My trans son’s life depends on compassion not political point scoring

My trans son’s life depends on compassion not political point scoring

“I was scared every time he left the house,” writes the parent of a trans child following the murder of trans teen Brianna Ghey and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s comments mocking trans people this week.

We all love our kids- and we all want our kids to succeed, to flourish, to be happy. That's no different when your child is trans. As I often say, being trans is the least interesting thing about my son. He’s an amazing musician, he loves conservation, he’s kind, supportive and funny. And that’s why, as the parents of a trans child, my first thought when I heard about the murder of trans teenager Brianna Ghey was overwhelming anguish and empathy for her family. My second was that it so easily could have been us. When I heard Rishi Sunak’s comments in the Commons earlier this week, spoken while Brianna’s mother was in Parliament, I felt sickened. It seems not even the murder of a child can stop politicians from weaponising trans people to score political points.

We have a public conversation about trans lives which is rooted in hypotheticals, with trans people, and trans children in particular, deployed for political gain and to sow division. Despite trans people making up between 0.5 and 1% of the population, it’s rare for a week to go by without stories of trans people in the media. It’s so rare for this coverage to include trans voices or reflect the realities of trans experiences- and even rarer for those speaking about trans people to consider the impact of this coverage on trans people and their families. As Kate Litman, the sister of Alice, a trans girl who died last year said "the humanity is completely missing from the public discourse on trans people. No-one is thinking about the individuals...or the consequences of their speech".

There was a period of two whole years where my child experienced abuse, harm, or discrimination every single day. I was scared every time he left the house. I wondered, every waking moment, what the next horrible thing would be. It was unrelenting. Bullies at school, local kids waiting for him to follow him and taunt him, threaten him, random people just name calling him in the street or on a bus. It took such an enormous toll on his mental health and is the source of his ongoing social anxiety. And it damaged my mental health too- for years I was in a state of pervasive unending fear for my child, scared of what might happen every time he stepped outside of the family home.

This situation was not unique to my family’s experience. Between 2015 and 2020 transphobic hate crime quadrupled- with the Home Office briefing outlining the statistics stating “transgender issues have been heavily discussed by politicians, the media and on social media over the last year, which may have led to an increase in these offences”. Last year’s British social attitudes survey showed that in just a few short years public attitudes towards trans people have become markedly more hostile. The tone of our public conversation is having an enormous impact on trans people, who, like my son, just want to be free to get on the bus, visit their friends or go to school, without fearing abuse or violence.

It’s incredibly hard when you see how much hate there is in the world for trans people, how they are used as a political tool, a weapon. It’s hard to worry, every single day, about the safety of your child. If you don't understand trans people's experiences you can't possibly understand how a parent of a trans child feels, trying to tackle this unending torrent of hostility- knowing that the world is pitted against your child, simply because of who they are.

We urgently need the public conversation about trans lives to change. Politicians should be taking the heat out of this discussion, not, as we saw with Sunak’s comments at Prime Minister’s Questions, making dehumanising and degrading jokes at trans’ people’s expense. The lives of trans people like my son depend on it.

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