I experience some sort of abuse on an almost daily basis whenever I walk out of the door of my house, simply for not wanting to live a lie and for wanting to live my life expressing my true gender identity.
I’ve been shouted at, spat at, had a brick thrown at me and been hit on the head, punched and pushed off of a stool in a bar. But I will not let people beat me. I’ve already lost 40 years of my life trying to conform to societal norms of ‘binary gender’, of living in the body I was born, despite my brain and my whole inner saying it did not match the gender identity I needed to be.
Nobody chooses to be transgender and you can’t just grow out of it like I was told at school. I always say to people who are worried when they meet me, it’s not something you can catch or pass on! It’s a huge process to go through changing your whole identity, but I knew I had to do it if I wanted to not only be the real me, but actually survive, despite losing my daughters who haven’t spoken to me for four years and many other members of my family, my sister and her family have stood by me.
I find it bizarre in this day and age people are still afraid of the unknown and feel they can abuse people who, they perceive, are different to them. Growing up in the 60s and 70s was a different era, but we’ve moved on a long way from then with legislation now protecting people from having to put up with it. I am very lucky my employer Monarch have been extremely supportive, as have all my work colleagues.
Suffering hate crime grinds you down and causes anxiety. In many cases it can lead to people seeking a way out, which is devastating and this does not just apply to LGBT people but elderly people and members of minority groups in the region. Everyone has a right to live their lives without fear or prejudice.
For example, whenever I see a group of teenagers I freeze and will either wait until they’ve gone or walk the other way. I know some transgender people who will not even leave the house, as they’re so afraid of how they will be treated. This is wrong and I want to encourage anyone who has suffered any form of hate crime to report it to the police, as if you don’t it becomes acceptable and it certainly is not. People have got to realise there are consequences to their actions.
I am quite involved in the local transgender community and I would say for around 70 per cent, nobody outside of our community even knows about them being transgender, as they go back to their everyday lives, because they are scared of what people might think, which is very worrying.
Bedfordshire Police and all their officers who have been brilliant and very supportive, taking everything I have reported seriously and even secured harassment convictions last month, after I was abused and threatened by two teenagers in the Gary Cooper pub in Dunstable. They told me I should be shot and killed and repeatedly shouted abuse at me in a public space. They both received Youth Rehabilitation Orders to ensure they take responsibility for their offending.
I believe the solution lies in education and teaching people to understand the impact hate crime has on victims to make them think twice about their actions.
To celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March) Paula Collins, who is the world’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Max Aircraft Instructor, has written this blog to try and encourage reporting and make people realise it’s not acceptable to abuse someone for being who they are.
There are charities working to help transgender people in the UK including:
http://www.sparkle.org.uk – the national Transgender charity.
http://www.stonewall.org.uk – LGBT charity tackling homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying
http://www.mermaidsuk.org.uk – supports trans teens and their parents.