health Officer. Closer to home, two transgender Green Party women won sets in the next German Parliament. The growing visibility of trans individuals is welcome indeed but even as I write about recent ‘gains’ I’m thinking things will only have truly levelled up when this kind of news is no longer news.
Further afield, many trans individuals remain highly vulnerable. In Oct 2021, a trans woman fled from Malaysia after she was threatened with being sent to a rehabilitation camp where she could “return to the right path” after being approached for wearing a hijab at a religious event.
The return Taliban government in Afghanistan once again raises concerns regarding women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights. The government there has already announced that the latter will not be respected, with calls for the U.K government to speed up evacuation of vulnerable people.
In parts of Latin America and In Central America, barriers exist for accessing basic services and change of name and gender identity . As for so many cases of inequality, social change only occurs after tragedy and public outcry. In Honduras, the now well known case of Vicky Hernandez exemplifies the challenges, lack of justice and inhumanity faced by many trans people and their families. At 26 years of age, Vicky was found dead with a blow to her head. Not only was an autopsy denied, there was a refusal by the regional authorities to carry out an investigation. After 12 years, some forward legal movement has occurred with the family finally receiving some reparations and a requirement made of the local authority to reopen the case.
Huge inequities are also experienced by trans and gender diverse individuals in many parts of the African continent, where services are severely lacking. However, some hope occurred in 2020 with the creation of the African Trans Network, formed to strengthen the human rights advocacy and network capacity of trans movements.
The first step for change is always increased awareness. Whatever climactic variances exist, some light always makes its way through, often after the most outrageous storms have been battled.