What do trans folk, and people on HS2 protest camps have in common? People won’t stop asking us where we pee!
My transition is going about as smoothly as the construction of HS2: the first phase will be delayed for up to 5 years while the government farts around and decides whether it should have let it happen in the first place. I was referred to the Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic in 2015 and so far my transition has been funded by taxes and overseen by the NHS. I was lucky (although perhaps persistent is a better word) enough to get access to hormone blockers before my 17th birthday. I spent the two years prior trying to convince doctors that blockers were in fact what I needed, that I was sane, and that I just wanted to press pause on puberty and decide what was right for me.
While I was waiting for hormone blockers my body went through a lot of irreversible changes – leaving me with crippling gender dysphoria and anxiety about my future. The mental turmoil that came with watching my body morph into something I didn’t recognise or desire, while knowing there was nothing I could do to challenge this, is still something that I carry. I have had pretty low self-esteem since then and at one point developed an eating disorder that nearly killed me. Back then I treated this all as a sort of mental assault course. I had to keep going. I had to jump through the hoops to prove I was Trans Enough.
It felt as if this was the only way to be trans in the current system. Not really knowing any other trans folk probably didn’t help this. I imagine other trans folk who grew up in rural areas with bad internet connection can relate. I didn’t meet other trans people until I was a year into my transition, for that first year my only interactions with other trans folk was in hospital waiting rooms. We would sit sandwiched between our disapproving parents and make awkward eye contact.
If you want to pursue a medical and ‘legal’ transitions in the UK, you have to give The State the True Trans Narrative they want to see. Under the current system you have to tick all the boxes of gender dysphoria to even think about accessing medical intervention. In front of doctors you need to present as a binary trans person to be taken seriously. At the passport office and at job interviews you need to have the right documents and the right attitude. These cruel concrete structures condemn our true interpretations of gender and needs for expression. We are unable to make our own decisions about our bodies and legal gender without the State leaning over our shoulder to offer their unsolicited input.
Every trans person has an innate understanding of who they are and what is right for them and it’s true that sometimes that takes time to figure out. I truly believe that if we were able to have the freedom to make informed decisions for ourselves about practical things (like what we want to be called, or what medical interventions we want) away from the centralised health care system which has outdated and conservative understandings of transness, then we would be a happier, more free, group of people. However, we have found ourselves in this dreadful situation, where The State provides our only access to medical intervention and support. Its processes and procedures are unquestionable, and if you dare to demand for better care you’ll be sent to the bottom of the list like some naughty Victorian school child. The Gender Identity Clinics are stifled and underfunded and do not provide the nurturing and supportive environment that trans people need. Some campaigners against HS2 have made the point that the NHS is critically underfunded but somehow, we can afford a train that goes fast. They have called for the funds from HS2 to be redirected to the NHS. I don’t believe that begging The State to pretty please fund the NHS would act as anything other than a Band-Aid on the multiple crises we are up against. If the NHS received £100 billion tomorrow, there is only a slim chance that any of that money would help trans people, given the history of state oppression trans folk have been though already. Therefore I’m not interested. I’m not interested in reforming the current system. The State in any capacity just cannot be trusted with the responsibility of looking after our health and wellbeing in the long term. In evidence, I offer the last 300+ years of violence they have done unto people.
When I was a Teenager™ it was convenient for me to put the qualms I had with The System down to my own actions, flaws, in-actions etc. At this point I had become my own Very Nervous System. Thoughts like “I’m too demanding and this is all far too much to ask from such a thinly stretched service” and “I’m being selfish, others need this very limited treatment more urgently” were rationalised by my deteriorating mental state (and as it turns out, these issues are actually rooted in the faults of The Actual State.) I soon learned that the world didn’t revolve around me. There were bigger powers at play, and they were making my life hell. But addressing this background discomfort (and slow suffocation) we experience at the hands of the system can easily become a side project that we start and never finish when more immediate and pressing threats arise. (By threats I mean things like jobs and mortgages and applying to university.) Furthermore, it can be difficult to even begin to raise such matters to anyone, in any format, when there’s a minefield of people out there who will jump at the opportunity to tell you that you’re wrong about the whole trans thing in the first place, and any other feelings are probably just to do with that. Any stand we make is at risk of being met with opposition calling us freaks, threats, and mentally ill.
When I was at Sixth Form™ I somewhat understood the power The State had over my transition but I didn’t realise how vast and sprawling its influence was, particularly in other aspects of my life, such as my education, social life and financial situation. I fear that if I wasn’t trans I would have never woken up to these things so soon. I knew trans people were oppressed, but I mostly experienced this through discrimination at the conservative-with-a-small-‘c’ all “girls’” grammar school I attended, and through individuals’ acts of transphobia on the bus. It’s the 20th century and in theory you can’t openly go around saying you hate trans people anymore (but people still do). You can however cut their services in the name of austerity, or make it difficult to get their medication into the country and call it a symptom of Brexit, or you can campaign for trans exclusionary spaces and call it feminism. Despite all the perceived progress, The State has only made our lives difficult in the last 20 years that The British Public have been aware od trans people’s existence.
Navigating the health service as a trans person is a pain in the arse. I could share a dozen anecdotes about poor treatment I’ve received for things that aren’t necessarily trans related, and a dozen more about the actual trans related treatment. Getting tangible information out of the GIC about when my appointments are, or when my surgery is going to (possibly) happen, has been about as successful as every FOI request I’ve submitted to HS2 over the past year. I’ve been stuck a perpetual ‘go ask someone else’ situation and they usually take about 3 weeks to call you back. More than 13,500 adults are on waiting lists for GICs in England, and waiting times for new patients needing hormones are now at around 60+ months with over 200 people being referred for initial appointments each month. Sure, I could get private treatment, but like most good things in life, that is reserved for people who have money, or enough Instagram followers who they can convince to pay for it. I am a jobless millennial. I Cannot Afford. This is the reality for so many trans people in the UK, particularly those with working class backgrounds and unsupportive families. I lost count of the number of fundraisers I saw pop up for trans folk when the first lockdown happened. This is the system we are stuck with, but aren’t we lucky? Thank God we have a State that flies little pride flags from its little palaces sometimes.
Actions I happen to have taken to challenge The State’s power over me include locking on to the odd bit of fencing, buying dodgy sex-hormones from Chinese Ebay and writing a few Strongly Worded Emails to my MP. At the time these acts have felt empowering, but on their own these sort of things won’t make me any freer from The System, and they certainly won’t help to liberate others. So why bother? And where do we go from here? The State has us in its grip, but we must learn how we can wriggle out of it. Part of that is about finding the loopholes and soft spots, and where there aren’t any we must make our own. We know what is best for us. We have been learning to love ourselves. We know we deserve better from one of the richest country’s National Health Service. We deserve to live freely; we deserve to have our needs met, without question.
So what the fuck does this have to do with HS2? Fingers crossed the last few ranty paragraphs have given you an insight into what it’s like trying to grapple with the trans healthcare system, and laid some foundations for the comparisons I want to draw. A lot of the experiences I have had during my transition are repeated and reproduced throughout the toxic system we live in. I’m making the bold assumption that those reading this aren’t billionaires, meaning you’ve all probably had the odd clash with the system that doesn’t work in your favour. The feelings of anger and disgust I feel towards The State and its bureaucracy are shared among activists (as well as those who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves activists) on all fronts, including those on the anti-HS2 campaign. The lack of autonomy I have over my body at the hands of The State is replicated in the lack of autonomy communities who are affected by HS2 have over their own homes and landscape. The State dictates what shall and what shan’t, with no consultation of those most directly impacted. We are unwillingly reliant on an unreliable state for healthcare to stay alive. There are workers relying on that same The State that has shit on working people time and again, for jobs that they don’t actually want to do, because that is how we survive. There are things that anti-HS2 campaigners oppose, that are also relevant to the struggles of trans people. The lack of dignity that I have experienced as a protestor is something I that trans folk are also familiar with. At the end of the day I can take off my balaclava and muddy boots, but I can’t mask my transness quite as easily. This treatment extends to anyone who dares to step out of line, and The State and those who benefit from capitalism may pretend they have your best interests at heart but we all know that at the end of the day, their pride themed t-shirts and cupcakes don’t mean shit. The charitable donations don’t mean shit. The green capitalism and greenwashing doesn’t mean shit.
The Venn-diagram of issues we are tackling in these struggles is almost a neat circle, and at the centre: The State. Our collective rights are under attack, whether that is our rights to the appropriate medical care, or to land and housing, or to water and fresh air. It’s worth mentioning here that trans people already have limited access to green spaces and secure housing. (This is due to us often ending up with little to no income because of prejudices within workplaces. It’s also not necessarily safe for us to go to the woods on our own.) So The State and HS2 tearing down chunks of our remaining ancient woodlands, and collaborating with companies that build unaffordable housing, and the prisons that a lot of us end up in, feels somewhat like a kick in the teeth. (It’s cool though because Scotland is making a prison for non-binary people now lol) We are all sick of The State making decisions for us. We The People know what is best for us and for our communities. We have been making decisions long before any state exists and while some would argue that The State makes decisions in our best interest, they have proved time and again that they literally are not capable of doing that.
No major political party supports trans rights. No major political party opposes HS2, therefore it is not in our interest to give them power over us. Councils up and down the country have declared climate emergencies, but few have bothered to take action to combat the root causes of the climate and ecological crisis. The most recent example of note being Leeds City Council, who have declared a climate emergency but just gave the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport the green light. HS2 is the tip of the iceberg. HS2 is not the first bad decision The State has made. People have been demanding for decades that The State stop harming us, and the land we rely on for life, in the name of ‘progress’. Who is that progress for? We cannot in good conscience support a State that leaves the question of our collective humanity and dignity up in the air. We cannot be free while there is a State. Furthermore, we want The State to stop policing how we choose to live and express ourselves. We want them to stop killing us, and if they can’t do all of those things (which they can’t) then we need them to stop existing.
People are understood by The State to give ‘implicit’ consent to be policed, but this is not actually the case. Even if policing did make us safer, why would we want to be watched 24/7? Why would we want to see human beings locked in cages and tortured? The police are agents of The State and their sole purpose is to uphold its will. Pigs are constantly buzzing around the HS2 line and regularly impose themselves upon camps to harass and intimidate protestors, and this harassment is only due to escalate if Priti Patel’s trespass laws are approved by parliament. The fallacy that trespassers are a blight on our Great British Culture, and that they cause distress to communities by merely existing, is a narrative that has been recycled, and projected onto marginalised groups time and again. The only other time that I have seen such a continuous police presence is around the queer nightclubs in my hometown, and in the laybys of traveller sites in the surrounding villages. The consent of these communities to be policed has, of course, never been sought and the act of policing is honestly pretty creepy and disturbing and dangerous. Policong happens to some people more than others. Police may soon be given the power to throw trespassers in jail, and of cause, these laws will disproportionately affect protestors, travellers, squatters and I fear this disaster may extend to the homeless trans population, particularly those who have already been criminalised. I fear for the most vulnerable in our communities, particular my trans siblings who don’t have families they can rely on for support, who are much more likely than to find themselves in precarious living situations. Trans people are already 8 times more likely to be incarcerated than cis people . Away from the face to face interactions we have with the pigs, we trans folks still find ourselves on the receiving end of policing done unto us by our comrades (and by other authorities): when the validity or morality of our choices and actions regarding our transitions are judged, when our lack of adherence to expectations raises eyebrows. We internalise these expectations, and that can be damaging. The performativity we sometimes have to give to be taken seriously is draining. I’m so lucky to have a supportive community within the camps and within my affinity group, and sure, living in anarchist spaces is a sort of relief from some of the expectations and pressures. I do however believe that our spaces have just as much work to do as everywhere else to be inclusive to trans folk. Resistance means we don’t let The State set up shop in our heads, and in our camps.
Families, farmers and other folks who have had their land compulsory purchased by HS2 never consented to having a train line, (or an access road for a train line) built through their land. I feel sympathy and sadness for the people who are forced to watch the landscape around them change so dramatically. They are forced watch as it becomes unrecognisable and undesirable, but in many cases taking action is near impossible. Many landowners and organisation have been forced by HS2 to sign gagging orders. They are exhausted and their hands are tied. In my mind, this is akin to how I have felt at points in my transition, unable to move on, and defeated by The State. Perhaps my sympathy is rooted in some of my own experiences, or perhaps it’s all much worse for the poor landowners, perhaps their lives feel like they are over in a different way.
The State’s presumption that they know what is best for us also extends into the court room. No trans people were consulted during the court case that ended with the High Court banning the Tavistock Clinic (The gender identity clinic that under 18s are usually referred to) from prescribing hormone blockers to anyone under the age of 16 at the end of last year. The two cis people who took this matter to court claimed that young trans people were unable to give informed consent about receiving medication that stops puberty temporarily. Even in cases involving teenagers under 18, doctors may need to consult the courts for authorisation for this sort of medical intervention. People of this age are able to drive, get jobs and have children, they can give ‘implicit’ consent to be under state surveillance and be policed, but still lack autonomy over their own bodies. This decision by the high court has been appealed by an NHS Trust so there is a glimmer of hope, but given the court’s bias and lack of sympathy to trans people in the past this is unlikely to be successful in my opinion. A spokesperson from Stonewall has said that “Denying such vital support is not a neutral act and will be deeply harmful to many trans young people.” This is just another in a long list of examples of the court system facilitating State violence. Previous tinaar articles have spoken at length about the high court’s role in facilitating state violence, particularly around protest and land rights and I don’t want to repeat what they have said so I recommend checking those out on the ‘blog’ tab. To throw something new into the mix, non-enrolled deed polls (they’re the bit of paper you sign when you change your legal name) are about to be made invalid, meaning the only option will be enrolled deed polls (that you have to pay, and apply to court for), so there may well soon be a publically available list of trans people who have changed their names, which is incredibly dangerous. I should not have to ask for The State’s approval when I change my name. I shouldn’t not need to ask anyone before I change the gender marker on my passport before I travel. (I should not need a passport to travel in the first place.) We never consented to The State getting a say in what our transitions look like.
This all comes after years of vicious attacks on the trans community by TERFs (although I prefer the term FART which stands for Feminism Appropriating Radical Transphobe lol) and could be the first devastating step on the rollback of our basic rights. TERFs have been pushing for the reversal of our rights and access to hormones, bathrooms, and support networks, and have pushed back against the calls for reforms of the Gender Recognition Act which would offer trans people’s (some slightly less limited) rights to determine their own legal gender. I believe that even without this pressure from TERFs, the government would still have found ways to attack our rights, it has just been awfully convenient to have a group of people they can claim to be protecting. There needs to be careful consideration as to how we respond to all of this, given the way trans folk have been treated in the past when we have dared to stand up to such things, and given the current covid situation in the UK and the vulnerability of our community.
We are about to find out the outcome of the appeal that has been made to the high court regarding young people’s access to blockers. Whatever the outcome of the appeal. it is time that allies get ready to take action in support of our trans siblings.
I’m honestly not sure where I was going with this when I began writing this I was just very sad and angry and I just sort of liked the idea of forcing tinaar.com to publish something with such a ridiculous title, but here we are at the end of the rollercoaster. Please support trans folks. We need you now more than ever.
 Although I’ve managed to blag a lot of things with a copy of my school report that has the he/him pronouns highlighted, this is not the reality for most people.
 https://www.leamingtoncourier.co.uk/news/environment/another-day-another-ancient-tree-felled-300-year-old-hunningham-oak-near-leamington-knocked-down-make-way-hs2-2984031 http://stophs2.org/news/18968-bentonite-factory-plans-prompt-5th-hs2-protection-camp-wendover-active-resistance-founded
 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tony-blair-labour-leadership-contest-latest-trans-rights-a9346561.html | https://www.theoxfordblue.co.uk/2020/07/04/the-conservative-governments-attack-on-trans-rights-is-evil/
 https://www.galba.uk/ | https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/politics/council/extinction-rebellion-throw-fake-blood-steps-leeds-civic-hall-following-approval-leeds-bradford-airport-plans-3133377?fbclid=IwAR1GMmaic_3FuSyuPGbJ5iXjkG8u-HJwMHHbjpKM4DCYaixgF77gkz0_piQ