Earlier this year I posted a video on social media of me being subjected to a hate crime on the Tube in London. The video went viral and almost 2 million people saw me experience what it’s like being a trans woman in public in 2022, in one of the most 'cosmopolitan' cities in the world.
People might be shocked to read this but I wasn’t even that affected by the incident. That’s because I’m so used to incidents like it. This has been my life for the last 10 years. I say a prayer before I leave the house every day because not a day goes by that I don’t receive some form of abuse in public. I am either laughed at, stared at, commented about or sometimes worse, like in that video.
You’d think things would have changed in the 10 years since I transitioned. In some ways they have. We have 100% more media representation than we had when I started my transition – but that’s only because we had literally zero representation back then – but though things have improved in this way, things are getting worse in the way that matters most. I say this as someone who’s been on my fair share of magazine covers *another hair flip* but positive media representation means nothing when our experiences off the glossy pages and in real life are so negative. All I want, all we want, is to be safe.
The abuse happens online, too. The UK’s LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop recently published its 2020 online hate crime report, which found that eight in 10 respondents had experienced anti-LGBT+ hate crime and hate speech online in the last five years. In particular it found that trans people were more likely than cis people to receive online abuse, and that "anti-LGBT+ online abuse has a wider impact beyond the immediate victim to include those who witness such abuse."
Again, this is just part of my everyday life as a trans person. Not a day goes by that I don’t receive abuse online.
I’m tired. We’re all tired. And the British media is to blame. It’s no wonder people hate us when the media pushes weekly – sometimes daily – articles telling people that we are a threat to them.
My favourite statistic of all time is that The Times published 324 trans-related articles in 2020, all negative and not a single one written by a trans person. Contrast that with 2019 when the same paper wrote 321 articles about trans people and trans issues. Just three were written by trans people.
Why did a mainstream newspaper feel the need to publish almost an article a day about trans people – a group which makes up less than 1% of the population, whose lives affect nobody – in 2020, the same year we experienced a once-in-a-generation global pandemic that affected literally everybody?
Depressingly, other more liberal publications have recently become just as hostile to trans people. Two trans journalists (one of whom is writing for this series) have pulled out of The Guardian’s Pride coverage because they feel the newspaper promotes misinformation about trans people.
To combat the misinformation in the media, this Pride season Refinery29 UK has asked me to guest edit its Don’t Use Me series. Despite the constant talk about trans people in the media, trans people themselves are rarely brought into the conversation, let alone given space to steer the conversation around their lives.
Too often, transphobia is masked by a supposed desire to 'protect' certain groups of people: cis women who apparently need 'women-only spaces' to which trans women can’t be admitted; domestic violence survivors who allegedly need shelters where trans women cannot be helped; lesbians who are, according to some very dodgy reporting by the BBC, being 'forced' to date and sleep with trans women.
As part of this series we will hear from people in those groups about why they are sick of being used as a defence for transphobia.
We will also hear from trans writers who will debunk the ugly and dangerous myths – that trans people are mentally unwell or sexual predators, for instance – which are often used to justify prejudices and biases against trans people.
This is a series of articles by women who are standing up and saying don’t use me to justify your transphobia. Don’t use lesbians. Don’t use survivors. Don’t use women. Period.
I pray that Don’t Use Me will bring some compassion to this conversation, with these incredible writers proving that trans people are not your enemy. I hope that it will bring us all together, rather than force trans people and women into opposing positions as though we are enemies when, in fact, many of the things we need to survive – bodily autonomy, for instance – are aligned.
Above all, I hope this will spark a conversation and inspire more women to stand up for what’s right and say don’t use me to justify your transphobia. My edit will culminate with us coming together and marching at Trans Pride here in London, where I will be giving a speech and where my incredible friends at Refinery29 and I will be encouraging other women to join our Don’t Use Me movement. I hope to see you there and I hope that my time as guest editor helps you see that you are my sister and I am yours.