Today is Trans Day of Remembrance (#TDOR), a sad day indeed which remembers all the lives lost as a result of transgender-based hate or prejudice.
This year the day is particularly poignant because it follows a month in which there has been a transphobic onslaught the like of which we’ve never seen before in the British media. Each day brings with it another attack against trans people and the rights which we’ve struggled so hard to achieve. Much of what is reported is misinformation, and the voices of trans experts – of whom there are many – are rarely included.
The media onslaught contributes to a cultural moral panic which fuels both the kinds of transphobic violence which mean we have to have a trans day of remembrance, and the poor levels of mental health among trans people who have to survive and go about their everyday lives against this background noise.
Throughout this period, like many, I’ve struggled to know what I can possibly say that might be helpful. I’ve felt scared to write into the current cultural situation for fear of fuelling the fire in some way. I’ve worried that any kind of response risks lending legitimacy to the notion that this is any kind of reasonable ‘debate’.
Fortunately many excellent activists have found a voice, and I’d strongly advise anybody who is struggling to make sense of the media onslaught to check out these articles by Ruth Hunt, Fox & Owl, Paris Lees, Shon Faye, Juno Roche, and Ruth Smith & Jane Fae, as well as reading these articles by Julia Serano which provide a clear explanation of the evidence around all of the areas which the moral panic focuses on, and this book by CN Lester which deals with trans panics in the media in detail in a very engaging and accessible way.
Thankfully today a resource which I wrote over the summer has been released which I hope will be a positive contribution in relation to trans people and mental health. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) asked me to write a good practice resource for counsellors, therapists, and potentially other practitioners about working with clients across Gender, Sexual & Relationship Diversity (GSRD).
Given the distressing high levels of mental health struggles and suicide attempts among trans people, and the shocking accounts trans clients often give of previous experiences of seeking support from practitioners who were not trans-aware, I sincerely hope that this resource will be helpful. I hope it will be useful both for practitioners who want to learn more about GSRD in general, and working with marginalised groups in particular, and also for clients to feel empowered about the kind of practice they should expect when seeking therapeutic support.
The publication of this resource comes shortly after the publication of the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy 2 (MOU2): A document signed by all the major UK therapeutic and psychological organisations against the practice of ‘conversion therapy’. Conversion therapy is any approach which assumes ‘that any sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently preferable to any other, and which attempts to bring about a change of sexual orientation or gender identity, or seeks to suppress an individual’s expression of sexual orientation or gender identity on that basis.’ This brings the treatment of trans people in mental healthcare in line with that of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
I sincerely hope that the GSRD resource will work alongside the MOU2 to ensure better practice across GSRD in future, as well as a more thorough and intersectional understanding of GSRD by all practitioners. I also hope that practitioners will join activists in speaking against this current media onslaught which puts their trans and gender-diverse clients at so much greater risk.
For myself I’ll be following up my self-help book – with Alex Iantaffi – on understanding gender from this year with a further couple of books on the topic of gender in the coming years, in the hope of reaching different audiences with resources that can help them to to develop a better understanding of gender, and give them more tools for navigating media onslaughts like this one.
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