Transphobia in the U.K. is at an all-time highHate crimes against trans are escalating every yearSo, why is the U.K. getting increasingly unsafe for the Trans community, and how challenging it is to be a transgender in the U.K.?

Who is Trans?

Transgender is a term used to describe people with gender identity issues. Many often mistake gender identity with sexual orientation. However, being trans is different from being lesbian, gay, or straight, as these identities imply the romantic, sexual, and emotional attraction to a specific gender. Whereas transgender is who the person is (a female inside a male body, or vice-versa).

A mismatch between the person’s gender identity and their body can also cause severe unease or dissatisfaction with one’s gender, also termed as Gender Dysphoria.

What is Transphobia?

Transphobia refers to fear or hatred toward nonbinary, transgender, or gender non-conforming. It takes many forms, including:

  • Denying their identity
  • Stigmatizing transgenders
  • Treating them as unequal or less than other human

The Rise of Transphobia in the U.K.

In the U.K., trans people have long been warning that transphobia is on the rise, forewarning that it is becoming increasingly hazardous and hostile for trans people. ILGA-Europe, also known as the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, has released a report that confirms that unsettling reality, stating that a rise in transphobia has undermined the U.K.’s progress towards LGBTQ+ equality.

According to the U.K.’s Home Office, anti-trans hate crimes have escalated by 16% between 2019 and 2020. In addition, a human rights organization survey found that one in six people in the U.K. is transphobic.

According to ILGA-Europe, COVID-19 has been cited as a stressor that has brought attention to how LGBTQ+ people are particularly vulnerable to marginalization. Moreover, the survey found that hate speech has increased in the past year, possibly as a result of people moving back into hostile living situations due to housing instability caused by the pandemic.

Healthcare Crisis for Transgender

Though the National Health Service is designed to provide timely and free care to everyone, for trans people, the reality differs.

Puberty blocker medication provides trans teenagers time to figure out their identity. Unfortunately, many concerning events have occurred over the past year, including hate crimes and legislative and judicial attacks on transgender people. The report identified the December High Court ruling on transgender youth access to puberty blockers as an area of “extreme concern.”

Despite evidence showing that puberty blockers enhance the mental health and happiness of trans teens, the court ruled that teens are too young to make meaningful decisions about gender and that courts must approve gender-affirming medical care. The long waiting list of the U.K.’s only Youth Gender Clinic forces transgender people to wait years and live in a body they don’t feel comfortable with.

Waiting time is long for trans people of all ages, but it is not the only issue. Many trans are stuck between stages of complex surgeries, up until recently when the NHS signed a contract with the private clinic to provide metoidioplasty and phalloplasty. However, post the lockdown, NHS has not renewed its contract with the clinic.

The widespread ignorance about transgender anatomy is another reason behind the worsening health crisis, experts believe.

Effects of the Deepening Problem

Also, troubling for trans rights in the U.K.? The pause in reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, which would have allowed transgender people to self-identify their gender since Equalities Minister Liz Truss declared that it is “not a priority” for the community, despite polls showing overwhelming public support. It identified “worrying” governments’ attitudes towards the provision of gender-neutral bathrooms and multiple instances of “rejection and possible deportation” of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers.

Developments like these don’t happen in a vacuum. According to ILGA-Europe, J.K. Rowling and other high-profile TERFs can help shape attitudes around a wider range of topics. But, over 1,500 people from the U.K. publishing industry have already denounced Rowling’s anti-trans rhetoric.

The Grimming Light

The public’s general view of trans people and trans rights varies widely from the public conversation about trans people from the politics and the media. The general public of the U.K. is broadly positive. The younger generation and highly educated individuals are more likely to view trans rights positively.

Despite that, the number of transphobic hate crimes has quadrupled since 2015. According to Galop, one of four trans people has experienced transphobic violence or threats. A third of U.K. employers refuse to hire trans people. A third of trans people attempted suicide in the past. A 2020 ONS figure revealed that 20% of all trans people are more likely to be victims of crime in England and Wales compared to 14% of cis people.

The media in the U.K. had another big success. But trans people bear the brunt of it.