I’m the mother of a wonderful, beautiful (now adult) transgender child. It takes a great deal of courage for a child to reveal transgender identity to anyone, perhaps particularly to parents. For parents, it can be painful, shocking, confusing and simultaneously strangely self-evident. In the midst of confusion, things that previously were hard to understand begin to come into clear focus. There is also fear. Fear of the actual processes of transition and of the impact these may have on a child’s health. Fear of how society will react and, let’s be completely honest here, fear of rejection, alienation, prejudice and stigmatisation.
The fact is, transgender identity is an internationally recognised medical condition, one that is sadly and repeatedly misunderstood and misrepresented. It’s also often forgotten that gender transition may have an impact on anyone in a family: siblings, grandparents and children. Not only may parents have a child who transitions, children may have a parent who undergoes the same process. At work, your close colleague may not him or herself be in transition or have transitioned but may be experiencing the transition of a close family member or friend.
While many people who transition do so with the full support of family and friends, sadly for others their medical condition may mean that they lose home, friends, the capacity to work, even if a job is open or available to them. Social and cultural prejudice means that some who transition are brutally murdered. Others may attempt to take, or succeed in taking, their own lives. For a quarter of a century now, Transgender Day of Remembrance has highlighted this dreadful fact and has ensured that these lost lives are not allowed to be completely forgotten.
For me, one Transgender Day of Remembrance many years ago was the first time I spoke publicly about the fact that my amazing son had transitioned. I did so from the pulpit of a church where a Service of Remembrance was taking place. Almost everyone in the building, which was full to capacity, either had transitioned, was transitioning or had a family member or close friend experiencing transition. The reaction was astonishing. All too often, the reaction of church communities can be very negative, and families may even be supported in the rejection of characteristics perceived as ‘wrong’ or perhaps ‘degenerate’, rather than in fostering the maintenance of close and loving ties. I could never have imagined the strength of the impact that acknowledgement of the reality of transgender identity in this context could have.
That day was for me the beginning of an amazing journey, working to do my best to support individuals in the experience of transition either personally or within their families. I volunteer with a charity called Focus: The Identity Trust, which specialises in work of this sort, specifically with intersex individuals, individuals in transition or who have transitioned and their family members.
It’s important to remember that the popular term ‘trans’ covers a much wider range of individuals, and this range is increasing as understanding of gender identity and gender fluidity continues to develop. Transitioning in gender is not the same as being non-binary or gender fluid. People who transition may or may not also identify as gender fluid, and the type of support needed by one individual may differ radically from that wanted by another.
One step that all of us can easily take this Transgender Day of Remembrance is to learn more about what gender transition really means and to challenge attitudes that are based on opinion, assumption, ideology or prejudice rather than on fact. Taking action like this can transform society by fostering understanding rather than being content with prejudice. Some people, a small proportion of society but a large number of individuals, transition in gender.
And that’s a fact.
Transgender Day of Remembrance is 20 November 2023.
International Transgender Day of Remembrance Service, 19 November 2023
International Transgender Day of Remembrance Service (online): Sunday 19 November 2023, 3.30-4.00pm: everyone welcome – click here to find out more (pdf)
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