Words by Alice Stevens and Molly Openshaw
As we start to see transgender people and other minorities being targeted for their sexuality and gender identity, it is important now, and always, to actively educate ourselves on these issues and offer support to those who need it, no matter their gender, sex, religion, race etc. As the Arts Editors, Molly Openshaw and Alice Stevens have decided to dedicate the In Review section of The Badger to resources in support of transgender and non-binary members of the University of Sussex.
Book Review: The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye
Shon Faye is an incredible writer, LGBTQ+ activist, presenter and all-around talented woman. The Transgender Issue is potentially the most anticipated release of the year and can be viewed as a manifesto for transformation. The book does exactly what it says on the tin: unapologetically presenting the issues faced by trans people in the UK, and how the media and other institutions manufacture this moral panic. Despite making up less than one per cent of the country’s population, trans rights are reduced to a ‘debate’, being scapegoated and used as talking points that sell.
Shon dissects the hysteria surrounding trans ‘issues’ all whilst emphasising how we have essentially been having the wrong conversation this entire time, where understanding trans history and assessing science objectively is instead the approach we should be practising.
Shons tone throughout the book is both self-reflective and welcoming, where its title alone explicitly portrays how the media dehumanizes trans people, reducing them down to an ‘issue’ to be tackled.
As mentioned, trans people are often drawn into public ‘debates’ to instead further the humiliation and oppression they already face:
“Trans people have been dehumanized, reduced to a talking point or conceptual problem: an ‘issue’ to be discussed and debated endlessly. It turns out that when the media want to be discussed and debated endlessly. It turns out when the media want to talk about trans issues, it means they want to talk about their issues with us, not the challenges facing us.”
This is also highlighted through the never-ending discussion surrounding all-gender toilets, forcing trans people to unproductively argue the same points time and time again, all whilst being given little to no opportunity to actually discuss the real issues at hand. As Shon writes: “the illusion that trans people’s concerns are niche and highly complex is often a way to disempower them.”
Instead of focusing on the cis-centred media and other so-called feminist surface-level worries, Shon alternatively covers a range of real hardships faced by transgender people in the UK, such as mental health disparities, job discrimination, homelessness, domestic violence and sex in the media – all whilst backing her claims with hard facts and voices of trans experience. The wealth of relevant data and case studies that document the systemic incompetents and outright discriminatory practices that are experienced by trans people is paramount, indicating how their lives are made unnecessarily more arduous as a consequence.
An important aspect of the book is its intersectional approach. Shon addresses how the different intersections of identities overlap and shape various models of oppression, whereby access to trans liberation is impacted and halted by the patriarchy, capitalism and structures that oppress marginalised groups within our society.
You may now be thinking to yourself, ‘i don’t need to read this book because I already stand in solidarity with trans people…’ Whilst that is great, the main reason however why everyone should read this book is because of the valuable talking points Shon has provided. These discourses actually help combat prejudice and ignorance that you may come across within your daily life. Even though Shon has experienced prejudice and marginalisation herself, she has also gone through the emotional labour of synthesising all the information that will help us assist transgender people to be free. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of non-binary people or those who have experienced said oppression to educate privileged people on this topic. And hey let’s be honest, the resources available online are infinite. So not only will this book help you destroy bigots, it will also inspire you to take action and advocate for your wider community.
If you are to buy a book this month, make it The Transgender Issue.
It is becoming increasingly important in the current climate to educate ourselves on transgender issues. Living in Brighton, we have an abundance of resources on our doorstep. Firstly, we have The Clare Project, which was founded in 1990. Working with trans, non-binary, intersex and gender-variant people (TNBI), this charity has helped thousands of people. This organisation started after a few trans women were using the same hairdressers in Hove, the group started to meet in the salon and the charity evolved from there. Every Tuesday the group meets for a drop-in, this takes place in the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church. No booking in advance is required and it is a safe space for anyone who is TNBI to socialise and ask for help and advice.
If you need to get into contact with The Clare project you can contact them on their email firstname.lastname@example.org or their phone number is 07464 229395
There is also Mindline Trans+ Charity. This is a telephone line for anyone identifying as transgender, non-binary or any friends or family members who need support. The phone line is open Mondays to Friday 8 pm to Midnight for anyone (0300 330 5468).
There is also the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES). This is a volunteer-based community that offers support to trans and other gender identities as well as their families. Being an education-based charity, they use case studies of people as evidence to deliver training, e-learning to both the public and private sectors.