Paris Lees is an anti-bullying campaigner, but because transgender and gender variant British children are such heavy targets for abuse (no doubt caused in part by the UK’s bizarre and steady exports of TERFism) she spends a lot of her time talking about trans issues. Last month she tackled the issue of self-harm and suicidal ideation in gender minority youth, and drew a direct line to the stigma caused by pundits playing kickball with trans lives on TV and radio.
Almost half of transgender school pupils in the UK have attempted suicide. Not “thought about”. Attempted. Thousands of children, their whole lives ahead of them, coming to the same, sad conclusion that so many of my long-lost friends in the trans community came to as adults, too: that life is not worth living. One in nine of those pupils has received death threats. Eight out of ten young trans people have self-harmed. Again – say it with me – 45 per cent of trans pupils, at schools up and down this country, have attempted to take their own lives. And – while the trans community is very much in the media spotlight, and futile debates over bathroom etiquette dominate national headlines and radio airtime, and trans people are chastised for the “inconvenience” we are causing everyone else, simply by existing – when it comes to children trying to fucking kill themselves, everyone falls into deathly silence.
On Monday I was invited to speak on BBC Radio Five Live to discuss the government’s plans to make the legal process of changing gender a little bit less difficult. Currently, as well as a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the person applying must provide evidence that they have been in transition for at least two years, and are subject to an intrusive process to “prove” they are who they say they are. My best friend had to show her GP her private parts to get him to sign a letter saying she was officially a woman.
And so it began. I received a phone call from a (very sweet) producer who isn’t trans and whom the legislation does not affect. I arrive at broadcasting house and am signed in at reception by receptionists who, as far as I can tell, are also not trans and whom the legislation doesn’t affect. I’m taken upstairs by another producer who isn’t, as far as I know – and I’m assuming he’d have said if he was – trans and for whom life would be exactly the same before and after any legislation came into effect. I’m taken into a studio and the discussion starts between me and Mary Douglas, a member of activist group Grassroots Conservatives – whom, yes, you’ve guessed it – isn’t trans and the legislation doesn’t affect, chaired by a presenter who is also not trans and… you get the rest. This is my job.
This also illustrates a lot of the context behind my emotional responses to TERFism. They inevitably bring up the potty panic debate, something so inconceivably asinine in comparison to the crisis of youth mental health. They don’t fucking care. Of course that’s going to upset me. Of course I’m going to have to spend even more energy to engage without devolving into cusses. I’m trying to put out a fire and all you can do is moral nitpicking about splashing the neighbour’s garden.
Read more here.