“I lived most of my life in fear” – Why we need a Trans Manifesto

Tomorrow, on Wednesday 2nd July, a Trans Manifesto will be launched at Stormont, the home of the Northern Ireland Assembly, by Junior Minister Jennifer McCann.  Speaking in support of the manifesto will be Dr. Michael Wardlow, the Chief Commissioner for the Equality Commission, and Norma Shearer, Chief Executive of Training for Women Network.  Others to publicly support the campaign include MEPs Martina Anderson and Jim Nicholson, as well as MLA Anna Lo.


The Trans Manifesto has been developed by Focus: The Identity Trust.  Focus: The Identity Trust works to support Transgender people in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the issues which face Trans people are different in each jurisdiction.  They hope by developing it that it will transform how Trans people are viewed across the island of Ireland, north and south.  It is also hoped the Trans Manifesto will act as a guide for policy and decision makers on issues relating to Transgender individuals.

The launch of this Manifesto is important for a number of reasons.  For many Trans people the T at the end of LGBT is at best a silent one, and nor is the inclusion of T in LGBT even appropriate (see here for more info).  In short, while LGB is about sexuality and attraction, T is about gender.  They are different issues.  Public understanding of Gender Dysphoria – a recognised medical condition  – is limited.  The language used and the narratives constructed around Trans issues need to be formed and shaped by those who identify as Transgender rather than those who identify as Cisgender.

Focus say they don’t want extra rights for Trans people, just the same rights as everybody else.

“I lived most of my life in fear,” said Frances Shiels, secretary for Focus: The Identity Trust.

“I don’t want all of the Transgender and Intersex individuals yet to be born to have to endure the same pain I suffered, afraid to reveal my true identity. Hopefully the launch of this Manifesto and its endorsement will lead politicians and everyone else in positions of influence across the whole island to effect positive change in society that will directly impact on the lives of Transgender and Intersex individuals. After all Transgender rights is a cross –party issue which needs government support. These proposals , if acted upon, will have a hugely positive impact on the lives of many Transgender individuals and their families.”

The Trans Manifesto is made up of three core statements around dignity & respect, empowerment, and imagery:

  1. Regard Trans individuals as equal citizens with equal rights.
  2. Empower Trans individuals to be authorities on all aspects of their own lives.
  3. Encourage diverse, representative, realistic & positive portrayals of Trans individuals.

The Trans Manifesto also makes 2 specific requests of all political parties:

  1. A commitment to include positive images of Transgender individuals in all Central Government publications to increase positive visibility.
  2. A commitment to the speedy introduction of Human Rights based Gender Recognition legislation across the whole of Europe , which is independent of any necessity to fulfill any requirements or to undergo any medical procedures.

The full text of the Trans Manifesto is available here.

Trans issues are among the least understood in the media and society at large.  Many people simply do not know what the issues are and what they can do to help.  One easy thing to do is to read the manifesto and understand the issues better.  Another is to raise awareness of it by sharing it on social media.  Another way of showing support and solidarity is to write to local MLAs and MPs to show support for it.  Transgender rights and equality are not only cross-party issues, they are issues for everybody who claims to stand on the side of equality and justice.  In the end there is no true equality for anyone unless there is equality for everyone.