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LGBTQ+

“Every day in public is risky”

It’s been interesting to compare the US and UK press reaction to JK Rowling’s blog post about trans people: in the US it’s been met with widespread revulsion, with many opinion pieces by cisgender women outraged by her claims to speak on their behalf. It’s also led many publishers to commission trans women to talk about their experiences. This, by former Human Rights Campaign press secretary Charlotte Clymer, is particularly good.

Clymer says she finds it hard to believe Rowling’s claim that she “knows trans people”. As she writes:

Folks who have trans people in their lives — and actually care about them — know how much trans people generally go out of their way to accommodate cisgender people.

As Clymer is quick to admit, trans people are no more of a monolith than any other group. But very many of those of us who are out will relate to her experiences of the “fairly common actions we take just to be in the public square and avoid risking violence and discrimination from cisgender people.”

I haven’t been to the gym since I came out.

Nor me, even though there’s a really good and really cheap council-run facility just around the corner from my flat. I haven’t been swimming either, bar on one foreign holiday with my kids (during which I was yelled at by a woman at the beach).

I’m terrified of changing rooms because of the possibility of confrontation.

When I travel out of state, I look up nondiscrimination protections for where I’m going, including airport layovers.

I don’t travel much, but I did a lot of research before the aforementioned foreign holiday and had to rule out multiple destinations because they aren’t LGBT-friendly. If it means going solo I don’t typically consider gigs or events that aren’t in my own town any more, because I’m increasingly worried about my safety if I venture far from home. And at home I’m careful not to travel by public transport if there are big events such as football matches or concerts by particularly laddish musicians taking place. I’ve left many events early to ensure I’m not getting the late bus or train home.

[if] there’s a long line to use a public restroom, I usually walk away if I can help it

I do this too. There have been nights out where my fear of confrontation has outweighed significant physical discomfort. Before lockdown I’d be very careful not to drink too much at gigs so I could avoid having to use the toilets at all.

Even in places where we have legal protections, I worry about being a burden. I don’t want to cause headaches. I have faced discrimination in places where it was illegal and let it go because I wasn’t sure whether it was worth it. And I feel terrible about that. I feel guilty.

Transgender and nonbinary people are constantly adjusting and revolving our lives around the preferences and feelings of cisgender people, not because we want to do that but because there aren’t enough hours in the day to fight every battle and not enough rights to guarantee our safety.

I’d describe it as walking on eggshells but perhaps tiptoeing through a minefield is a better analogy: stepping on an eggshell isn’t going to harm you.