31/03/2021
Written by Emma Symonds

International Transgender Day of Visibility is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of the discrimination that they are sadly subject to many forms throughout their lives, including health inequalities.

This awareness day was founded by Rachel Crandall in 2009 in response to the lack of LGBT recognition of Transgender people. She stated there was only one well known Transgender focus day , Transgender day of Remembrance, which remembers and mourns the murders of transgender people but that there is no day to celebrate the living members of the transgender community.

Transgender Day of Awareness celebrates the diversity and courage of trans people as well as the allies who support the rights of transgender people, whilst acknowledging the challenges they meet.

What is Trans?

Trans is an umbrella term that is used to describe people whose gender is not the same, or does not feel comfortable, with the sex they were assigned to at birth. Tran’s people may use different terms to refer to themselves such as transgender, transsexual, gender fluid, non-binary, gender–variant and non-gender, trans woman, and trans men, amongst others. Transsexual was used in the past as a more medical term (similar to homosexual). Tran sexual is not generally used anymore, so please be aware of the language you use when talking to someone who has shared with you about their journey as some transgender people may prefer one term over another. It is not for us to correct or make judgment on those choice but to support and respect them.

A Transgender person will need to go through different stages to live the lives as the gender they identify as. For some this may mean medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgery but this option is not taken by all transgender people.

There is more to the physical transitioning that people have to think about, there is emotional and psychological consideration such as telling family, friends and co-workers. As well as these trans person have to consider if and how they may dress differently and give thought to changing official documents.

The Gender Unicorn

The gender unicorn is an inforgram designed by TSER ( Trans student Educational Resources) and it helps us look at gender identity:

It helps us look at our internal sense of being male, female, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you. For transgender people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender identity are not the same.

Advocates and activists

There are many well-known transgender people in society which fight for the rights of Transgender people, some you may recognise or have read about. You may be their biggest fan. I know I have several people in my favorite celebrity bag which are transgender, Laverne Cox.

Laverne is a three time Emmy nominated actress, Emmy winning documentary film producer and an equal rights advocate. You may recognise her as Sophia Burset in the Netflix original series “Orange is the new black” where she plays a pre transitioning woman in a woman prison. Laverne character not only highlights the struggles of pre transitioning but how there are challenges of living as a female in a challenging environment. The role Laverne played in Orange is the new Black launched her as the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for a Primetime acting Emmy, forcing conversations about Transgender people and the way society views them.

Elliott page

Elliot is an Oscar nominated star of Juno who announced he was transgender in a social media post

Elliott, previously Ellen, came out as trans and non-binary fairly recently sharing that he knew he was a boy when he was 9 years old but had hid his feelings so he could pursue his career.

Elliott had top surgery, which is the removal of his breasts and cut his hair short, claimed his name and shared his story. His story empowered and encouraged many people who are transitioning or have transitioned, giving them the audience to share the discrimination and bias they put up with everyday.

Gender Recognition Act

In 2004 an Act in Parliament called The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed in the UK that allowed people who have gender dysphoria to change their gender legally. Gender dysphoria is term used to describe the unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.

The Gender recognition Act 2004 actually came into effect 4 April 2005, enabling transgender

In 2018 there was a public consultation launched by the government to seek guidance, advice and opinion by those who are effected by and those who are allies of people effected. They wished to seek an understanding of how they can make the process less bureaucratic and intrusive, in simple terms, how they can make the entire process an easier service to access and navigate through. This is not an easy process with many saying its degrading, leading to very few trans people applying for a certificate.

People do not need a certificate to prove their identification when accessing healthcare provisions.

The NHS

There is evidence that LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans people) have disproportionately worse health outcomes and experiences when accessing healthcare. The NHS has made significant moves in addressing these in equalities, for both staff and patients. In 2019 Doctor Michael Brady was appointed as the National Advisor for LGBT Health. DR Brady works across NHS England & Improvement, with the Government Equalities officer and partner organisations.

Dr Brady’s main focus is to reduce health in equalities and advise on ways that the care LGBT people receive when accessing the NHS and other public health services. He will also identify ways to improve awareness for Healthcare professionals in regard to LGBT issues so patients care can be improved. Part of this work includes supporting physical and mental health issues and concern throughout the organisation and partners.

There are support networks for staff who identify as LGBT. These networks have proactive aims which not only support LGBT staff but also work to raise awareness of Trans people and the inequalities and discrimination they are exposed too. The networks are open to all NHS staff.

Health inequalities

In a recent survey carried out by 2BU, an organisation who offers LGBT advice and support for youths and young adults in Somerset we learn that:

  • 100% of young people who identified as transgender said they had experienced transphobic bullying in school /colleges
  • 98% had thought about Suicide
  • 65% had attempted suicide
  • 86% reported deliberate self-harm

These figures are staggering for our young people and young adults in Somerset but the most thought provoking element of this is that people who identify as transgender and experience a high level of bullying and harassment often do not report these incident through fear. This means that there are many more people who are not being supported

We can make a change to these figures by simply listening and by using people’s chosen name. By doing this it has been reported that young trans people who have their chosen name or pronouns used are 65% less likely to take their own lives (Journal of Adolescent Health April 2019). Using the person’s chosen name is more than just acknowledging they have change their name, it is about letting them know that they are being heard, they are valued and you take their wellbeing seriously.

YDH commitment to LGBT staff

YDH embraces and values the individuality of all its staff, acknowledging that to be productive and engaged each person should feel they ae safe to be whom they are. The diversity in YDH is what makes us an unusual and beautiful family, a family that we will continue to support and nurture.

According to our latest Staff Survey, of those that completed the questionnaire, 2.3% of our staff identify as Gay/Lesbian, Bisexual or other with 93.4% sharing they are heterosexual/straight with 4.2 % choosing not to share.

This shows us that we have a cohort of staff that have specific needs and would benefit from an avenue to raise their voice. With this in mind we encourage and support staff led networks, inviting staff to chat with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead about what a network could do to raise the LGBT profile and agenda. This platform opens up opportunities to share expertise, experience and education. If you would like to chat with Emma and other like-minded people please email emma.symonds@ydh.nhs.uk

We have also been able to identify toilets around the hospital which are now allocated as gender neutral for both patients, visitors and staff.  The aim of this piece of work is to give people choices without any undue pressure to share their gender identity. The toilets that are designated as gender neutral can be found at:

  • X-ray department
  • Pharmacy
  • A&E-AEC corridor (currently designated for staff only)
  • Children’s A&E Corridor
  • Old AEC
  • New AEC
  • Academy disabled toilet

We will continue to work towards LGBT rights for our staff, patients and visitors. Ensuring we are mindful of the language we use, engage with our Networks and partners, support and advocate for change and dedicate training and development through the trust.

If you find this interesting or confusing we are able to provide sessions that will break through the complexities and support your understanding. Please contact Emma.symonds@ydh.nhs.uk for more information.