On Saturday the 17th May Brighton marked international day against homophobia, Biphobia and transphobia – May 17th being the day in 1990 when the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of “mental diseases”. Brighton and Hove community safety forum are an established independent LGBT forum of volunteers working with the LGBT Community to address and improve safety issues throughout Brighton & Hove. To mark IDAHOBIT a whole range of speakers came and shared their experiences about being LGBT and their experiences in the community. It’s always great to see how a very diverse range of people can come together and accept their differences to listen to each others issues relating to how they are treated by society. I was talking with one of the organisers who was proud to include separate flags for gay bisexual and transgender people as a united community.
It’s difficult to imagine in the UK today how homosexuality was so outlawed that it was considered a “mental illness” to society, a danger and a threat, and something considered illegal and something to be legislated against. How far we have come in terms of acceptance of people with different sexual orientations is testimony to a diverse and caring society – and as a society we have benefited enormously for that compassion. It was encouraging to hear from Brighton Allsorts, whose work in the schools and the local community is providing direct support and advice where it is needed the most. They produce information for schools and have recently produced a booklet explaining transgender identities and how best to support their transgender population. There were a number of political parties there including the green party who are very much bringing LGBTI rights forward into the public domain. In the UK we’re not yet in a position to free transgender people from the burden of “wrongness” – the stigma of a mental health diagnosis and a reason for persecutory and inhumane treatment to be considered “normal”.
The NHS requirement for a mandatory two-year period of psychiatric assessment for trans people to access a surgical waiting list (which by 2016 may well mean another 2 year wait) means a brutal curtailing of trans peoples wellbeing. It is very challenging to have a loving intimate relationship with someone when they are so disturbed by their own body. It is very difficult for transitioning trans people to enjoy any of the rights of cisgender people in gendered spaces – such as going swimming, going to the beach, going on holiday somewhere hot, even going to a club or a bar. When treatment is practical, proven effective, and cost-effective for society denying trans people treatment is tantamount to torture. Transphobia in itself is: refusing to believe that transgender people actually exist, that their need for treatment is real and that it is OK to ignore their emotional and psychological pain.