As a therapist I am happy to say my practice is a transgender safe space. I’d like to outline what this means and why it’s necessary to have such spaces. Also how this relates to therapy.
Trans issues are heavily discussed in the media at the moment, most of it unhelpful, some of it deeply troubling. Inflammatory and divisive coverage of individual cases, applied as exemplars to a whole social group. Stereotyping, misinforming and causing distress to people who are effected by the implications the coverage contains. People who are by and large just doing their very best to get by in a world that is hostile towards them.
So let’s get a few things out there. Trans people are much more likely to experience discrimination, gender-based violence, sexual assault, harassment in the workplace,and on the street than almost any other social group. Because of this Trans people are are at high risk of mental health problems, social isolation and suicidal ideation.
So when I say my clinic is a transgender safe space here is what I mean. If you are trans and you come to me for treatment, I will treat you with the same levels of dignity, respect and compassion as I treat all my clients. It also means as long as I’m in my office, and not with another client, a person who is having a bit of a rough time can come and just sit and just have some space, some time and perhaps a cuppa. I’m a therapist, it’s what I do. It’s an unconditional and non-judgmental offer and it’s genuinely about just providing space.
So here is a bit of background information to help with understanding all this for people who are not trans but want to be informed, and hopefully supportive.
Let’s look at the terms being used. Transgender is when a person identifies with a gender other than they were assigned at birth. The form of this most-discussed in the media at present is trans women, but it can also include trans men or non-binary. Somebody who is non-binary may identify as another, third gender, or identify with more than one gender, or their gender identity may fluctuate, in which case they may describe themselves as gender-fluid or gender queer. Other terms are used for all these things, as the language around this is still being generated through people’s experiences and discussion. A trans person can exist in, and identify with, the full spectrum of sexual orientations just as gender-confirming people.
Looking just at the issue of anger and why it’s so contentious at this point in history. As a way of detoxifying this issue it would be great if each of us tried to see multiple perspectives.
If the angry people on all sides try to just humanise the issue, and accept that nobody chooses how they are born but everybody should have the right to choose how they live. Everyone has a right to discuss their views, even opposing views, calmly and sometimes patience is required. We don’t all have to agree, but we should all be prepared to listen. Although sometimes lived-experience and trauma can mean people need to protect themselves from views they find hateful or harmful.
The recently proposed legislative changes on gender recognition and assignment are intended to make movement from one legally recognised category of gender to another an easier process. Previously you have required a diagnosis of a mental disorder to access a recognition of your need to change legal gender. Most people accept that’s absurd, that a desire to be who you recognise yourself to is a human right. Gender recognition legislation is about how easy it is to produce a new birth certificate, in effect. Current news stories can stoke up fears among women that these legislative changes are about challenging women-only spaces or letting predators into women’s bathrooms. Setting aside the idea that an entire group of people are being called predators, when was the last time anybody had to produce a birth certificate to go to the bathroom? And gender recognition laws in no way impact women’s-only safe spaces, which is an issue already addressed by the Equality Act (2010).
These fears have been played up and promoted for largely political and religious reasons. This has led to fear and distrust on all sides. Some feel that the changes represent a threat to the safety of women, and an erosion of the legal protections and sex specific Services secured through campaigning and past struggle.
Let me ask you, in any of your lived experiences, is there any need for a male predator to put themselves through a lengthy and invasive gender-transitioning process to harm women? Has that ever been needed?
Another person changing their gender, may challenge us to think differently about our own. Removing sex/gendered terminology from products, services and experiences requires some of us to rethink our experience and identity expression. Pregnant trans men, period products for people who menstruate. Prostate cancer and testicular cancer screening for trans women. All new ways of thinking and challenging for some to accept. Challenge is okay. Feeling challenged is okay. What matters is how we express that.
A question to show where this comes from is; why the focus on trans women? Compared to the almost invisibility in the media of trans men?
Everything is politics, absolutely everything.