Cllr Osh Ganty writes about how Islington is leading the way on transgender equality
I am proud to be an Islington Labour councillor, and one of just a few openly transgender elected representatives in Britain today.
Under Richard Watts’ leadership, fairness and equality are central to Islington Council’s ways of working, and that of course also extends to transgender people in our borough. That is why, just a few weeks ago, the transgender flag flew above Islington Town Hall to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance (20th November). A day that aims to raise public awareness of transphobic hate crime, and commemorate the victims of transphobic violence.
Unfortunately, many transgender people still experience harassment and hate crime on a regular basis. We are fortunate that here in Islington, transphobic hate crime is lower than the London average and I know Islington Police continues to take the matter very seriously. It is by educating people of all ages and backgrounds, and yes cracking down on transphobic hate crime, we can continue to make a real change.
For transgender people, self-acceptance and subsequent self-realisation can be a long and difficult journey, but ultimately something we should all celebrate. That is why today (1st December) I welcome that Labour MPs are taking part in a debate on transgender rights, which gives us all the opportunity to note the UK’s pioneering status in legislating for LGBT equality and also call for action on the areas where transgender people are still being let down.
One area where urgent legislative improvement is needed relates to the out-dated legal process to gain gender recognition. The simple truth is, though pioneering in its day, the original gender recognition act hasn’t stood the test of time and now urgently needs revision. I hope parliament will seize the opportunity for positive change.
Currently in Britain, transgender people are faced with unwarranted pathologisation and a slow bureaucracy that is burdensome and dehumanising, just to be considered for recognition. This contrasts with other progressive societies such as Malta, Argentina and the Republic of Ireland, where the gender recognition process simply requires the (self) completion of a short form.
The announcement of a new transgender equality action plan is welcome, but it must get off the ground quickly if it is to deliver real results. Not only do we need to improve how transgender people are included in society, whether it is in work or in education or by the NHS, but it is important that we change the rhetoric too.
As my own transition gathers inexorable pace, I am proud to be a member of a Labour Party that long ago recognised that transgender people are an integral part of a dignified society and proud also to live in a borough where ultimately all are welcome.
We have come a long way on transgender rights in the UK but the fight for true equality isn’t over yet.
Pictured – Councillors mark Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015.