‘Life as a trans woman in the UK has never felt more dangerous than it does today’

Trans Awareness Week: Being trans in the UK

Living in Britain as a trans woman has never felt more dangerous due to the efforts of the Tory government, Amelia Hansford writes.

As of March 2023, anti-trans hate crimes have increased by 11 per cent since last year and 186 per cent over the last five years.

If there is anything that has defined the state of living as a transgender person in the UK in 2023, it is those statistics. Published by the Home Office in August, the latest figure doesn’t even take into account unreported hate crimes, of which there are estimated to be a significant number.

When I’m asked what it’s like to live in this country as a trans person in the current political climate by someone I know, it feels like being asked to weigh up the pros and cons of a no-fault eviction notice, or to name my favourite natural disaster.

While politicians attempt to distract from the stagnating economy and punishing cost of living with attacks on our dignity and humanity, the question of whether we should be afforded basic rights has become a staple for debate programmes.

Legacy media prefers to peddle transphobic narratives than hold the powerful to account and out-of-touch celebrities continue to threaten trans people, facing no consequences outside of book deals and columns in right-wing publications.

On a personal level, living as a trans woman in Britain has never felt as dangerous as it does right now.

There’s a reason the UK plummeted to 17th place in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Equality Index this year. Until 2016, Britain enjoyed many years in first place, but has since dropped further and further down the ranking.

Waiting lists for gender-affirming care continue to be a national embarrassment, while the closure of the Tavistock centre has thrust trans under-18s into a void of uncertainty, with a widespread lack of faith in the proposed restructure. I’ve only just received a first appointment after just shy of five years on the waiting list – and I’m certainly not alone in this experience.

There’s little hope that things will change for the better anytime soon, either. The government’s cabinet reads like a who’s who of anti-trans naysayers who aren’t afraid to tell the world that they don’t believe our lives are valid.

The Tories even used their party conference last month to call misgendering trans people “common sense” and announce a plan to ban trans women from female hospital wards, which has since been dubbed “unevidenced, unlawful and impractical” by legal experts.

Things have gotten so dire that the Home Office itself has even admitted that the political vilification of trans people has contributed to the increase in transphobic hate crimes this year.

The fabric of our lives as trans people in the UK is interwoven with tragedy, particularly the death of 16-year-old Brianna Ghey.

And the most painful and frustrating part? None of these problems have anything to do with actually being transgender. They come from living in an environment that treats being trans as inherently wrong.

Truth be told, being trans is, in a lot of ways, an incredible thing. Living as a trans person, when we are allowed to, can be a journey of self-discovery and fulfilment that opens up new perspectives on life.

It’s so difficult to describe because it’s more than just recognising your own reflection in the mirror. It’s about learning what it even means to be you. It’s the exhilaration of feeling that you are finally who you’re meant to be, and you can learn and grow as yourself rather than fitting into a prescriptive social confine.

It’s magical. It’s freeing. It’s what you might describe as being … happy.

Amelia Hansford (R) and her girlfriend. (Supplied)

Why some people feel that this needs to be suppressed or is inherently dangerous will never, ever make sense to me. Transphobia is not justifiable and it never will be.

But it’s important to remember that those who believe the best thing for trans people is to be shut out of public life are a vocal minority.

Statistics published in June by Ipsos found that 77 per cent of UK respondents believe that trans people should be protected from discrimination, while 64 per cent think that trans people face “a great deal” of discrimination.

The Tories’ unhealthy obsession with trans people doesn’t even have widespread public support. Most people in the UK – whatever politicians or the right-wing press would have us believe – are essentially kind and just want to get on with their own lives, rather than attack marginalised groups.

Trans people will never be erased. We’ve always been valid and we’re not going anywhere. It’s time those in charge of our country got their own house in order, rather than using people like me as a political punching bag.