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Posted 04 Jun 2024

Trans People Need Our Support At Work, Right Now.

Across the globe, trans people are the focus of a culture war, in which their very existence is considered a threat. Impact to healthcare, mental health support, accessing public services and engaging in sports is apparently up for debate, in what is becoming an increasingly toxic political narrative. Since we are in the season of LGBTQ+ Pride events, Eva Echo (she/they) took the time to share their thoughts on the experiences in the trans community. Echo is Director of Innovation at Birmingham Pride, an ambassador for the charity Diversity Role Models and sits on the Crown Prosecution Service’s hate crime panel. In 2024, Eva was selected as one of UN Women UK’s delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68). In the UK, a report reviewing transgender healthcare is featuring large in an election season, threatening to overshadow much needed debates on the economy, foreign relations and public service planning.

1. How is the Cass report affecting the trans community?

Echo explains “The Cass report has frustrated the trans community and put everyone on edge because of how the review was conducted and how it’s since been weaponised. Whilst certain MPs and anti-trans groups have been using it as a “told you so” moment, the report is so skewed and void of internationally accepted evidence which does support the safety and need for gender affirming care, that it’s not reliable. If anything, what it does show is that that trans people, our allies and those with any sort of pro-trans research have been ignored in favour of an ulterior agenda.”

One of the clear messages from the Cass report has been the lack of evidence, however scientific evidence is frequently poorly understood by policy makers and businesses alike. Qualitative evidence has been ignored, as well as evidence which doesn’t include a control group. However, in many health care settings control groups are not viable as withholding care is not ethical. Meanwhile, what we are NOT hearing is a call for more evidence, funding for clinical trials and reviews which would help us understand how to support people through a complex psychological and physiological journey. There are indeed lots of questions, but none of these are answered by blanket bans.

2. What concerns are there about the report being referred to in the current UK election cycle?

Echo’s comments outline the way transgender people’s existence has become a political football. “The community knew that trans rights would be used as a wedge issue for the general election. Even just before Parliament was dissolved, we’ve seen an increase in attacks on trans rights and even the complete banning of puberty blockers for trans youths, with the Health Secretary using emergency powers, citing safety concerns. However Dr Cass and her team said in a follow up interview that they did not conclude puberty blockers are unsafe. And puberty blockers are still safe and legal for cis youths to use. This sort of direct discrimination has been allowed because of the weaponization of the Cass report”

3. What can employers do to support trans employees and families of transpeople?

It’s important to note for large employers and employers with trans employees that people are affected, daily, by the toxicity of this debate. Research shows that transgender people and gender fluidity is higher than the general population in neurodivergent communities. If you have a thriving neurodiversity program, then you possibly have undisclosed trans and gender fluid colleagues, or parents of trans teens. I asked Echo directly their thoughts about how employers can help during the upcoming election seasons.

“Ensuring the company culture and environment is fully inclusive is the best way to support trans employees. We spend so much of our lives at work, that we all deserve to be accepted for who we are. Recognition of the emotional damage that the Cass review and election campaigning can do is also vital. Whilst we continue to turn up for work, we do so knowing that our rights are on the line and that will undoubtedly impact us at work. Having active and supportive management/colleagues can really help to combat negativity, and create a safe space. Offering benefits such as trans healthcare, or even time off to attend appointments will also be a great help. As an organisation, you can send a clear message to trans employees: that they are seen and valued, and that you actively and visibly stand with them.”

4. What message do we need to get above the noise right now?

While we as a society work out the logistics of fairness, good healthcare, representation and inclusion, real people are suffering immensely. Echo reminds us:

“Trans people are people. Focus on the noun not the adjective, and don’t believe all you hear in the mainstream media. The targeting of trans people is just the start, and they will widen their attacks to include other marginalised groups too. We must unite to ensure that we are heard as one. Now isn’t the time for self-serving behaviour or personal gain. We must put collective needs first and in doing so, show one another respect and love.”

Echo’s work as an activist, writer and TEDx speaker with a focus on transgender rights, intersectionality and mental health has never been more needed than right now. She uses her own experiences and intersectionality to shed light on what it is to be transgender and to challenge the obstacles which gender diverse people face within today’s society. Most notably, Eva took legal action against NHS England in the High Court to challenge the unlawful waiting times for trans patients. She won the DIVA Award for Unsung Hero of the Year 2022 and was named on the DIVA Power List for the last three consecutive years. She was also named 19th in the Pride Power List 2023.

If you are struggling to navigate trans inclusion in your business, there are consultants and facilitators who can help advise you. It is not easy right now to have these discussions, but those who are affected need our support more than ever. Allyship that only acts when a campaign is cool, or not under fire, is not allyship at all, it is marketing.