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BASW and SWU celebrate Trans Awareness Week 2021

BASW and SWU stand in solidarity with trans communities across the world

Trans Awareness Week (November 13-19) and Trans Day of Remembrance (November 20) is a time for the social work community to listen to and support the trans community. It is also a time to highlight the issues that trans, non-binary, and gender diverse people continue to face. BASW and SWU are collaborating and co-creating with those with lived LGBTQIA+ experience, and together we are working to achieve a more inclusive social work practice across the UK. 

BASW and SWU invited Maryam Din, a director at TransActual UK – a trans-led advocacy, education, and empowerment organisation – to address social workers and social work students during Trans Awareness Week. 

Trans Awareness Week blog - Maryam Din from TransActual UK 

Trans people, eh? Yeah, of course I support them! But why must they always be so angry? 

And, you know, you might have a point. Trans people are angry a lot of the time. Also, frightened. Discriminated against. And a target for violence, both physical and emotional. There is a seemingly unending drift of trans people away from social media – which were places where once we hoped to find, if not safety, at least camaraderie – following the latest pile-on, the latest co-ordinated attack from anti-trans campaigners

Of course, it’s bad “over there”. In HungaryIn PolandIn parts of the USA. But this is Britain and that sort of thing doesn’t happen here. 

Doesn’t it? Check out the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) report from earlier this year, which revealed that the UK appears to be on a one-way downslide in respect to LGBT+ rights – and that largely is the result of its poor performance on trans issues. 

This has been followed more recently by similar condemnations from the Council of Europe in a report from the General Rapporteur on the rights of LGBTI people. Whether we are talking discrimination in the workplace, hate crime (which has quadrupled over the last five years), or the inordinately long waiting times for basic trans healthcare, it is clear the UK is failing trans people wholesale.  

Meanwhile, the media has backed away from any semblance of even-handedness when it comes to trans people. Our very existence, they declare, is a “debate”. So every trans opinion needs to be “balanced” by an anti-trans one.  

It's hardly surprising, then, that trans people are suspicious when people pop up with offers to help. For two reasons, actually.  

First, because we have learned, through bitter experience, to be wary. We know that our acceptance is always conditional on the sensibilities of cis people (“cis”: simply put, anyone who is not trans).  

Support can all too quickly turn to rejection and disgust if we dare to call for inclusion on our own terms. 

Second, because too often support comes at a price: cis people talking over us, telling us what we need, how we could improve our lives if only we opted in to this or that “rational” solution. Yep. We even have a word for it: cisplaining. 

So, no, trans people aren’t going to be apologising any time soon. We are angry and spiky and afraid. And yes, we are aware that if you know less about what is going on than you might, then there are likely reasons. A couple of decades back, the government put in place Section 28. This was a deliberate mechanism to stop people from finding out about gay people. Today the problem is that we are facing a near total media blackout on trans voices .  

We do need help. At the political level, we need allies: people who will stand up and call out the lies – for much of the current media panic is based on half-truth and untruth – regularly peddled about trans people. 

We need help in the smaller things too. A recent survey by TransActual (Trans lives survey 2021: Enduring the UK’s hostile environment) revealed that one in four trans people experience homelessness at some time in their life – and that rises to 36% if you factor in ethnicity or disability. We are denied treatment by GPsMany of us are fearful of leaving our homes

So it is likely – more than likely – at some point in your day-to-day that you, as a social worker, will encounter trans people. Not often, because there are not many of us. But often enough.  

When you do, please: bear in mind that trans people who are service users do need help. But they are so battered, so bruised by the daily hatred that has so rapidly grown within the UK, that they may not always respond quite the way victims are expected to.   

Be patient. Be kind. Listen. Learn from the individual before you, and not from some academic theory of what it is to be trans. Do all of that and you will get past the anger, past the fear and, in time, you will start to help them in ways you cannot imagine. 

TransActual UK was founded by a group of British trans people in 2017 as a response to increasing press hostility, transphobia and misinformation. They are run by the trans community, with the trans community, for the trans community. You can learn more about their work here

BASW and SWU support Trans Awareness Week 2021

BASW is proud to have published a Position Statement on Social Work with Transgender People this summer. It reaffirms BASW’s commitment to uphold the human rights of trans people in the face of the stigma, discrimination, oppression, stereotyping, and abuse that many trans people experience – and this is in line with our overall approach to ethics and human rights, as expressed in the recently re-launched BASW Code of Ethics and Values

This also aligns with the unanimously passed Motion 1 from the SWU Annual General Meeting this year – to place social justice at the heart of all union activities. SWU has committed itself and its members to actively pursuing this principle of social justice through challenging oppression, respecting diversity, advocating for access to and equal distribution of resources, challenging unjust policies and practices and ultimately exercising our duty both collectively and individually to challenge social conditions that contribute to oppression, social exclusion, stigma, or subjugation and to work towards a more inclusive society. 

Narinder Sidhu, BASW EDI Lead, said: “If we are truly a profession that is based on strong values, human rights and social justice then we must be visible allies to all trans individuals. We must create trans inclusive environments and continue to build upon our code of ethics by being a more inclusive profession, only then will this be reflected authentically and robustly in our everyday practice. Social Workers must offer and provide psychological, emotional, and physical safety to trans people regardless of their background, age and race. BASW and SWU will continue to be strong allies to the trans communities across the world as we believe in people being their authentic selves and having a sense of belonging.” 

If you are a social worker or social work student in the UK, you may be interested in attending the upcoming key concept training – run by BASW in collaboration with the National LGBT Partnership – that will be held on World AIDS Day (December 1): Becoming Allies in Social Work: Understanding LGBTQIA+ Inequalities.