The term ‘trans’ refers to every person who does not identify with the biological gender they were assigned at birth. Although there are many variations within this definition, the term mostly refers to people who were born male but identify as female (trans-women), and people who were born female but identify as male (trans-males).
People tend to shy away from the topic, so there is rarely an opportunity for constructive debate on the issue. When people talk about the ‘trans issue’, it is often implied that this is something we need to deal with, that is a problem that we need to solve. In this book, writer Shon Faye has collected the many stories she has heard over the years, in order to show just how difficult life can be for a trans person, and how much of a problem it also poses for non-trans people. Faye focuses on the reality of the situation in her home country of England.
During the 2019 UK election campaign, Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, was criticised for opening up a debate on transgender rights. Her progressive ideas were suppressed, because most people prefer not to talk openly about these issues. During the 2020 elections, every political leader was specifically asked for their opinion on the transgender issue. It would appear, therefore, that the issue is of great interest, but only if approached in a very specific and limited way. Trans people are belittled, almost dehumanised, and reduced to an issue: their very status as human beings is often completely ignored.
As a journalist, Shon Faye has repeatedly been called upon to talk about trans people on the radio, television, and in the press, but has found that the media often treats the trans community in a condescending way, as if it were something to be ridiculed or forgiven. Trans people are seen as a problem or issue that society has to deal with, but the vast majority of people lack any kind of curiosity to learn about the lives of trans people, who in turn, are just asking to be heard.
It is also true that debates always start with non-trans people, rather than the other way around, because trans people are never given the chance to open up a dialogue. The more courageous in the trans community, who are active on social media and fight to claim their place in the world, are often silenced, because they are seen simply as angry activists who are unable to accept any kind of criticism. It is almost impossible to hold a simple debate, because the latent prejudice against trans people always wins out in the end, and their voices go unheard. Everyone sees them and judges them, but no one really listens to them as they deserve to be listened to.
Faye seeks justice for all the trans people who are marginalised and discriminated against by society, and for those who are denied their basic rights, such as health security or employment. Trans people are not, and cannot, be free, because their right to freedom is not fully recognised. According to Faye, however, the time has come to do something, so that trans people are no longer abused, mistreated, or subjected to violence.