I recently went to Exeter Pride – what a joyful event! There are just not enough colours in the LGBT rainbow logo to cover the celebration of diversity from the utilitarian uniforms of the LGBT Police Association, enhanced with their rainbow laces and epaulettes, to the most gorgeous drag queens – it was a sight to behold.
As I stood in the glorious sunshine watching the parade dancing its way down Exeter High Street I saw Carole, from Transfigurations, face beaming at me while she marched with pride holding the Transfigurations banner.
I first met Carole at the Devon & Cornwall Police LGBT conference. Transfigurations have engaged with a number of organisations including the Devon and Cornwall Police to highlight the many issues facing transgender people as victims of crime, those that come into custody and those within their own organisation.
In researching this blog I have been reading a Special Issue of the National Geographic magazine on the shifting landscape of gender entitled ‘The Gender Revolution’, published in January 2017. It is a fascinating read – I have learnt a lot but it also highlights the difficulties transgender people face. Not only do they have their own internal range of emotions, including confusion and even shame, they have to deal with the way they can be treated by others, including victimisation, harassment and bullying. All of this can lead to isolation and depression.
There are some shocking statistics around transgender people attempting and considering suicide in the UK. A recent Stonewall survey shows eight out of 10 trans young people bullied at school or college have self-harmed and almost half have attempted to take their own lives.
At Devon Community Foundation we are PROUD to support Transfigurations who provide a safe meeting place, online forums and a social media platform, where transgender people can talk openly and express their feelings. Another challenge for Transfigurations is to help the parents of transgender children gain a greater understanding and come to terms with their children coming out as being transgender.
Transfigurations meet and regularly talk to as many people as they can during events such as PRIDE, Respect Festival, Blue Light Days and other general community based events. This increasing visibility, means that Transfigurations are being asked to present to other groups to raise awareness of the issues that transgender people face. This greater visibility resulted in them being a finalist for the National Diversity Awards as a Lifetime Achiever.
As a society we have come a long way from April Ashley, MBE (awarded in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to transgender equality) (born 29 April 1935), who was an English model and restaurant hostess. She was outed as a transsexual woman by the Sunday People newspaper in 1961 and is one of the earliest British people known to have had sex reassignment surgery. Thankfully we now have a number of high profile transgender people as role models. Even in my lifetime, as a gay person, things have changed but clearly the statistics tell us there is still a way to go.
The BBC are currently running Gay Britannia, a season of programming marking the 50th anniversary of The Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised homosexual acts that took place in private between two men over the age of 21. Look out for Is It Safe To Be Gay in The UK? on BBC 2 Tuesday 1st August at 21.00, which uses testimony and found footage to explore the rise of attacks on lesbian, gay and transgender people.
In the words of Gloria Gaynor in the great gay anthem “I am what I am . . . It’s my world and it’s not a place I have to hide in . . .” Let’s celebrate our difference with PRIDE.