The British Government Admits It Must Do Better to Ensure Trans Equality
Transgender people are arguably more visible now than ever before. Visibility doesn't mean equality, however: Transgender individuals all over the world undeniably face violence and discrimination every day. But efforts are being made to confront this unacceptable reality — and it appears Britain may be leading the charge.
The British House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee released Thursday the first governmental report on transgender equality, the Associated Press reported. The report acknowledged that transgender citizens face "routine discrimination" and disproportionate rates of suicide and recommended that a range of authorities — including health care workers, police, prison staff and teachers — all require better training to recognize that gender identity is not a "mental health issue" but "based on individual self-declaration."
In addition to calling for a non-binary gender identification on passports — "X" as opposed to "male" or "female," the report highlighted the particular discrimination trans people face in terms of health care, even noting that the nation's publicly funded National Health Service is "failing in its legal duty under the Equality Act," according to Mashable.
"Britain leads the world in recognizing lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, but despite some welcome progress, we are still failing trans people in so many ways," the committee's chairwoman, lawmaker Maria Miller, told the Associated Press.
Britain is hardly the only nation "failing" transgender individuals. Transgender people were murdered at a historic rate in the United States last year, according to Time, and hate crimes perpetuated against this group tripled, Quartz reported. Plenty of transgender individuals also face more routine forms of discrimination, such as microaggressions and the inequitable use of public spaces like bathrooms. Transgender youth in particular disproportionately experience higher rates of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and self-harm, according to a recent Journal of Adolescent Health study.
But progress is also being made around the world — especially in terms of trans visibility. A 2015 GLAAD survey showed transgender visibility is on the rise in the United States, and vocal advocates, artists and celebrities did much to raise awareness about the inequity trans people face. And this progress extended beyond the United States: In December, Tamara Adrian became the first transgender congresswoman elected in South America after winning her campaign in Venezuela. Also, an 8-year-old Argentinian girl became the youngest person to identify her own legal gender in her country.
While such awareness is crucial, it must ultimately be bolstered by concrete legal rights and systemic support. Britain's report indicates that at least some of the nation's legislators understands this. It's time for other countries to follow suit.