Trans rights are human rights. You may or may not have come across this slogan before, but are you unsure of what it means? Then Insider is here to help by sharing her knowledge as a trans woman living in Galway.
To start, there can be a lot of terminology used when discussing trans rights and the experiences of trans people that can be intimidating. To help, Insider has put together a glossary of terms below. It is not perfect as people can have very personal relationships with their labels and language, but Insider has tried to make it clear and simple for everyone.
Transgender: A person whose gender does not match what they were assigned at birth. Often shortened to ‘trans’.
Cisgender: A person whose gender matches what they were assigned at birth. Often shortened to ‘cis’.
Gender binary: A classification system consisting of two genders, male and female.
AFAB: Shorthand for ‘Assigned Female At Birth’.
AMAB: Shorthand for ‘Assigned Male At Birth’.
Trans man: A man who was assigned female at birth.
Trans woman: A woman who was assigned male at birth.
Non-binary person: A person whose gender does not fit into the binaries of man or woman.
Intersex person: A person who is born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the boxes of male or female, which can occur in a variety of ways.
Gender dysphoria: The stress and discomfort surrounding how a trans person’s physical appearance may not match the desired gender presentation they wish to have.
Pronouns: Used for replacing nouns in sentences. When referring to people, the most commonly used are she/her, he/him, or they/them.
You have met trans people
Ireland has come a long way over the past decade regarding LGBT+ rights. While we have had some great wins, such as marriage equality, there are still many battles left to fight towards having equality for all.
On July 15 2015, Ireland ratified the Gender Recognition Act which allows any citizen over 18 to self-declare their own gender, granting trans men and women access to gender recognition. While non-binary people, intersex people, and young people are not covered in this act, Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to adopt the self-declaration model - which has since been brought in by other countries.
'Insider works in the city, you may have encountered her in your day-to-day life in our pre-pandemic world, and never questioned her gender'
There is no one way to be trans, look trans, nor a rulebook on the trans experience. These experiences are all very personal, and look different to everyone. Some seek to medically transition, some do not. Some choose to get gender-affirming surgeries, some do not. The right to self-determine their own gender journey is crucial for a trans person.
Trans people are in all parts of society and you cannot tell someone is trans from their appearance alone. Statistically, you almost certainly interact with trans people in your life, and may not realise. Insider works in the city, you may have encountered her in your day-to-day life in our pre-pandemic world, and never questioned her gender. Someone 'passing' as their gender does not mean they are more worthy of being accepted than someone who ‘doesn’t pass’ to cisnormative standards either.
If you think the transgender experience is far away from your own life, you would be incorrect. It is estimated that about one per cent of the population are somewhere outside of cisgender.
The challenges of being trans
Beyond gender recognition, there is still a lot to fight for trans people in Ireland. Transphobia is still rampant in our society. Trans people face higher rates of physical violence, sexual violence, hate speech, and discrimination compared to their cisgender counterparts. Due to these difficulties, the mental health experiences from the community are troubling.
A recent LGBT Ireland Report showed that more than 48 per cent of trans participants had self-harmed, while more than 75 per cent had considered taking their own life at some point. This was alongside high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression among participants.
With inadequate trans healthcare services available here, this forces many to seek private healthcare or to travel abroad for the care they need. These services are costly, and have long waiting lists. Some of these healthcare avenues have been known to discriminate based on other unrelated underlying conditions the person has.
'There has been a spike in transphobia online fueled by far-right extremists, TERFs, celebrities like Graham Linehan and JK Rowling, and the well-meaning but ill-informed'
Even navigating healthcare outside of gender-affirming procedures can be difficult considering how gendered certain healthcare is. Some trans men and non-binary people may need gynicogical services, or smear tests. Some trans women and non-binary people may need prostate exams. All of the above can contribute to trans people being uncomfortable in public spaces.
Public bathrooms can be stressful, where the threat of harassment in these spaces, if a person is not seen as their gender, is a real concern. These same anxieties can crop up in other gendered spaces such as changing rooms, hairdressers/barbers, or within sporting facilities. These problems are even more complex for non-binary folk, who do not fit in either the male or female spaces these spaces are usually divided into.
How to challenge transphobia
As of late, there has been a spike in transphobia in online spaces, being fueled from an unusual mix of people. These include far-right extremists that oppose the existence of trans people; self-identified ‘gender critical feminists’ (usually referred to as TERFs - trans excluding radical feminists ); celebrities like Graham Linehan and JK Rowling; and well-meaning but ill-informed people who think they are defending the rights of women and children by denying trans people’s rights.
How do we best challenge this? We can do this by working together to be better allies to trans people and educating the wider community. Here are some tips.
'You’re not going to be cast to the wolves for slipping up a pronoun, or not knowing all the 'right' terminology - but if your goal is to support, listening, and try your best, that is a great step'
If you do not know what pronouns to use, listen for what others use - or just ask. Insider promises you it is always a better experience for someone to ask rather than assume incorrectly.
Do not ask a trans person what their 'real name' is. The name they used upon introduction is their name. Be careful about confidentiality and outing. Discussing someone’s gender history with others without their consent can be dangerous, as well as betraying personal boundaries.
Respect the terminology a trans person uses and be patient with a person who is questioning or exploring their gender identity. The name they choose or pronouns they use may grow or change over time, and that is OK. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to transition. It is different for every person.
Do not ask about a person’s genitals, surgical status, or sex life - unless you are consenting adults considering having sex, it is not relevant.
Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes in all the spaces that you are in. Do not leave this work to trans people alone.
Get the information you need
Approach each person and situation with love and respect. No, you’re not going to be cast to the wolves for slipping up a pronoun, or not knowing all the 'right' terminology - but if your goal is to support the person, listening and trying your best is a great step. You do not need to 100 per cent understand something to respect something. If you are not trans or intersex and do not understand those experiences, that is valid. It should not be a barrier to kindness and respect for a person who is experiencing this.
For more information about trans and intersex people, TENI and LGBT Ireland are two great national organisations that provide resources. TENI also has support available for the partners and family members of trans people. BelongTo specialises in supporting LGBTQI+ people between 14 and 23, while Intersex Ireland are an advocacy and support group for intersex people.
If you are questioning your own gender and are based here in Galway, reach out to Amach LGBT Galway for more details about local trans support, and to TENI for other regional supports.