Go The Distance

Hate comes in many forms, but trans people are always prepared for it. We have to be. With the media trying to portray trans women as sexual predators or anti-trans groups coming together to discuss how to erase trans people, we’re constantly looking over our shoulders. When I agreed to be part of the legal challenge against NHS England, I was fully prepared for the hate. I just never expected hateful attacks to also come from within the trans community.

It’s been a while since my last post. What can I say? Life happened!! In the last three months, I’ve been part of many panel discussions, diversity and inclusion events/talks, delivered keynote speeches and presentations…I even spent my first night away from my wife in the eight years that we’ve been together, to attend a gala event. Not going to lie, I had a meltdown due to being apart from her!! Anyway, what I’m saying is I like to keep busy. It helps me to stay focused on what I’m doing and, more importantly, why I’m doing it.

It’s the focus which has really got me through some dark times recently – all because there are those who feel taking legal action against NHS England is wrong or selfish. Or both. I’m not sure if the other claimants in the case have been receiving hate or if it’s just me, but the NHS is such an emotive topic that people cannot help but feel this is a direct attack on the under-funded system they’ve spent the global pandemic clapping for. But this has nothing to do with the NHS frontline. This is about those who are right at the top, who make the decisions. I know trans people and allies that work on the NHS frontline or at gender clinics who all support this legal action. I’m not attacking staff nor am I trying to take away from patients in other areas of the NHS. I’m not saying that trans people are more important either. I simply want trans people to have what we’ve been denied for so many years due to a broken system: an equal and fair chance at treatment.

I wish I could say that all trans people were on board with this legal action. I’ve had to address some comments which were based on misinformation. Normally, I don’t bother with negative comments from people who are clearly out for an argument. However, as these came from within the trans community and made others feel guilty for wanting to be treated as equals, and contained stuff which could be weaponised against the rest of us, I made an exception.

Some incidents have turned into full-blown arguments in my DMs. Their points are nearly always the same as ones thrown at me by transphobes: stop being selfish – there are people dying of cancer…you can’t or shouldn’t change what you’re born with…the NHS is on its knees, suing them isn’t going to help…if you want to mutilate your body, pay for it yourself. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Straight away, I can say this case isn’t for money. As claimants, we aren’t taking legal action for money. It’s not like legal action you see on TV or in films. As explained in my last post and in the subsequent media articles and interviews, this is about holding NHS England to account. For them to acknowledge they have been unlawful in allowing the waiting time for a first appointment to exceed 18 weeks, to the point where it’s now measured in years. But the haters (and at this point, I would include those in the community with internalised transphobia) would know this if they’d read the articles, wouldn’t they?

I agree there are people dying of cancer – but bringing that up is pointless because there are people dying of many other things too. I mean, we’re still living through a global pandemic!! People reach for cancer as it’s the obvious way to gain the moral high ground – possibly based on the statistic that 1 in 2 people will be diagnosed with a form of cancer. But is it so moral when they’re effectively saying anyone suffering from other illnesses don’t matter? Or that people born with a health condition should not be allowed treatment? Where are their regular posts about cancer awareness? Where are their regular donations to cancer charities? Why aren’t they doing more to help the NHS? It’s safe to say these people would only get off their arse and take action when something actually affects them directly. Until then, they throw out hollow words and phrases in a half-baked attempt to erase the needs of others…as if doing so helps them to feel better about their own “contribution” to society.

Now I expect this behaviour from transphobes – but not trans people. We all suffer. Some trans people may have a financial advantage or may have been bestowed with a magnificent set of genes, or a particularly robust coping mechanism for gender dysphoria. Good for them. But this legal challenge isn’t for them. To knowingly gate-keep and tell others they should endure excruciating gender dysphoria which they themselves may no longer feel, perhaps because they’ve “finished” transitioning, is just fucking selfish. Trans people do not get to gate-keep other trans people. It’s that simple. Everyone is valid and equal. This is why there’s no liberation until we are all liberated. And that’s exactly why this legal challenge must continue, despite the hate from both outside and inside the community. This is for everybody that needs it.

Even before the global pandemic, the supply and demand model of trans healthcare has struggled year on year, but NHS England neglected to address this problem. It took a public consultation into the Gender Recognition Act reform to even result in the opening of three pilot clinics – clinics which only have funding for a certain number of patients and have very specific acceptance criteria. Clinics which will do nothing to clear the backlog of thousands of people who are currently on the waiting list. In fact, since my last post, my gender clinic, The Laurels, still isn’t sending out first appointments. What do they expect us to do in the meantime?

Waiting time info from The Laurels gender clinic, Exeter. Taken from their website on 19/12/2021

With the average waiting time for a first appointment being four years, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation analysis of times listed on the gender clinic websites, NHS England has failed in its responsibility to ensure 92% of patients begin treatment within 18 weeks of a referral. No other area within public healthcare has a waiting time measured in years. This is discriminatory against trans people. There are other options which could greatly reduce the waiting, however this legal action isn’t for us to provide the answers. We cannot stand by and allow this to continue, which is why we were left with no choice but to go ahead and file for a judicial review in the High Court. Trans-led charity Gendered Intelligence has also joined the case, as a claimant. It’s that important.

As with all legal cases, it will take time and there are some hurdles before our case can be listed for a hearing. This is an important step though and one that reaffirms our position – not just to NHS England but to anybody out there (including those within the trans community) who think trans people don’t deserve timely access to healthcare. We are people too.

To support the legal action, click here. Even if you’re not able to support us financially, sharing this can still make a huge difference. Thank you.

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