Flying the Trans Flag

This morning I was up early and off into Bristol again. I’m not good in the mornings, but this was important. I’d been invited to a meeting of social support agencies in Bristol — people who work with the homeless, with victims of domestic violence, with those struggling with addiction and so on. The event was organized by LGBT Bristol, because they have found that they end up dealing with a lot of people with complex, intersecting needs.

Why? Well it goes like this. Many people who suffer social problems know that there are agencies that they can go to for help. However, if they are from an ethnic minority background they might be afraid to go to an agency that appears to be run by and for white people. They might instead go to an agency that specializes in helping ethnic minorities. LGBT people are afraid to go to regular agencies as well, but may go to an LGBT-specific agency like LGBT Bristol. Trans people, in general, are afraid to go to anyone for help. We only find out about them when they end up in hospital, in trouble with the police, or as victims of hate crime.

Around 90% of the people that LGBT Bristol ends up supporting have complex needs, suggesting that they were afraid to ask for help. More than half are trans.

So my colleague, Sarah Minter, called this meeting to let these agencies know about the sort of problems we are sweeping up, and to encourage them to do more to make themselves welcoming to LGB, and in particular T, clients. I went along as a token trans person prepared to stick her head above the parapet.

Actually I felt a bit of a fraud, because I haven’t suffered any of the serious problems that were being discussed. Obviously I have been discriminated against, but it has mostly been very middle class discrimination, not homelessness, addiction or physical violence. I’m very grateful to a very brave trans lady whose work with the St. Mungo’s charity sparked the event. After coming out she had been fired from her job and unlawfully evicted from her home, and had suffered multiple hate crimes. That’s real life for far too many trans people, even today.

My role in all this is to stand up and talk, because shooting my mouth off is something I’m good at. Hopefully the end result will be more trans awareness training for various agencies, probably in collaboration with the fine folks at Diversity Trust who know far more about social work than I do. Even if it doesn’t, at least a whole lot of people sat there and listened to my Trans 101 talk. Progress is made of small steps.