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Trans

One year on since being trans was declassified as a mental disorder, here’s 75 times trans rights took a step backwards

Vic Parsons May 26, 2020
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Thousands of transgender people and their allies take to the streets for London's first ever Trans+ Pride march on 14 September, 2019. (WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A year ago today saw a victory for trans rights when the World Health Organization stopped categorising being transgender as a mental-health condition.

The decision saw “gender identity disorder” removed from the list of mental disorders and reclassified as “gender incongruence” in the chapter on sexual health.

“The World Health Organization’s removal of ‘gender identity disorder’ from its diagnostic manual will have a liberating effect on transgender people worldwide,” said Graeme Reid, LGBT+ rights director at Human Rights Watch.

However, the WHO simultaneously introduced language describing intersex variations as “disorders of sex development”, a move that was strongly criticised by a global coalition of intersex-led organisations on the grounds that it would “cause continuing harm to people born with variations of sex characteristics”.

In the year since the change, both trans and intersex communities around the world have been under attack – often from the same people and laws.

And the rollback of trans rights has only increased since the coronavirus pandemic began, with right-wing governments in Poland, Hungary, the US and the UK seemingly using the global health crisis as cover to undermine trans rights – a move that has been strongly condemned by the United Nations.

But one year ago, trans people were told we would be liberated and promised that as a result of the WHO’s decision, stigma would be reduced – and that this would have a knock-on effect of improving life for trans people.

So, what actually happened?

June 2019: Legal reforms to strengthen trans rights delayed in Scotland.

Instead of being announced and implemented, long-awaited reforms to gender-recognition laws in Scotland – which would have made it easier, simpler and cheaper for trans people to update the gender marker on their birth certificate – were delayed.

As well as delaying the reforms, the Scottish parliament said it had decided not to give legal gender recognition to non-binary people.

In the US – as Black trans woman Brooklyn Lindsey tragically became the 11th trans woman to be murdered in 2019 – the American Medical Association warned of an “epidemic of violence against the transgender community”.

July 2019: Legal reforms to strengthen trans rights delayed in the rest of the UK.

More than a year after a public consultation on modernising the UK’s Gender Recognition Act – which has, since 2004, been the process by which trans people gain legal gender recognition – the government announced that instead of publishing the public’s response and outlining its own plans, it was going to delay them instead.

Labour’s then-shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler MP, said that stalling on GRA reform was creating a “hostile environment” for trans people in the UK and was a “f**king disgrace“.

August 2019: National leaders come out against trans rights.

The Trump administration said it should be legal to fire a person for being trans. New data showed almost 200,000 trans people in the US had endured traumatic conversion therapy.

Tracy Single was the 15th trans woman of colour to be murdered in the US. New York City was sued for the death of Layleen Polanco, a trans woman who died in Rikers jail, allegedly because of the “deliberate indifference” of corrections workers.

A small group of anti-trans protestors hijacked Manchester Pride, one of the UK’s largest Pride events, marching at the front of the parade and leaving trans women fearing for their safety.

Also in the UK, one of the country’s very few out trans journalists, Katherine O’Donnell, lost a legal case against her former employer The Times, who she had argued unfairly sacked her in a case of anti-trans discrimination. The case could have set precedent in the way in which minorities are protected from workplace discrimination.

Scotland quietly backtracked on plans to count the number of non-binary people in the next census – vital data that could have been used to argue for improving healthcare in the country.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison lashed out at trans-inclusive bathrooms.

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted trans women to be made to use separate bathrooms, after a trans woman was arrested by police for using the women’s bathroom in a shopping mall.

September 2019: Sam Smith asks for they/them pronouns.

British singer Sam Smith asked to be referred to with they/them pronouns, becoming one of the most high-profile non-binary people in the world. They were relentlessly misgendered by countless media outlets reporting on their gender identity.

The UK government tried to “weaponise” trans rights ahead of a general election.

Dozens of trans people in India were dangerously outed after being encouraged to apply for the local police force, which offered them jobs.

Bee Love Slater was found burned to death in a car in Florida. She was the 18th trans person, and 17th Black trans woman, to be murdered in the US last year.

A trans woman in Japan sued her former boss, who had outed her as trans to her colleagues causing emotional distress that led to a suicide attempt.

October 2019: In the UK, surge in anti-trans hate crimes.

A US judge backed transphobic dad Jeffrey Younger in his bid to force his trans daughter to live as a boy. The case sparked a national conversation about trans kids, much of which was negative and led to increasing calls for trans girls to be banned from various public spaces.

UK transphobes organised under a new banner, calling themselves the LGB Alliance, and immediately began campaigning to roll back trans rights. Meanwhile, a senior nurse revealed that a fifth of trans patients in the UK are being denied healthcare by their GP.

And it was reported that hate crimes against trans people in the UK had risen by 37 per cent in just one year. The government again delayed plans for GRA reform.

Brianna Hill was the 21st trans person to be murdered in the US. A Republican politician introduced one of the first in a wave of anti-trans bills that are attempting to stop trans kids getting healthcare.

November 2019: Continuing violence against trans women.

Scotland’s largest political party quietly ditched a manifesto pledge to support reforms to gender-recognition laws. And on Trans Day of Remembrance, two Scottish politicians invited notorious transphobes – one of whom calls trans women “parasites” – to speak at the Scottish parliament.

India passed a “trans rights” bill that was labelled “dehumanising” by LGBT+ activists, who said that it erodes trans rights instead of strengthening them.

Another Republican politician tried to introduce a law preventing trans kids from receiving healthcare, this time in South Carolina.

A wave of anti-trans violence hit Colombia, with two trans women murdered in two days.

In Japan, a trans woman was outed without her consent and mocked for being trans – on live television.

Following a surge in anti-trans articles, a United Nations expert slammed the media in Australia for its “harmful” treatment of trans people.

In Ireland, it was revealed that hundreds of referrals to gender-identity services had been lost, meaning that some trans people had waited three years for an appointment with a gender specialist that never materialised.

Violence against trans women in El Salvador continued, with an armed group grabbing a 27-year-old trans woman off the street and stabbing her to death.

December 2019: JK Rowling does not support trans rights.

A Canadian trans woman and activist, who tirelessly fought against transphobia and anti-trans violence, was murdered.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling confirmed that she’s a transphobe. Rowling also managed to bury a piece of good trans-related news: a British judge found that “gender critical” views, which hold that trans women are men, are “not worthy of respect in a democratic society“.

A trans sex worker was murdered in Brazil, the deadliest country in the world for trans people.

The largest mural in the world dedicated to the trans community was vandalised, with the pictures of trans heroes Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera defaced by vandals.

January 2020: Wave of anti-trans bills in the US.

Republican lawmakers in South Dakota passed a bill that could make it a crime for doctors to support trans youth. The politician who introduced the bill compared doctors who treat trans teens to Nazis.

A Republican in Tennessee drafted a bill that would ban teachers from the profession for letting trans kids play sports.

Trans women in the UK faced a devastating shortage of gender-affirming hormones.

Reports of coronavirus emerged from Wuhan, China, and the first of many religious extremists blamed the global health crisis on trans people.

Famous YouTuber NikkieTutorials revealed that she came out as trans because she was being blackmailed.

February 2020: British media continues to attack trans community.

Trailblazing trans writer, actor and activist Camila Maria Concepción tragically died by suicide in the US.

A left-wing British newspaper published a “shocking, vile, transphobic cartoon” that portrayed trans women as violent sexual predators. Also, the UK’s state broadcaster aired a programme in which a comedy writer compared doctors who treat trans youth to Nazi doctors during the Holocaust.

Video showed presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg referring to trans people as “it“.

March 2020: Coronavirus cancels trans healthcare.

The burgeoning coronavirus pandemic saw trans people have their “lifesaving” gender-affirming surgeries cancelled after being deemed “elective“.

Republican politicians in Idaho oversaw two horrific anti-trans bills be signed into law, one of which bans trans students from playing school sports.

A trans woman in Egypt said that the trans community is treated “like the enemy”.

Twenty men in Australia beat up a trans woman and left her unconscious on a beach.

The first trans pilot in India was banned from flying – because he had a gender dysphoria diagnosis.

Scotland indefinitely delayed plans to reform gender recognition laws, despite having held a second public consultation on the potential changes. Critics said that the repeated delays had created a vacuum, where information not published by the government had been replaced by transphobic rhetoric and vitriol.

Trans women in UK prisons are being treated “inhumanely“, the prisons watchdog warned. Conservative politicians in the country began devising plans to ban trans women from using women’s services, like public bathrooms. And a British court ruled against allowing gender-neutral passports, maintaining that Britons can only choose a “male or female” gender marker.

April 2020: Hungary’s trans community face legal erasure.

Trans dad Freddy McConnell lost the latest round in his landmark legal fight to be registered as the father of his child. Freddy is taking his case to the Supreme Court – if he wins, the judgment will help “rainbow families” across the UK be recognised by the law.

And Liz Truss, the Conservative minister for women and equalities, provoked alarm and rage from the trans community with comments suggesting she would seek to restrict healthcare for trans youth.

Six trans and non-binary Democratic candidates who wanted to represent their community in New York were eliminated, because of a rule that insists local politicians can only be male or female.

In Puerto Rico, three trans women were murdered in one week as a spate of anti-trans violence swept the country.

Hungary’s far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán moved to strip trans people of the right to gain legal gender recognition, causing widespread panic and alarm among the trans community.

Coronavirus saw gender-based lockdown rules implemented in countries including Panama and Peru, which immediately led to violence and police harassment against trans people.

May 2020: Liz Truss sparks alarm.

Tory equalities chief Liz Truss caused deep concern for the trans community in the UK, this time with comments suggesting she might remove existing protections for trans people from the Equality Act 2010.

Hungary’s parliament passed the hideous, anti-trans law blocking trans people from changing their legal name or gender.

JK Rowling was transphobic. Again.

Police in the US denied viciously assaulting Black trans woman Brianna Hill, claiming she “slammed her own head onto the concrete” – despite there being video of them attacking her.

Puerto Rico passed a bill supposedly to protect LGBT+ rights, which activists said will enable discrimination against trans people.

Colombia also implemented a gender-based lockdown, fuelling a rise in transphobic attacks.

A trans woman in Tbilisi, Georgia, said she was savagely beaten by police – just hours after one of her friends set herself on fire to protest the country’s treatment of transgender people.

More: gender identity disorder, gender incogruence, legal gender recognition, liz truss, mental health, non-binary legal recognition, Sam Smith, trans rights, viktor orban, World Health Organization

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