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!

Trans people in immigration detention centres

Recovering A Future recently put in a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Home Office regarding trans people currently detained in immigration detention centres, Jess Bradley writes. According to the Home Office, as of 27th March there were 5 inmates in detention centres who the Home Office recognised as being trans. Over the last 3 years, there has been 21 inmates recorded as being trans. Given the relatively narrow definition of trans used by the Home Office in their record keeping, it is likely that this number will be higher. We had a look over the protocols governing the “care” of trans inmates in detention centres and compared them to the equivalent protocol for UK prisoners. Here is what we found:

content notes for: incarceration, searches, misgendering

Accommodation

As with UK prisoners, a detainee with a Gender Recognition Certificate (or equivalent) is required to be housed with other prisoners of the same gender. Should a trans detainee not have a GRC (which will probably be most of them) a “multi-disciplinary risk assessment” will be completed to decide where the detainee will be housed. Should the detainee’s request to be housed with people of their actual gender (as opposed to their legal one) be accepted, they will have their own private room.

Searches

Both UK prisoners and detainees who have a GRC will be searched by staff of the same gender. If a person has not undergone any medical interventions, then they will be searched by staff of the same sex that they were assigned at birth. If a person has started medical interventions but doesn’t have a GRC, the institution will make a judgement call as to what is the most appropriate course of action (reading between the lines, this will probably be based on what a person’s genitalia is assumed to look like). It is not allowed to conduct a search in order to ascertain a person’s sex / gender.

Access to packers, binders, breast forms, etc.

The protocol allows trans people in detention centres to wear wigs, packers, binders, and breast-forms. Unlike the protocol for UK prisoners, these do not have to be provided by the institution, so it is likely that many trans detainees will be forced to make do with makeshift equipment/prosthetics.

Health care

Worryingly the immigration detention centre protocols do not explicitly mandate access to hormones and other transition related healthcare. Instead, they say that healthcare treatment is a “clinical matter for the healthcare team at the centre in which the detainee is located”. The fact that the protocol does not explicitly mandate detentions centres to provide access to transition related healthcare when the equivalent UK prisoners protocol does implies that at best access to healthcare is inconsistent across different detention centres. We have sent follow-up Freedom of Information requests asking for more details regarding what access trans detainees have to transition related healthcare.

A note on non-binary

As the UK doesn’t officially recognise non-binary as a gender, there are no provisions for non-binary people incarcerated at detention centres or UK prisons.

Transgender staff

We also completed a freedom of information request for the number of trans staff working at immigration detention centres. The Home Office said they did not keep that information.

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It is worth noting that the above describes what should happen in theory, rather than in practice. Immigration detention centres are known to be rife with human rights abuses, so it is likely that trans inmates will face significant hardship. We are going to take further steps to find out more information about the trans detainees and to act in solidarity with them.

At Recovering A Future, we do not consider the environment within the detention centres (or in prisons) conducive to adequate, timely, or empowering trans health care, and adopt a broadly abolitionist approach to their use. We believe that organising for a liberating trans healthcare system necessarily involves getting involved in issues many people feel are not strictly “trans issues”. After all, trans people are not just trans people: we are also disabled, black, women, homeless, sex workers, and asylum seekers. Trans people have a stake in all progressive movements. On that note, please consider signing this petition to keep lesbian asylum seeker Aderonke Apata from being deported.

 

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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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We can now accept donations!

Help us to provide access to essential healthcare today.