Sarah Champion MP: We must listen to the voices of trans people
Former Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Sarah Champion writes for PinkNews to mark this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance.
I can’t think of the Transgender day of remembrance without considering where we go next on improving the rights of transgender people. The debate around a new Gender Recognition Act has been dominated by straight white cis women sharing their views on this in the media. Having that privilege, and also that of a member of parliament, today I have chosen to share my platform with the first openly transgender woman to be elected as a Labour representative, Councillor Anwen Muston, to make sure the lived experience is also heard.
This is Anwen’s Story:
I spent my early years in Wales. When I was about nine years old my mother caught me trying on one of my grandma’s dresses. I was immediately reprimanded, as I was when I went shopping with her and was attracted to girly clothing.
My mother would say “what would other people think if they see you?” Upsetting her stuck in my mind for a very long time. When we moved to Wolverhampton, my life changed again and all I could do was look at the girly things in the shops from afar.
At 17 I enlisted in the army. Shortly after training my regiment was deployed to Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine. One morning I went to the cookhouse for breakfast and was told that a number of people had been arrested for being gay. They were arrested by the Military Police and quickly removed from the barracks, never to be seen again. This was very frightening.
Most of my 23 years’ service was lonely. Most of my time spent thinking that I should have been born female. One evening in the sergeant’s mess I was accused of being gay by one of the sergeant majors. I ignored him. Little did he know of my thoughts.
I left the army in 1996. Luckily, I had saved up and bought my own place. At last I could be me.
Over the next ten years I purchased many different female clothes and feminising prosthetics, only to purge them to the bin after a few weeks. This went on over and over again – so much wasted money. I would also go into a well known cross-dressing shop and buy their version of feminising hormones. I started to purchase hormones on line, which I self-prescribed. This went on for several years on and off.
Eventually I took testosterone blockers (spironolactone) as well as hormones. The recommendation on the website was to take between 100 and 400mg daily – I took 300mg daily and after a short time they made me feel very unwell. When I went to see my GP and Gender Clinic I was prescribed 50mg daily.
For years, I had not understood that I suffered from gender dysphoria. I thought it was just me and felt I could not talk to anyone. That was pre-internet.
It’s not just society that has to come to terms with transgender people, a transgender person must come to terms with themselves first. It’s a big decision that no one takes lightly. For me it was not a choice, it was just a matter of when.
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If I had not transitioned I hate to think what I would have done to myself by self-medicating and leading a double life. I am proud of what I had achieved pre-transition. I am proud of what I have achieved as Anwen.
Coming out and transitioning to be the real me was the best thing I ever did. I have never been as happy in my life as I am now. I wished I could have had a fuller life and done it earlier in my life.
When I think of Transgender day of remembrance I think of the 295 transgender people murdered in 2016 for being themselves, and the 2264 people murdered in 68 countries over the previous 8 years. Britain is one of those 68 countries, let’s not forget that. This year a UK Transgender citizen was granted asylum in New Zealand as this country was deemed unsafe for transgender people.
Being Transgender is not a life choice. Transgender is not something new, it goes back thousands of years to the Galli in ancient Rome. There is considerable scientific research and evidence available that demonstrates that transgender people were born in the wrong body.
The transgender community all deserve to be able to live a full life of happiness and not live in denial and misery. We are human beings and should be treated as such.
Over the last few months the national press have conducted a propaganda campaign against the transgender community. This has not in any way been balanced nor has it been factually or scientifically researched. This propaganda has not been designed to create debate. It only serves to create hatred, and this incitement to hatred puts human beings in danger of violence, social exclusion and isolation.