A new flag to commemorate the hundreds of transgender people killed every year around the world has been raised outside City Hall by Bristol’s Lord Mayor.
Council staff and campaigners joined councillor Alistair Watson for the ceremony yesterday to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
There have been 1,612 reported killings of transgender people in 62 countries worldwide in the last six years, often involving extreme violence and torture. Several of the victims were teenagers and the youngest was just eight years old. The vast majority of the victims identified as female.
Cllr Watson said: “By raising the transgender flag over City Hall on this important day, Bristol is sending a clear signal to the many trans people who live and work in the city that they are valued members of the community, with as much right to life, health and happiness as any other citizen.”
Bristol’s trans scorecard
Bristol24/7 columnist Cheryl Morgan speaks about her experience of how the city copes with its trans population
As one of the more visible trans people in Bristol, I occasionally get asked to talk to the media on trans issues. The International Trans Day of Remembrance, on which we remember those killed by transphobic violence over the past year, was one such time. A question that particularly taxed me was that of how Bristol fared in comparison to other British cities.
In any city there will be some areas that are safer than others. Generally speaking, if you are poor, if you are not white, if you are older, if you are female-identified, if you are disabled, then you will be less safe than people who do not share those characteristics. Dependent on your personal circumstances, you may be less safe in Bristol than a more privileged trans person in Brazil, the country where most trans murders take place. Some trans people in Bristol are homeless.
We do pretty well
However, equally generally, Bristol does pretty well. I have lived in Melbourne and San Francisco, and we do OK in comparison. That doesn’t mean that we can’t get better, or that we don’t trail somewhat behind in some areas.
An easy way to make comparisons is to look at specific activities. We should probably compare ourselves with Brighton, because that city is famous for its trans community. This year, for the first time, Bristol City Council chose to mark the Day of Remembrance by raising the Trans Flag at City Hall. Brighton did that in 2009.
Other British cities have also tried to do their bit. Bradford was an early champion of Trans rights. Manchester is famous for its LGBT scene, and recently hosted a major conference on Trans Youth. Liverpool has the magnificent April Ashley exhibition at their city museum, and like Bristol raised the Trans Flag for the first time this year.
London is, inevitably complicated. It has many local councils, and some are more trans-friendly than others. Being the seat of power, the city is also home to many media celebrity feminists, most of whom are only too willing to buy column inches by catering to the media’s appetite for denigrating trans people. Bristol, in comparison, is delightfully free of these awful people.
Bristol City Council has long had trans-friendly employment policies, and has tried to make services trans friendly. What it lacks is an active attempt to reach out to trans citizens, find out what they need, and try to provide it. Brighton is in the process of conducting this sort of project. It is a good model to follow and is (hello George) surprisingly cheap.
A major area of concern for trans people is education. This isn’t just a matter of making kids aware that trans people exist. There are trans children in Bristol schools. There are children in Bristol schools who have a trans parent. Schools seem woefully unprepared to deal with such challenges, and in some cases may be breaking the law. This is definitely an area where the council can help.
One area where Bristol does shine is community radio. I know of at least three trans people besides myself who have worked on local radio shows. We also have trans people involved in theatre, in art, in music, and in many other areas of life. Some doubtless work in banks.
We are just people
This is the sort of thing that trans people need. When it comes down to it, we are just people. We have hobbies, we need jobs, we are part of Bristol society. The first ever person to undergo full medical transition from female to male, Michael Dillon, lived in Bristol for many years. He was Oxford-educated, and while he lived here he wrote a book about trans people and how they should be treated. Dillon recommended that they be able to get on with their lives in the gender that suited them, because then they would be happy and productive members of society.
This was during World War II. Since then, treatment of trans people has been taken over by psychiatrists who have invented ever more bizarre “mental illnesses” to label us with. It has become the domain of professional medical gatekeepers more concerned with what the Daily Mail will say about them than about the patients they are supposed to care for. It is about time that the country caught up with Dillon’s wise advice, and allowed trans people to be welcomed into society. I hope that Bristol can be in the forefront of that movement.