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Trans Day of Remembrance

Equality - 19 Nov 2020

GMB Activist Linda Wall writes of their experience of being trans and shares her thoughts on this Trans Day of Remembrance

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On 26th March 2019 I sat down with a couple of managers in my office who’d known me for 20 years.

I signed the deed poll that I’d printed out on fancy paper, and they signed as witnesses. With the stroke of a pen, a whole new life opened out in front of me.

I was now Linda Wall (gender female), and this deed poll was the only evidence that I would need to get all my official records changed.

Life’s treating me well now. I’ve got a secure job, people everywhere accept me as female, and I’m able to do what I want without being in constant fear for my physical safety. But I’m nearly 60. It’s taken me an awful long time to get to where I am.

Struggling with your gender identity is tough enough if, like me, you don’t suffer from depression. For the many who do, life can at times be unbearably painful.

Studies have shown that prevalence of self harm and suicide attempts is greater among trans people than the general population.

On Trans Day of Remembrance my thoughts will be with the thousands of trans people who’ve yet to find any resolution in their lives.

Being trans is like an inner need. It can express itself in different ways, but a common factor is that the feelings run very deep.

A person can suppress them, try and lead a “normal” life, start relationships, have children. But the feelings are likely to recur, continuing over any number of years, possibly growing stronger over time.

This can lead to heartrending personal conflicts. Imagine having to explain to your life partner and the mother of your children that you want to change your gender.

I’ve known quite a few trans women who found themselves in that situation – typically after years of trying to suppress their feelings.

The first time that I went out in public dressed as a woman was terrifying, I felt like all eyes were on me, I felt anxious about being noticed by someone I knew.

Building confidence requires time, opportunity and courage.

For some people, having to hide who you are for many years can impact you in all kinds of ways. I’ve lived the feeling of being ashamed and afraid of being seen, afraid of coming out. This was tied up with my sense of self-worth.

When I looked at my wigged head in the mirror, I didn’t see the person that I wanted to see, and transition seemed like a distant dream.

As I felt so little pride in myself, how could I expect others to judge me favourably? The first few times that I went out in public dressed as a woman was terrifying, I felt like all eyes were on me, I felt anxious about being noticed by someone I knew.

Building confidence requires time, opportunity and courage.

No one knows how many people carry their sense of being wrongly gendered with them to their graves, desperate to hide feelings that they perceive as dirty or shameful.

Imagine how this must feel: living with a low sense of self-worth, not being able to accept who you are.

For those struggling with their gender identity, it’s a lonely battle. You have to find your own answers. The dilemmas are enormous – and for many people, so too is the guilt that

A decision to transition can carry with it. Can you justify the risk of perhaps breaking up a happy family unit? Or the commitment to spending a great deal of money on yourself?

Once the transition process begins, people are suddenly faced with a whole new set of problems.

Some of the commonest issues concern money, access to services, and appearance. Right now, waiting times for a first appointment at an NHS Gender Identity Clinic can run into years.

During this time, there’s no access to hormone treatment on the NHS, no funding for laser treatment or electrolysis to remove facial hair.

Do you pay privately? If so, how do you raise the money? Such problems are most acute for those forced out of a job due to discrimination or forced out of the family home. Tales of homelessness are not uncommon.

Help and resources are available. By far the best help though that anyone transitioning can have is a supportive, accepting community. Social isolation – as psychologists will tell you – especially if linked with a sense of rejection and fears of discrimination can drive people into dark places.

All of us can play a part in helping trans people to see beyond their fears and to live their best lives. And I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it.

I’ve seen for myself how transitioning can make those inner conflicts go away and give me a new pride in myself.

Linda Wall
Rep in the Ministry of Justice/ Legal Aid Agency
X24 branch, North West and Irish Region​

 
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