Is history repeating itself concerning trans rights?

In this blog for Pride month Media and Communications Officer, Holly Beattie, explores how the public and political landscape is continuing to contribute to health inequalities for trans and non-binary people.

The history of LGBT+ rights has been a constant struggle for people’s identities and sexualities to be respected and legalised. The discrimination faced by LGBT+ people has impacted on their long-term health outcomes.

In Stonewall’s 2017/18 ‘Trans report’ they found that two in five trans people (41 per cent) and three in ten non-binary people (31 per cent) had experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the previous 12 months. In comparison 16% of LGB people, who aren’t trans experienced a hate crime or incident due to their sexual orientation in the same period.

Since Stonewall’s report, hate crimes against LGBT+ people have increased by 37% towards trans people and 25% towards LGB people. This increase poses serious questions about how public and political narratives are influencing this worrying upwards trend.

The fight for LGBT+ rights has been a longstanding issue in the UK. The 1967 Sexual Offences Act partially legalised same-sex acts between men. In 1966 The Beaumont Society was established, ‘the largest and longest running transgender society in the UK’. In 1988 Section 28 (of the Local Government Act) was brought into effect which “prohibited the promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities; this remained in place until 2003. It wasn’t until 2013 in England and Wales and 2014 in Scotland that same-sex couples could legally marry.

Just a brief glance at the history of LGBT+ rights highlights how this community has been ostracised from political and public life for decades. Unfortunately, the slow pace at which government policy mapped out a path for recognition and acceptance of homosexuality is being repeated and trans and non-binary people are once again being ostracised. It wasn’t until the 2004 Gender Recognition Act that trans people were granted full legal recognition.

This ongoing public debate around trans and non-binary identities and rights is a concerning retreat into the media and political narrative which led to Section 28 and contributed to poor mental health and trauma amongst members of the LGBT+ community.

LGBT+ people are one and a half times more likely to develop depression and anxiety compared to the rest of the population. Within this impacted group, trans people are even more likely to face health inequalities. In 2018, Stonewall found that 46% of trans people had thought about taking their own life in the previous year compared with 31% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

Despite findings from the Women and Equalities Committee in 2019 that “too often LGBT people are expected to fit into systems that assume they are straight and cisgender” which has lead to ‘glaring’ health inequalities; legislation has failed to address these crucial issues.

People’s Health Trust funds community organisations tackling health inequalities in neighbourhoods and communities experiencing the highest levels of disadvantage, including LGBT+ organisations. We know from our funded partners that inequalities impacting trans and non-binary people are only getting worse.

The legislative history of LGBT+ rights is a scandal that continues to impact the day to day lives and long term health outcomes of millions of people in Great Britain. For organisations tackling health inequalities, trans and non-binary rights must be supported and encouraged at every opportunity.

Furthermore, as a society it is imperative that we address the political and public landscape that is ostracising trans and non-binary people to ensure that history does not repeat itself.