Theres no place like home…

An anonymous Recovering A Future member talks about their experiences of being vulnerably housed and the relationship between housing and trans health.

Content notes: transphobia, ableism, bullying, harassment, homelessness, mention of emotional abuse

I’m running out of money to pay my rent.

Last year, I was homeless and/or in emergency accommodations for six months. I had to leave my shared house following a campaign of transphobic and ableist harassment from one of my housemates. When my emergency accommodations ran out, I was back on peoples’ sofas. There came a point when having a stable place to live for more than a few weeks became more important than my bank balance, so I forked out for a private rent. I still think this was the best thing I could do at the time, as my time on sofas had tested some of my relationships past breaking point and there was no sign that any of the house sharing arrangements I’d tried to make were going to come through at any time soon. (And I wasn’t comfortable moving in with people I didn’t know and trust bearing in mind the events that had made me homeless.) However, six months later, my fixed term contract has ended. I don’t have to leave as it automatically converts to a rolling contract, but I can’t afford to stay. (To be honest, I was lucky to have the money to pay for those first months – for many people in my situation that wouldn’t have been an option.)

So, over a year after I became homeless, the fallout still keeps coming.

Why is this relevant to trans health?

Shelter and safety are some of our most basic needs. If these needs are not met, the resultant stressors make it harder for us to fulfil other needs or tasks – crucially here, to take care of ourselves. A certain level of safety and protection from the elements cannot be separated from this self-care and maintenance of health. Beyond this, the stability of a home puts us in a better position to do things that not only maintain basic health but enhance our wellbeing, whatever that means for us. So for me, I find my mental health is better when I can fulfil my creative impulses, by crafting or playing instruments – but these require safe spaces to store materials and equipment.

Trans people are at higher risk of becoming homeless or vulnerably housed. This can be due to being driven out of shared homes by housemates or family, or by transphobic discrimination whilst looking for accommodation.

Furthermore, we can encounter the same discrimination when trying to access the very services that are meant to support us in these situations, be these shelters, day centres, jobcentres… you name it. Also, some of these services will not help those who they describe as “intentionally homeless” – people like me who chose to leave houses. No matter if it would have been unsafe for you to stay, apparently this makes you undeserving of help. These sorts of situations, escaping abusive environments which I cannot call homes, are frequently the reasons that we trans people become homeless or vulnerably housed.

And, as I said previously, the fallout keeps coming.

Needing to move somewhere cheaper for me means moving into a houseshare again. I am still very anxious about who I will live with. Having a more stable home has put me in a position to put energy into my friendships again, and I feel a sense of community and family. With the right people, I hope to have the feeling of support also in a home situation. But until then, I am really worried. Will I find somewhere suitable to live, with people who can be “at home” together? Will I find these people and place before my money runs out? Will I be back on peoples’ sofas again? Should I resort to asking for loans from emotionally abusive family members who are some of the people I wish to escape in the first place…?

If you are affected by similar issues, you might find our list of resources for vulnerably housed or homeless trans people useful.

Trans Health Rants

From 17th to 19th March Recovering A Future attended the National Union of Students annual LGBT campaign conference. On the second day of conference we organised a fringe for delegates to share their experiences of trying to access healthcare as a trans person – the Trans Health Rants fringe. The fringe proved popular and successful, and we agreed to meet again on the third day to continue sharing, Francis Myerscough writes:

(Content-note: erasure of trans experience, cissexist healthcare experiences (including but not limited to medical transition) - no details, more writing about talking about healthcare.)

This was organised to provide a trans-only space to share with each other our stories of accessing healthcare, be it transition-related or no. We thought this might be useful for multiple reasons.

Firstly, it can be very validating to share these experiences with a room and to not have them questioned; there was no (hopefully-)well-meaning-but-ignorant cis person in the corner to pipe up “but what if these are all secondary symptoms of your transness”. In sharing our stories and listening to those of others we form the bonds of solidarity that we are so often denied by cissexist society, both by the medical professions and the lay population.

And knowing there is that belief makes it easier to tell the stories. When we’ve stayed quiet about our experiences for so long, to be able to share them is a cathartic experience. So there’s also this therapeutic potential.

Finally, these acts of sharing have the potential to serve as a record of the routine health injustices faced by trans people. While the fringes were not minuted, we agreed as a group that ATH would start a Trans Health Rants blog which trans folk could submit our stories to. These would then be published anonymously online. In this way, we can continue to share our experiences in a space maintained and moderated by other trans folk so hopefully that sense of validation and catharsis will still be there. As a bonus this also means we have a record of the injustices we face that we can direct others to for use in organising campaigns.

You can find the Trans Health Rants blog here. Submissions are anonymous; they just require a title, any content warnings, the rant itself, and any tags. Rant away!

Transitional Demands

Jess Bradley and Francis Myerscough write about trans time, transition, and demands, as part of Recovering A Future’s series on trans mental health and activism.

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Time works differently for trans people.

And its not because we are always late to things. (Although this might be a factor).

Cis people might not notice it, but we live in a different time zone. To them, our words, behaviours, our actions all happen in the present tense. To us, though, cis people sound… glitchy. Like hearing a CD skip ever so slightly or catching the delay between audio and video on an old laptop.

Trans people are time-travellers. (This explains why we never look, nor act, our age).

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Everytime I cross the road I expect to be run over. I’ve never been run over before, and “rationally” I know its unlikely to happen in the future. But still I find myself either sprinting across the road when its quiet, or waiting to cross the road with the pregnant lady so no-one ploughs me over. My obsession over road crossing is just one area in which my anxiety from living in a transphobic society coalesces outwardly into something which other people might recognise as weird.

For most trans people I know, anxiety is a constant companion. Sometimes it comes over us like the photo-negative of a sugar rush, intense, whilst other times it sits quietly but presently in the background. And when its not there, we anticipate its arrival.

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We live in a time of anticipation.

We anticipate misgendering, perplexed looks, ignorance, transphobia. Even when what we anticipate does not occur (yet), we act as if it has, and it becomes an inevitability.

I think it has something to do with waiting lists. My whole life seems to be about waiting lists nowadays (even if I am not on one yet - I am waiting to be on one). We are kept in a constant state of anticipation: waiting for a letter or phonecall from the GIC, a prescription, a surgery date…

We are used to waiting, orientated towards the future like iron filings lining themselves up towards a magnet. We are focussed on the future whether that’s the future where we have already had access to healthcare treatment, or the future where the (seemingly inevitable) acts of transphobia have already taken place. Because we are always waiting for this future the present seems compressed somehow, like our lives are in limbo.

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But looking to the future can also be positive.

Creating change requires us to live in a state of anticipation. It seeks to build a politics of hopefulness rather than of dread, preparedness rather than an anxiousness. Its not a naive hopefulness that ignores the very real harm that can come to us, but a strategic hopefulness. One that recognises that the way we think about the future has an impact on the present.

This isn’t about positive thinking or some individualistic bullshit. Its about the importance of making collective and radical demands. Demands are anticipatory. They stretch out, open palmed to the multitude of possible futures ahead of us and beckon them closer. They turn the ambiguity of anxious anticipation into a foundation that can be built upon.

What are your demands?

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