Being Trans in the UK

"It is a curious thing, to realise and accept that you aren’t who you thought you were".   Read Lib Dem member Jasmine Joséphine Sakura-Rose's very personal story on the simple dignity of being accepted for who we are.

Despite how the media likes to portray it there’s no one story that describes what it is to realise and accept that you are trans or non-binary. For myself it was an entire series of events and realisations in my life that I ran from and hid until in the end I couldn’t hide anymore. And when I could no longer hide what I was running from I found myself facing – well, myself

One of the things I hear—one many trans or non-binary people hear—is that I’m brave for being who I am. In truth it isn’t bravery or at least not for me. I am me because it was killing me not to be. In my own life the only thing I see that could be courageous about being myself is that I’m out.

I am not ashamed to be out

But I am afraid to be out

Perhaps there are trans or non-binary people in the UK who are not afraid to be out at the moment, but I haven’t spoken to anybody who can say that. Because right now being trans or non-binary and out in the UK is becoming an increasingly scary thing

I live my life surrounded by a media that is hostile to me—hostile to the very idea that trans or non-binary people can and should exist without being questioned about who we are; questioned about our validity; questioned about whether we’re a danger to “normal” people. A media that sees no problem in running increasingly hostile articles and pieces that portray trans women as dangerous predators in disguise; as trans men as “confused lesbians”; non-binary people being “fake attention seekers”

To be trans or non-binary in the UK is to face a constant barrage of people demanding that I mustn’t be allowed the simple dignity of saying who I am and having that accepted, instead demanding that who I am can and must only be what I’m told I’m allowed to be

To be trans or non-binary in the UK is to face an ever increasing number of people who seem to think that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to define my existence for me, but that my quiet insistence on pointing out that it is not for them to have any say in who I am is somehow hostile or rude

To be trans or non-binary and to say that your existence is not a matter for debate is to be told that you are trying to “silence people”, that you are “deplatforming people”, that you are “trying to hide something”

To be trans or non-binary and say that the fact you are trans or non-binary—that you have an innate and immutable characteristic—and that you are not a danger to others because of it is be greeted with a barrage of “but reasonable concerns”; although when questioned somewhat closer these so-called reasonable concerns suddenly don’t make any sense except as a means to whip up fear against trans or non-binary people

“Oh, but what if men pretend to be trans to attack women?”

Men don’t pretend to be women to attack women. This is a reality that all too many of us know through bitter first hand experience. But claiming that men might? It’s to create the impression that trans or women aren’t women. It’s to try and portray women like myself as dangerous predators in disguise. And when this is pointed out? It is met with wild claims that just because it doesn’t happen—and hasn’t happened even though trans people have been able to self-identify in almost all areas of life for decades—it might suddenly start happening now

Because at the end of the day it is the case that all too often those who claim “reasonable concerns” are just trying to disguise their transphobia in a veneer of respectability by proclaiming “won’t somebody think of the women and children!”

“Oh, but anybody can say they’re trans or non-binary”

And? To be trans or non-binary and out is to face hostility and prejudice, as well as the very real risk of harm. There is no gain in pretending to be trans or non-binary, unless the elevated risk of being ostracised from your family, losing friends, being made unemployed or finding yourself homeless is somehow considered to be a benefit

But of course this isn’t the real reason that the “Reasonable Concerns” crowd have for claiming that anyone can say they’re trans or non-binary. They’re desperate to pathologise trans or non-binary people as medical anomalies—disorders to be pitied or cured; delusional abnormalities that mustn’t be pandered to; not people to be believed, accepted and respected for who we are—and even worse, to try and claim that there are only a tiny handful of “true trans” people; that all the rest are pretending and must be doing so either out of some entirely fictitious and spurious claims of “social contagion” or for sinister purposes

“The rights of trans or non-binary people conflicts with the rights of women and children”

In what way? As a woman I know for a fact that the hard fought and only recently gained rights trans people have do not infringe in any way on my rights as a woman. Being a trans woman doesn’t give me any more rights than any other woman. But the rights I have as a trans person means that I can’t be denied access to services or be discriminated against in employment simply for being trans. The rights trans people have has slowly began to put us on a level playing field with our cisgender peers. My rights as a trans woman does not and has not infringed on my rights as a woman, nor do they infringe on the rights of any cis woman

Being trans or non-binary in the UK was never easy. Being trans or non-binary and out, even harder. But in recent years the levels of hostility against trans or non-binary people has increased beyond all measure, and certainly beyond any sense of decency

I joined the Liberal Democrats for many reasons. At my core I’m liberal. I passionately believe in the necessity of allowing and respecting autonomy, whether that is personal, bodily, or medical autonomy because I know first hand what it is to have all of those stripped away from you—the harm, distress, and hurt it causes and how it leads to despair, self-harm, and even suicide

I passionately believe in the necessity of free speech, but also the necessity of responsibility that comes with that freedom. I believe passionately that everybody has the right to live in a free and open society where everybody is entitled to liberty and equality, especially in having the rights to express our autonomy and have it respected

I reject the idea that it is fair for people to live in ignorance, or must be forced to live in conformity; and that includes opposing the idea that people like myself must be forced to live as a man—be forced to have ‘Male’ stamped across all my official documentation—for no other reason than that was the box that was ticked at my birth. A box ticked with no regard to who I truly am. An act that precluded my ability to exercise my autonomy in defining who I truly am. An act that’s taken years of my life to undo. An act that could easily be simplified and sped up through simple and, despite all the hyperbolic claims of transphobes pretending to respectability, uncontroversial changes that would allow every trans or non-binary person the true freedom and autonomy to declare who they are and have it recognised with dignity and respect

I put myself forward as a candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the 2019 General Election because those are issues I believe in passionately not just for myself but for all trans or non-binary people from every walk in life. And when I stood aside as a candidate as part of the Remain alliance it was with one simple request; that the voice I would use to fight for that which is bare, simple decency was not lost or silenced but instead picked up, carried forward, and amplified by others. And because we’re Liberal Democrats this is what happened

Because to be a Liberal Democrat is to be a person who understands to the core that the right to free speech is one that is always exercised in tandem with the harm principle; that choosing to speak as a member of a political party on issues that affect others is often make the choice between choosing to lift up the most marginalised people in society or to seek to use your voice to seek to demonise, demoralise, and further marginalise those people

It is to understand that to stand and speak as a Liberal Democrat on issues that directly affect trans or non-binary people is to do so with the understanding that there is a responsibility to raise and reflect the voices of all trans or non-binary people who are all too often ignored by a society that does not get to hear our voices and worse, are being taught once more to fear us

There is no dignity to be found in trying to imply that trans or non-binary people are dangerous or deluded. There is no dignity being offered when using rhetoric designed to leave an audience inferring that trans or non-binary people are Other; Not Normal; Them, but not Us

Rhetoric that seeks to divide and create artificial divisions where none truly exist is to engage in behaviour that seeks to separate people from each other based on nothing more than an innate characteristic. It is rhetoric that does not and cannot allow marginilised communities like trans or non-binary people to live in peace alongside cis people. It is not rhetoric that respects the autonomy of trans or non-binary people, but rather rhetoric that seeks to strip us of our autonomy. Rhetoric that seeks to strip us of the ability to say very simple who we are and have that respected. Rhetoric that seeks to strip us of access to necessary healthcare. Rhetoric that insidiously seeks to strip all minors of medical autonomy by claiming that it simply isn’t possible for any young person who is trans or non-binary to truly know who they are, despite no such similar claims being made about any young cis person

To engage in that rhetoric is to engage in everything that the Liberal Democrats stand against

It has never been easy to be trans or non-binary in the UK. It is even more difficult to be trans or non-binary and out in the UK. And recent years an ever increasingly hostile media that seems to think it’s acceptable to debate trans or non-binary existence, and whether we should be allowed simple dignity and autonomy has made it so much worse

So many trans or non-binary people have withdrawn from public political activity because of it, and I do not blame them in the slightest. To stand against this tide of deliberate distortion of who trans or non-binary people are is not just tiring, but harmful

But for as long as I am able I will not be forced into silence. I will speak up for myself. And I will speak up for all those trans or non-binary voices that cannot be heard, either because they are ignored or have been so repeatedly targeted for harassment they cannot openly speak for fear of having to live through that hell again

And I do so for one simple reason:

I exist – trans and non-binary people exist

I am a woman – trans and non-binary people are who we say we are

Who I am is not dependant on another’s whim – who any trans or non-binary or non-binary person is isn’t dependant on another’s whim

I do not exist subject to your approval – the existence of any trans or non-binary person should never be subject to another’s approval

I exist

I am a woman

I am female

I am all of those things because I simply am

And in 2020 it shouldn’t be controversial for me or any other trans or non-binary or person to speak this as a simple fact

It certainly shouldn’t be controversial that this is something any Liberal Democrat not just accepts but also respects as part of their activism and campaigning

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