"Our lack of education and understanding around gender hurts people."instagram/studiomilaa

As I’ve seen a lot recently, lack of education on a topic leads to discrimination and bigotry, which is especially relevant for the topic of gender. In the UK, gender is defined as ‘a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes based on masculinity and femininity’, the government says that it is a ‘personal, internal perception of oneself’, whereas sex is assigned at birth and refers to the ‘biological aspects’ of a person. Although, they are not the same thing, they are also not in conflict with each other. Your gender is not necessarily the same as your assigned sex and it doesn’t have to be binary. Contrary to what some think, the concept of there being more than two genders is not new and was present in many pre-colonial cultures. However, some people believe that gender diverse people and the ‘transgender agenda’ are a new threat, particularly to feminism and women, an ideology which is sometimes described as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) rhetoric.

Initially, I thought I wouldn’t talk about the author of the Harry Potter Series, but her recent, and not so recent, comments have angered many people, myself included. As someone who is passionate about mental health, her comments infuriated me. J.K Rowling argued that there is limited evidence to show that trans young people kill themselves if not allowed to transition. However, she neglected to mention that many trans people self-harm or attempt suicide, a statistic I saw played out when I was admitted to a psychiatric ward at 16. Suicide is not the only criteria for someone to be distressed, nor should we have to wait for someone to take their own life for us to accept that distress. If this were the attitude all mental health professionals took, I would certainly be dead.

"Trans people are not a threat to society, if anything, our society is a threat to trans people."

Despite what was said in J.K. Rowling’s problematic post, obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate is not an easy task. A gender recognition certificate allows your gender to be legally recognised. However, in order to get one, you must be over 18 and provide the Gender Recognition Panel with two medical reports confirming gender dysphoria, one from someone practising in the field of gender dysphoria and one from your GP. You must also provide evidence that you have lived as your gender for at least two years and this usually requires at least 3 pieces of evidence. In addition, you have to pay a fee, and non-binary identities are still not currently included. To physically transition, many people must decide between either long waitlists for NHS treatment or extortionate fees to have procedures done privately. Those under 18 can only undergo reversible transition measures. In addition, socially transitioning is difficult. Trans people face stigma, bullying, and poor family relations. They face violence for their identity and are sometimes killed because of it. Trans people are not a threat to society; if anything, our society is a threat to trans people.

I do agree that our society is still patriarchal and fuelled with misogyny, but this has an impact on all groups of people. Our society tends to benefit cisgender white men. For example, at Cambridge, the gender pay gap between women and men is almost 20%, and  the ‘Academic’ staff category are 70% men. However, although patriarchy often benefits cis men, they can still be victims of our society, evident in the statistics of men taking their own lives in disproportionate numbers. Racial disparities also further disadvantage black and ethnic minority men and can exacerbate mental health problems.


Mountain View

What they don't tell you about abuse

One thing that is extremely clear, is that trans people are massively affected by our patriarchal, misogynistic society. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard someone calling trans women ‘men in dresses’ or arguing that allowing trans woman to exist means ‘[opening] doors of bathrooms and changing rooms’ to men. These views are highly misogynistic,  as they devalue the femininity of trans women, impose masculinity upon them and stress the importance of masculinity. When used by TERFs, they also scapegoat a group of women, instead of tackling the underlying issue of structural sexism. In addition, the disparity between the ways trans women and men are treated, the former with contempt and the latter with pity, is misogynistic. It means that people who were assigned female at birth continue to be treated as dainty, misunderstood and delicate, further reinforcing the patriarchal views of our society. Anti-trans ‘feminism’ does nothing to better our society.

I could talk endlessly about ‘what they don’t tell us about gender’ as, frankly, I was taught nothing about gender, and I know many people weren’t. Our lack of education and understanding around gender hurts people. Trans people die only for existing, and, whether it’s by their own hand or someone else’s, society helps to pull the trigger. Honestly, all I can say is you never have the right to dehumanise someone or deny someone’s existence, but especially when your reason for denying them is based on an issue that is yours not theirs. By demonising trans people, you not only reinforce a patriarchal society, but you absolve those who are actually at fault.