Munroe Bergdorf is a former GLAMOUR Woman of the Year and one of the UK’s most progressive activists – campaigning for Black, trans and queer rights. She is also a UN Women UK Changemaker and sits on the Diversity and Inclusion Board of L’Oréal Paris. For Transgender Awareness Week 2023, which takes place from 13-19 November, we revisit Munroe’s powerful essay on the misconceptions that urgently need changing about the trans community…
Misinformation is a huge issue for the trans community right now. It’s rife. When you’re hearing about a topic about trans lives, there’s so much noise, panic and sensationalism, and it’s not coming from our community. There’s pushback, which is coming from our community – we want to be seen and heard and are fighting for our rights – but the misinformation about who trans people are is coming from people in fairly privileged, powerful positions who often have significantly influential and impactful jobs in the media or in government.
Take the issue of conversion therapy, for example. When the most powerful minister in government, our Prime Minister, ignores public consultations in favour of transgender people being able to self-identify, then announces a future ban on conversion therapy for gay and bisexual people, but not us – it not only then puts out misinformation, but it reinstates the moral panic that is currently threatening transgender people.
That’s not only our rights, but our state of mind, our physical wellbeing. Our access to safe spaces. The snowball effect that can have.
Transphobia has made its way into parliament. It’s made its way into mainstream media. It’s made its way into schools and workplaces – it’s kind of unavoidable, and constant exposure to such sensationalist misinformation and condemnation takes its toll. When we’re talking about trans rights, it’s really important that we bear in mind that misinformation in this time is rife.
Misconception 1: Trans people do not have rights
Many people aren’t aware of the protections that trans people already have. It seems that a lot of the general public think that we don’t actually already have access to certain spaces, that we don’t already use such spaces without people being aware, without anything bad happening.
Under the gender recognition act, the law says that trans women are women. And the law says that we do have access to the spaces that align with our gender identity. Exclusion on the basis of someone being transgender is discrimination.
The danger is that the Prime Minister and this government are reframing their own personal bigotries and qualms with the community as the standard that other people should adhere to. When really, people should be adhering to the law and to empathy, and the wellbeing and safety of a marginalized community.
Misconception 2: Trans people are an imminent threat
There are no statistics to suggest that we are rapists by nature, that we are abusers by nature. That letting transgender women into women-only spaces causes violence of any kind.