Inside Out | Pocketmags.com
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Inside Out

I’ve lived in Belfast all my life. grew up in Andersonstown and went to an all-boys primary school.

There’s no real answer to when I first started to feel didn’t identify with my assigned gender. It was something that was really gradual. I came across the word trans when was about 15 but knew before then.

The support that was looking for in my local community it was quite frustrating because anything available was for much older adults.

Getting GenderJam off the ground was a case of posting on Tumblr to see if anyone who was trans and young wanted to get a cup of tea and chat about whatever. The turn out was pretty good so we started doing it regularly. It became pretty clear that we needed to set up something more formal. GenderJam was operating out of cafes, so that was the main reason for the Belfast Trans Resource Centre. We weren’t expecting to be able to open a community centre, we were expecting to open an office and it just happened that this long term project became more feasible.

It has been very encouraging to see from such small beginnings how sustainable it’s become. In spite of having no government the past two years, in spite of UK-wide, and to a lesser degree, Ireland-wide media being openly transphobic, to see this flourish has been very good indeed.

I was recruited by SAIL, which is the regional trans family support organisation in 2015 to do work supporting young people. I started doing more work nationally and with the European Commission, the European Union and the United Nations.

The experience as a candidate with the Green Party was quite interesting. have a long term disability, it goes through occasional flares, and one those flares happened when was involved in that political run. I was having to use mobility aids for the first time, and although there wasn’t much abuse because was trans, the level of abuse was getting for being perceived as trying to win sympathy votes by using crutches or a chair - that was a big eye-opener. That really got me started on disability rights, and now that would form a core tenet of my trans rights work, because over half of the community that accesses at least the services up north would be disabled.

It’s definitely the case that Brexit is impacting fights for LGBT+ rights, such as marriage equality and gender recognition here in Northern Ireland. The political will for anything other than Brexit or immediate budgets or continued benefit cuts is quite limited and it is continually frustrating. Especially where we’re two years and one month with no government. So relying on civil servants who are now becoming more and more entrenched in their way of doing things, and having a UK government that listens to whatever the DUP says has frustrated everyone in the sector.

I think Brexit does threaten rights in the future. In terms of LGBT+ rights and trans rights specifically, there are over 40,000 pieces of legislation that need amending. That comes down to civil servants, and civil servants are not going to be able to enact all the legislation. That means that even if rights don’t roll backwards, they will not move forward.

I saw the TENI policy and research position come up so went for it. Policy and research is my bread and butter now. I’ve been focusing on UK-wide and European Commission and United Nations work and work in the world professional association for trans health for quite a while now and that’s all so heavily policy orientated that it looked like the obvious move.

This work is incredibly scintillating, it’s energising. The stuff that I find incredibly fascinating is legislative and policy work and strategic development - things that sound quite dry to some people.

It’s very encouraging that although you don’t see what happens in counselling rooms or what goes on between one-on-one conversations with volunteers and the people they are supporting, you do see people come in through the door shaking like a leaf and then six months down the line they take the door off the hinges and have a bunch of friends and are doing great. It’s difficult to know exactly what the correlation is but you know you’re doing something right when the things you are putting in place are resulting in that sort of stuff.

It’s my job to make sure those people can do what they do really well. The people at the top of our organisations are really just there to facilitate the work on the ground.

This article appears in the 351 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 351 Issue of GCN