Every 31st of March marks Trans Day of Visibility, a day to celebrate trans and non-binary people but also to raise awareness of the discrimination still faced. There are reasons why visibility is important. At the same time, for a lot of trans people visibility feels like a double-edged sword. Being trans in the UK is, put simply, bleak and it is hard not to feel like with more visibility there is also more hatred.
Visibility is not enough, a clear example of this is portrayed by Burberry’s trans-inclusivity backlash. Trans people in the media are often subjected to extreme transphobia, with little to no support from e.g. brands who are interested in showing how “inclusive” they are but have not begun to think how to ensure the safety of trans people.
The media seems to be obsessed with trans people, with only the Daily Mail publishing 115 articles on trans issues in January alone and 87% of these articles being classified as negative coverage. These transphobic narratives in the media and at senior political level translate into violence against trans and gender non-conforming people. We can see this in hate crimes against trans people massively increasing. Between 2021 and 2022, trans hate crimes rose by 56 per cent (from 2,799 to 4,355). In 2021, a survey conducted by TransActual found a “shocking reality of the daily discrimination faced by trans and non-binary folk in the UK”, particularly for trans people of colour. The survey reports elevated rates of homelessness, unemployment, bullying, street harassment and issues with transition related care as well as primary care.
As explained by Jane Fae, director of TransActual and chair of Trans Media Watch, “The real scandal here is how comprehensively the media have conspired to ignore this situation, preferring, instead, to produce tens of thousands of words on the largely imagined consequences of reform to the Gender Recognition Act." “We are not at all surprised to find that 70% of respondents said that media transphobia has impacted their mental health. In addition, 93% reported that media transphobia had an impact on their experience of transphobia from strangers on the street, while 85% said it has impacted how their family treat them.”
Visibility needs to come with safety and it shouldn’t be just trans people who put in the work to make that happen. So be an accomplice: “an accomplice follows the lead and decisions of the community they are supporting through action. They may risk their own power or status in various ways to do this support”.
Here are some resources from Kaleidoscope and the University on how you can help, by being a trans ally: