I wrote a submission for the Transgender Equality Inquiry which is currently being undertaken by the Women and Equalities Committee, about my experiences as a trans person. This led to me getting an email asking me to come and give oral evidence to the Committee, something which I felt very honoured to have been asked to do so, and I was looking forward to doing so a great deal.
Unfortunately, on the morning I was due to go down to London I overslept and woke up 15 minutes after my booked train had left. This is something which does often happen, due to a combination of depression, other medical problems, and medication, and while I am constantly trying to prevent it, sometimes it's unavoidable. However, I hurriedly got ready and rushed to the station to try to catch a later train, which would have made me late, but I wouldn't have missed the entire thing. I arrived at the station just as this train left, and the following train would have got me to London after the session had ended. At this point I just sat on a bench at the station and cried.
I felt like a failure, and like I'd let people down. However, later that evening I did receive a nice phone call from a committee specialist who assured me that it was okay that I'd missed it, and they understood, and were grateful for the effort I had put into my written submission.
I'm still absolutely gutted I missed the opportunity to speak about my experiences and provide oral evidence to the committee. As my submission hasn't been made public by the committee yet, I thought I'd post the full text of it here.
Trans Inquiry Submission
Transgender / trans – Someone whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Generally the shortened version, trans, is more commonly used among younger trans people in conversation.
Trans man – Note the space between ‘trans’ and ‘man’. I identify as a trans man, because I was assigned female at birth and now identify as male.
Non-binary – describes someone who does not identify with either binary gender (male or female).
Misgender(ing) – To address someone using the wrong name or pronouns, or incorrect gendered terms (e.g. sister, brother, man, woman etc.)
I transitioned whilst I was attended the sixth form attached to my upper school. It went pretty well, the teachers were very quick to respect my wishes and start using my new name and pronouns, and they were on the whole very supportive.
The only issue I really faced was the use of toilets. Initially it was suggested that I use the disabled toilets, but I thought that this was inappropriate as I don’t have a disability that requires me to use them. In addition, the disabled toilets were located on a main corridor, so it would have been very conspicuous were I to use them. The deputy head then got back to me, and explained why they weren’t happy for me to use the boy’s toilets – she thought that a year 9 might see me in there and complain that there was a girl in the boy’s toilets. This hurt me, because I don’t see myself as a girl, and I wanted the school to deal appropriately with this if it did happen, not restrict me because it might happen. They suggested I use the staff toilets instead, which would require me to go down the staff corridor and again, I thought that this would be very conspicuous.
Luckily, as I didn’t do sport in sixth form, there was no issue about changing rooms, but if I had then I think this would definitely have been an issue for the school.
I sent an email to my entire year group, explaining my transition and everyone who replied was very supportive. I had a lot of support from friends and classmates.
The school was happy to add my chosen name to the school system, and when I had completed a deed poll, they changed the school records to match. I also had the support from the exams officer if I had wanted to update my exam certificates.
I am currently at the University of Sheffield. I had already socially transitioned when I applied to university, so I found the process fairly easy. When applying through UCAS however, I was unsure as to whether I was supposed to indicate my legal gender, or whether I could select the gender which matched my identity. I played with the system, putting my title as Mr and my gender as female, and the UCAS system complained that they didn’t match, but I think it would have let me submit it anyway. This is not clear at all in the system. In the end I applied to university with a male gender, and I have never had any issues with this. All my university documents refer to me as male.
In terms of teaching, and the content of my course, as I study maths gender generally isn’t an issue. All lecturers and staff that I’ve spoken to have respected my name and pronouns. In lectures, I even had a very good lecturer who once acknowledged the existence of non-binary people.
At university everyone has been very supportive and I have a large group of supportive friends. I have been involved with the LGBT committee and have found that very welcoming toward me.
Gender Identity Service
When I first socially transitioned two and a half years ago, I went to my GP and asked to be referred to a Gender Identity Clinic. She referred me for a local assessment, and I didn’t hear anything for several months. It was incredibly hard to find out if anything was happening, but I eventually found out that my referral was on hold because no-one in my area was currently doing assessments. About 6 months later, I had moved so I went to a different GP and again asked to be referred. This time, he referred me directly to the clinic in London (which was my closest at the time) and I received a letter from them shortly after, telling me I would get an appointment ‘soon’.
I waited for many months, checking occasionally with the clinic to see if there was any progress. About 9 months after my referral I was invited to the clinic for an information day. This wasn’t an appointment, but they did give me some useful information, and do some blood tests. It was very disappointing however, that it wasn’t an actual appointment and nothing really came of it.
About 3 months later, a year after I’d been referred, and by which point I had moved up to Sheffield, I received my first appointment at the clinic in London. I had to travel down from Sheffield for this, and my trains were delayed meaning I was slightly late to the appointment. The office staff were rather rude to me, and I was quite stressed and upset. Luckily the clinician decided to still see me, although he made it clear that he was doing me a special favour.
I was told that I could have hormones by my second appointment, once I’d been seen twice.
As I was now living in Sheffield, I asked about being transferred to the clinic in Sheffield, and I was told that it would take less than 3 months for me to be seen in Sheffield and I wouldn’t have to go to the back of the waiting list. I thought that this was a good option, as I found it incredibly stressful and tiring to have to travel down to London. Due to my physical limitations at that time, I simply didn’t think I could manage it.
I was told that my assessment should be continuous between the clinics and there should be no gap in my care now that I’d started the assessment process. I was told that I would only need to be seen once more before I would be prescribed hormones, which are what I really need to be able to feel comfortable and happy within myself.
I then went home and received a letter shortly after from the clinician I’d seen detailing my appointment. He had said he would forward this on to the clinic in Sheffield and ask them to see me, so I phoned the Sheffield clinic and they had no record of me. I wrote to the clinician in London and 3 months after my appointment with him, he finally sent a letter to the Sheffield clinic, which they received in February. The Sheffield clinic then said that I would have to wait 3 months from the date of them receiving the letter for an appointment. I was angry about this, but there wasn’t much I could do so I resigned myself to another few months of waiting.
After 3 months, in May, I phoned the Sheffield clinic again, and was told that they had only just written to London to get my notes sent up. another month went by and they still hadn’t received them, so I sent them the letters they had, and eventually they sent me my first appointment.
So, in July I had my first appointment in Sheffield, now two years and five months after initially asking to be referred. The first thing the clinician said to me was to accuse me of being late, when in fact I wasn’t, the receptionists had just failed to notify her on time that I had arrived. She also questioned why I had a chaperone with my and who he was, making me feel like he wasn’t welcome in the appointment, when I had brought him along for support.
The next thing the clinician did, was to spent a while logging in to her computer and hunting for my notes. She opened them up and complained that there were lots of pages sent from London which she hadn’t read, and asked me what was in them. I looked upset, so she attempted to terminate the appointment. We continued and I went over the same information as was contained in my notes. She explained that my appointment in London didn’t count for anything and I would have to go through the Sheffield assessment process which involves me seeing at least 4 medical professionals and being discussed by a panel before I am allowed to move forward.
This is a ridiculous example of gatekeeping services and creating unnecessary barriers to vital treatment. These appointments have left me feeling awful and almost suicidal. I am still waiting to be prescribed hormones, and it is horrific having to wait. I have to continue living my life, being misgendered, living with my voice and my skin and my face, and not being able to do anything about it.
I did procure some hormones from in the internet a few months back, but I have just recently had some blood tests which showed that there was no difference, so I am back to square one, and feeling pretty awful.
The health system has made me feel utterly helpless, like I am some object being pushed through a system which I have no control over. They keep saying they have to follow protocol, but there seems to be no human aspect to this at all. They simply follow their guidelines and rules when it suits them, and ignore them when they want to. It is in their protocol to see people who have been transferred between clinics, but they’re quite happy to ignore that, but then they of course have to follow their assessment protocol to the letter.
I have been seen by over 15 mental health professionals in the past 4 years, I should think they would have picked up any serious mental health condition that would prevent me from making a sound decision by now.
General NHS services
I have been under various mental health teams in the past 4 years, as I’ve moved location several times. They have generally been quite supportive, although the lack of knowledge was very striking. I had to educate most of my mental health professionals on trans issues. I had a few instances where I was made to feel very uncomfortable by very aggressive misgendering.
The main problems I have faced in trying to access mental health treatment have been constantly being told that the Gender Identity Clinic will fix everything, and once I am on hormones my mental health problems will go away. Now, while my mental health conditions are certainly exacerbated by my gender issues, I don’t think they are entirely caused by them. I would like ongoing support to be there if I need it, regarding issues not related to my gender identity. I have constantly had to fight to continue to be seen, with clinicians leaving and attempting to just discharge me suddenly.
I have had three hospital inpatient stays in the past two and a half years. The first was when I had only been socially transitioned for a few months, and I was still very unsure about whether I was able to ask them to call me a different name to my name on my records. I was generally treated well however, with most medical professionals respecting my name and pronouns. However there were some discontinuities in my care. In one hospital I was put on a male ward, which in hindsight I am very pleased about, although at the time I wasn’t fully aware. Then when I was moved to a second hospital, I was put on a female ward, which was quite distressing, but at the time I didn’t know I was allowed to ask to be moved so I suffered through it.
When I returned to that hospital 6 months or so later, they initially put me in a female bed, but one of the nurses was very considerate and informed me of this and at my request arranged for me to be moved into a male area.
I have been living as male for the past two and a half years, and so this puts me over the threshold for the two years required for gender recognition. I have started collecting the documents required and looking through the forms. However, it is a very tricky process and I am worried I won’t get it right and have to redo it all. I also would need to pay for a statutory declaration to be witnessed and it’s had to find out how to do this and how much it would cost. I am a student, so have very little money available to do this.
Applying for gender recognition costs £140 I believe, and applying for a fee waiver involves filling out another long form and submitting even more evidence. I can’t afford the cost, but all the evidence that is required for a fee waiver is yet another barrier to getting gender recognition. I can’t see why there isn’t an easier, more streamlined, free process for changing your legal gender.
Thankfully, gender recognition doesn’t really affect my life much at the moment, it would only be relevant for me if I wanted to get married. I have a passport in the male gender, and this serves my purpose for most things. Getting a passport in the correct gender was a much easier process than legal gender recognition, merely having to submit one letter from my GP. As much as I’d like to have legal recognition the process is very daunting and I am worried I would be rejected by the panel after going through all the effort of gathering and submitting evidence.
I have been lucky to experience very little transphobia, but I have experienced a few incidents which have scared me.
I have had a few issues in public toilets, or toilets in pubs and clubs. One time, I was just washing my hands in toilets at a rail station and an attendant came up to me and told me that these were the male toilets and I shouldn’t be in there. The other people in the toilet began to stare at me, and I felt very uncomfortable and I tried to tell him that I was male. He didn’t seem to accept this, and I quickly left, feeling quite anxious.
Another time, I was in the toilets of a club and drying my hands when a man came up to me and asked me if I was a man. When I said I was, he began insisting that I was a woman and looked me up and down in a rather threatening manner. I was quite scared because he looked like he was about to do something like touch me to check. He then hovered outside the toilets for the rest of the time I was there guarding the entrance.
These kind of incidents are hard to report and I wouldn’t know who to report them to. They are not emergency situations and I feel it’s unlikely anyone would be prosecuted, but they made me feel very unsafe.
I have also had occasions where I have had things shouted incoherently at me on the street like ‘freak’ and I’ve been unsure whether they were addressed at my because of my gender presentation or just my general appearance.