NHS and prison services to be reformed to help trans community

The day January 6th 2016, will be memorable for the trans community, as a UK parliamentary committee has published its first report that tackles transgender discrimination this year. The report consists of measures for reforming the NHS and prison services for the trans community.

Photo credit: Creative Commons Nicky Morgan, MP for Women and Equalities says Transgender equality has a long way to go.
Photo credit: Creative Commons
Nicky Morgan, MP for Women and Equalities says Transgender equality has a long way to go.

“The voice of the trans community is never heard or represented.” states a trans woman, Natasha Scott. Dressed in a red skirt, black jumper with dark make-up, she sips her cup of coffee, as the customers at Starbucks sneak a glance at her. She is a 45 year-old trans woman, who is titled Miss Transgender Brighton 2015.

The report published by The Commons Women and Equalities Committee talks about many issues the trans community experiences, for example: Gender Identity Clinics have a mandatory waiting time of one year in order to get the first appointment, whilst the prison services were criticised when two trans women were found dead last year after they were incarcerated in male prisons.

“It’s a big step for the community as many issues are being addressed,” states Scott. Though it is unclear as to how many trans people will be benefitted by this report.

There are approximately 87,765 prisoners in the UK, among which 3,906 are female and 81,735 are male, as per the data published by the Home Office. The number of trans people in prisons weren’t mentioned and aren’t recorded.

The reason being, prisoners in the UK are placed in jails according to the gender mentioned on their birth certificate, as stated by the Ministry of Justice and it is very difficult for a trans person to get one. A trans person has to obtain a special ‘gender recognition certificate’ for their ‘acquired gender’, and then they will be transferred in the prison of their newly acquired gender.

Obtaining this certificate takes a long time, and that’s why most trans prisoners do not have it. For a person to acquire the gender of their choice, they must get their initial referral and approval by the Gender Identity Clinic (GIC). The NHS published a letter in 2015, stating that they would start treatment within 18 weeks of the initial referral.  However, the minimum waiting time for the gender identity clinics to get the first appointment in the GIC in London is 12 months. However,the average waiting time is 52 weeks in London, in Leeds and New Castle, the average waiting period is  87 and 66 weeks as per the data published by UK transinfo. 

Sometimes, doctors reject applications and refuse to treat trans people. “My friend’s doctor refused to give the initial referral because of his own beliefs and prejudices against the trans community.” Scott says, shuddering.

There are no statistics available for the number of trans people waiting for their first appointment and referral. Doctors aren’t acknowledging the backlogs.

“As a result of this, many trans people are medicating themselves, which is not advisable. As bodily changes have to be monitored.” warns Scott.

This is just one among the many inequalities the trans community faces. The trans community is often condemned and are the target of hate crime as mentioned in the report. There has been a steady rise in hate crime against trans people over the past four years. About 605 cases of hate crime were recorded in 2014 to 2015, according to the Office of National Statistics.  Morgan’s report states that hate crimes against this community remain underreported.

As mentioned in this report, the most common among these hate crimes was verbal abuse. About 40 per cent of trans people have experienced it as per the survey conducted by Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Verbal abuse can come from celebrities as well. Jeremy Clarkson’s recent comments in The Times about an eight-year-old girl who was male at birth now living as a girl have been deemed as transphobic. This has created an uproar in the trans community as the former Top Gear host has dismissed the struggle of the community.

Stonewall, a charity which campaigns for equality of the LGBT community has criticised the British TV presenter for his comments. “The level of discrimination is much higher for the trans community in comparison to the LGB community. Clarkson’s comments are extremely disrespectful and damaging. It can affect not just the trans community but everyone who supports the equality of the trans community,” Matt Horwood, Communications Officer from Stonewall.

Interview with Matt Horwood, Communications Officer of Stonewall.

As a response to his comments, the trans community ensured that the article was removed from The Times website. As Clarkson is shooting for his new show on Amazon Prime, a petition has being signed by over 2,500 people to get him fired.

Paris Lees, a famous trans activist took to twitter to express her condemnation.

British comedian Matt Lucas also cajoled Clarkson on Twitter.

“The report talks about the right issues, but how much and how quickly this will help the community, its hard to say,” Scott concludes.

Sub editor – Daria Luganskaya
Audio by Sanjana Pattabi Raman

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