Opinion

“The time for debate is over. Now, we all need to act on transgender hate crimes”

Posted by
Juno Dawson
Published
transgender woman

As transgender hate crimes rise by 81% in England, Scotland and Wales, author Juno Dawson explains why she hopes this new data “is a wake-up call that very boring, ordinary people are being hurt, abused, harassed and killed”.

The Home Office has announced an 81% rise in transphobic hate crimes recorded by police forces in England, Scotland and Wales in the last financial year, compared to 2016-2017. Sobering stuff but, if you’re surprised, you haven’t been paying attention.

As it often does, the Home Office attributed this startling rise in reported crimes to better rates of recording, but all that means – unless I’m missing something – is that these crimes have long been hidden. I’m sceptical, however, that this fully explains such an astonishing rise. After all, it’s not as if Caitlyn Jenner invented the concept of transgenderism in 2015.

I don’t know any trans person who hasn’t in some way faced transphobic abuse, if not an actual hate crime. I just consider myself very lucky we have gun control in this country, or we’d see more headlines like the ones we see in the USA, where trans women of colour are being murdered at an alarming rate.

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To enable people to treat us like humans, it’s the part time job of any trans person in the media (and especially trans women) to perform your trauma. For your sympathy, allow me to share my personal experiences of transphobia. In the early days of my transition, I had to travel from Wandsworth to Vauxhall. This is but two stops on the overground. Unluckily for me, a seemingly well-bred stag do got on at Clapham Junction and ‘clocked’ me as transgender. You know when people are talking about you, and before long they were singing Aerosmith’s Dude (Looks Like a Lady) before attempting to pull up my dress to see what was underneath. This is, of course, sexual assault. I got off the train and told no one.

If that’s not sufficient, I can also go into the Tinder date from hell which ended with an (unbeknownst to me) married man threatening to throw acid in my face when I discovered his true identity. I didn’t report that either. That’s how I know that that 81% figure is merely the tip of the iceberg.

My incidents happened in lovely, liberal London and Brighton, which you’d assume would be au fait with a bit of diversity. I also can’t speak of the report’s findings that there are ‘peaks’ in the data for Yorkshire and ‘dips’ in Suffolk and Merseyside. Perhaps LGBTQ+ liaison officers there are doing better outreach; perhaps people are nicer in those parts of the country.

I don’t think there’s any great mystery behind these findings. We know trans people are nothing new, we’ve been around forever. But what has changed since 2014 (when I came out as trans) is the culture and conversation around trans lives, especially in the UK. When I was touring Australia last year – not known for its progressive views – they were baffled about the attitudes in the British press towards the trans community. When transphobia, thinly-veiled as ‘concerns’ or ‘debates’, have been given so much oxygen in the media it emboldens a far less polite debate on the streets. All those column inches have seeded an insidious subtext: trans women pose a threat to women and children. We are now reaping the consequences of that scaremongering. Trans men are ignored entirely, while Piers Morgan has ridiculed non-binary people every morning, on national television, for about two years. Is it really surprising that this mockery has caught on?

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There is a twisted irony in that a lot of those people debating trans lives would have women like me blocked from services that seek to protect women, when all statistics show we are especially vulnerable.

The time for debate is done. Last year the media decided that global warming is a reality that was no longer up for discussion. I’d like to see that same happen for trans lives. We’ve always been here, we deserve basic rights to our identity, and a bit of dignity and respect. There’s nothing to debate.

I like to think some of those transphobic hate crimes were reported by not-trans (cisgender) people. If I was on a train and I saw racist abuse, I would absolutely report it. I hope cis people are doing the same if they see trans people being harassed or assaulted. I think it starts closer to home, too. It starts with a zero tolerance attitude towards transphobia. I’d like people reading this to challenge their partners, friends and family members the next time they use the ‘T-Word’. You know the one I mean, it rhymes with ‘granny’. It’s time to interrogate those ‘concerns’ shared in the press. Are they ‘concerns’ or are they sweeping, prejudiced assumptions about a whole minority group?

Trans people must no longer be the butt of the joke. I hope this new data is a wake-up call that very boring, ordinary people are being hurt, abused, harassed and killed. It really has stopped being funny.

Image: Getty

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