The 20th of November is Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Started by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, to commemorate the death of Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who was murdered in Massachusetts in 1998, Transgender Day of Remembrance has now been formalised into an annual, worldwide day of memorial.
It is hugely important that we continue remembering, and commemorating, the lives of trans victims of violence and hate crime. Being transgender, a term defined by the charity GLAAD as a term used to ‘describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex the doctor marked on their birth certificate,’ can mean that a transgender person is more likely to encounter discrimination, verbal and physical abuse, and sexual violence.
There is a huge worldwide problem with hate crime against transgender people, including within the European Union. The EU LGBT survey, an anonymous online survey of citizens of the 27 member states of the European Union and Croatia conducted in 2013, revealed that 35% of transgender respondents stated that they had been attacked or threatened with violence between 2008 and 2013.
Equally concerningly, 28% of all transgender respondents said that they were victims of violence, or received threats of violence more than 3 times between 2012 and 2013.
The survey also found that transgender respondents had ‘consistently indicated’ that they felt that their environments were ‘less tolerant’ towards them than that experienced by their lesbian, gay and bisexual survey respondents. Transgender respondents were also the most likely of all LGBT subgroups to feel that they had been personally discriminated against in the past year. This was especially the case in relation to employment and healthcare. Concerningly too, many transgender people are reluctant to report any discrimination they encounter to the police, with a worrying 59% of those surveyed believing that nothing would happen or change, in addition to 44% of those who believed it was not worth reporting, ‘as it happens all the time.’
The European Union, in conjunction with the national governments of the 27 nation states of the EU, must do all that it can to support trans survivors of violence and discrimination, and encourage other nations worldwide to do the same. Alongside my Labour MEP colleagues, and as a member of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTQI affairs, I will continue to campaign for equal rights for those who are transgender, and campaign to end the disparity of rights between citizens in the various EU nations. It should not be the case that access to, and recognition of, the gender that a person identifies with, should vary between the nation states of the European Union, and neither should it be the case that discrimination legislation and protections should vary from country to country, I would love to see, and would fully support, an EU-initiated, cross-cutting framework imposed by the EU onto all nation states to ensure that discrimination, and gender recognition, protections are universal.
We must also ensure that the citizens of the EU are educated, and made aware of transgender issues. In the UK, broadcasters like the BBC have been producing more trans-inclusive content. The popular soap, Eastenders, was the first soap to feature a transgender actor to play a transgender character. CBBC have recently produced ‘Just a Girl’, a short docudrama of a young transgender girl featuring her experiences living as a girl. The comedy ‘Boy Meets Girl’ featured Rebecca Root, a transgender comedian and actress, with the series focusing on the relationship and eventual nuptials of Judy, a transgender woman, and her partner, Leon.
However, our next step must be to diversify these programmes, and ensure that more content is produced that includes the experiences of marginalised and minority trans groups.
There appears to be little representation of trans people of colour in the media, and this must be changed, especially considering that trans women of colour are the group most likely to be victims, or survivors, of fatal violence. Indeed, transgender women who are survivors of hate violence are more likely to experience physical violence, police violence, discrimination, sexual violence, and further threats and intimidation than other members of the transgender community.
Violence against transgender women of colour is an acute problem in the Americas, but is also a problem in countries closer to the European Union. Turkey has the highest rate of reported murders of trans people in Asia, and the Turkish government seems reluctant to legislate against this. As a European Union, we must work to pile on the international pressure on Turkey, and send a message that their LGBTQI discrimination is hugely unacceptable.
Alongside my Labour MEP colleagues, and as a member of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBTQI Rights, I will continue to campaign for equal rights and recognition for all those who are transgender, regardless of their gender, race, colour or creed.
You can also send a message that LGBTQI discrimination is unacceptable by, if possible, challenging it if encountered, or reporting it to the police. You can find ways to do this on my website, by following this link: http://www.anneliesedoddsmep.uk/stopping_hate_crimes.