Transgender Awareness Week 2019

18 November 2019

Around the world the 13-19 November is Trans Awareness Week, a time to raise the visibility of transgender people and address the issues that members of this community face.

 

The truth is that in the UK trans people face hate, violence and discrimination in all aspects of their lives.

  • Recorded transgender hate crimes in the UK have increased by 81% in the last year.
  • A recent Stonewall survey showed that 46% of trans people had thought about suicide in the last 12 months. 
  • Half of trans people have hidden their identity for fear of discrimination.
  • A quarter of trans people have experienced homelessness.
  • 1 in 8 working trans people have been physically attacked by a colleague or customers.

 

The stats are endless, transphobia is widespread.

 

In recent years ASLEF has fought transphobia and campaigned to improve trans rights. One of the key priorities has been to push for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to allow people to self-identify. Whilst this has caused some bitter divisions within the trade union and labour movements the ASLEF LGBT+ and Women's Committees are united and have led the union's policy position on this.

 

 

David Jones, Chair of the ASLEF LGBT+ Representative Committee, says:

 

'ASLEF wants all members to be able to be who they want to be. We want our trans members to be proud of who they are and we support them in this. 'Trans means proud of who I am; trans rights are the right to be proud.' It's not right that elements of the wider Labour and trades union movement are fighting against trans rights.

 

 

Much of the discourse in the debate for GRA reform has been directed at trans women. The ASLEF Women's Committee have felt it important to defend the rights of trans women to exist and participate in trade union women's structures.

 

Deborah Reay, chair of the committee, says:

 

'When I meet a transgender person, I see a person. I am not concerned about their genitalia. However, what does concern me is that this person may be buckling under the judgement of a society that seems to need to marginalise one group or another.

 

'I just hope that others, who in previous years have been hated or ridiculed for what they look like or who they love, remember what it feels like before they pull up the ladder behind them.'

 

 

 

As a trade union our business is supporting our members through their working lives. As a trans person workplaces can be particularly daunting. ASLEF member Rachel Harper explains about her working life as an openly trans woman:

 

'One in four trans people have been discriminated against in the workplace. 55% of trans people have received negative comments or behaviour at work. Almost half do not disclose their trans status at work in fear of discrimination. These figures are no longer acceptable and quite simply, transphobia has to be stamped out of the workplace.

 

'I am a train driver, who happens to be trans now based at Bristol Temple Meads.

 

'Earlier this year, I was the victim of a transphobic hate crime in my previous workplace. The impact of this led me to not driving a train for a significant time, having many counselling sessions, being prescribed anti-depressants and moving workplace.

 

'I am fortunate that I had the support of ASLEF. Many trans and non-binary people are not in employment or if they are do not have access to a strong Union like ASLEF.

 

'Some trans people, like me, are open in discussing trans issues. Others are not and should have their privacy respected. This includes questions such as 'What was your previous name?' or 'Have you had the op?'. The correct pronouns are important as well and if you are unsure please use gender neutral terms.'

 

Campaigning charity Stonewall has an information page on their website which answers a lot of questions people may have. Click here to visit the site.

 

Rachel's story clearly demonstrates how difficult it can be being out in the workplace. Stories like this are one of the reasons why ASLEF wants its whole membership to understand the importance of being a trans ally.

 

 

General Secretary Mick Whelan says:


'ASLEF champions trans rights in the workplace and wider society.  The violence and discrimination faced by this community must be stopped and as trans allies we will fight tirelessly for an end to hate.  We hope that Trans Awareness week will give organisations and individuals a chance to reflect and to join the campaign for trans equality.'

 

The trade union movement is built on solidarity amongst workers, we are stronger together and the TUC has produced some useful guidance on how you can become a good trans ally.

 

The last words are left to Susan Greenwell, one of ASLEF's longest serving trans activists and something we should all remember: 'I have not changed into a new person, just the person I should have been all along.'

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