Engendered Penalties: Transgender and Transsexual
People’s Experiences of Inequality and Discrimination
Transgender is an umbrella term, coined in the US, used to include people whose lifestyles appear to conflict with the gender norms of society. It includes many types of people and lifestyles. In the use of the broad term, a transgender person crosses the conventional boundaries of gender; in clothing; in presenting themselves; even as far as having multiple surgical procedures to be fully bodily reassigned in their preferred gender role. In this report we will normally use the term ‘trans people’ to describe those people who might be described as falling broadly within this context, as it has become the term of normal use since the coining of it by Press for Change for their 1996 mission statement: “seeking respect and equality for all trans people”.
In this research project, we endeavoured to be as inclusive as possible of different ‘types’ of trans-identified people. The three categories generally used to describe trans people – transvestite, transgender and transsexual – are very simplistic, and the results of this research will add to the understanding that trans people often have complex gender identities, and may move from one ‘trans’ category into another over time. The work is intended to provide a snapshot of the current issues raised by trans people as they seek help from the major provider of legal help and advice in this area, alongside a deeper view of their experiences over their lifetimes exploring the means and mechanisms behind the inequality and discrimination that results from prejudice about trans people. As such the work is an analysis of quantitative results combined with qualitative and illustrative words from trans people themselves, analysed in the context of the major legal and social changes of the last 10 years.
The main sources of qualitative data are the Electronic Materials Databases (EMDs) of Press for Change and the FTM Network, covering the period 1998-2005. This was supplemented with quantitative and some further qualitative reporting from an Online Survey of 873 trans self-identified respondents, which was available for completion during the month of August 2006. Because of the nature of those people who contact Press for Change for advice and information, there is more focus in the qualitative data on those people who live their lives permanently in their preferred gender role. This includes those people who would be identified as transsexual by themselves or others, and who wish to have, intend to have, are having or have had gender reassignment which includes some hormonal therapies and may include surgical gender reassignment.
However, another reason for this focus is that trans people who live permanently in their preferred gender frequently experience victimisation through on-going discrimination, and are treated differently because other people are able to identify them as a trans person, and it is as such that they seek help or support through these groups. The online survey provided some balance as almost 40% of its respondents were not living permanently in their preferred or acquired gender role, thus presenting the views of some of those who identified as temporary cross dressers, transgender individuals and others who self-identify as transsexual
but who had not lived, or were not yet living permanently in their new gender role.
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