Elijah, a member of Mermaids’ Youth Advisory Panel, had the opportunity to give evidence to Mr Victor Madrigal Borloz, the United Nations’ Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), during his visit to the UK.
Victor Madrigal-Borloz visited the UK to listen to a range of stakeholders, including Mermaids, as part of his report into the human rights of LGBT+ people in the UK.
Now that the Independent Expert’s end of mission statement (TW: references to suicide) is released, Elijah recounts his experience and what the day signified for him personally.
As I sat on the train to London, I had to chance to think about the shy anxious person that I used to be. I don’t think I would’ve believed it if you had told me three years ago that I would get the chance to talk about my experience at a meeting which could improve the lives of transgender young people in the UK.
I arrived at Euston on the 9am train, jumped on the tube, then took a short walk down the River Thames. I didn’t know where to begin, there was so much that I could say about what it’s like to be a trans young person in the UK.
Once I was welcomed in the meeting, I felt relaxed and knew my experience was valued. I could speak openly about how I felt and what I had gone through, despite being nervous knowing I may be one of the only trans young people able to speak to the UN Independent Expert.
I was able to talk about how the UK’s education system has made me feel ostracised and the way my trans identity felt incompatible with school. I got to talk about how the politicisation of trans identities is scary. I left the meeting confident that I’d done justice to my experience, while also feeling as though I was carrying the weight of other trans young people with me, including those who are no longer here to tell their story.
Afterwards I took a short walk over Lambeth Bridge heading towards the Tate Britain to grab lunch, looking at the Houses of Parliament perched comfortably on the north bank of the river. Looking at a place where such important decisions about our livelihood are made is always a surreal feeling. In the cafe as I sat down I felt some of the pressure I was carrying lift from my shoulders. I felt that this opportunity to share my experiences as a trans person that day would amount to change for those after me.
Around two weeks later, the report has been published, and includes my concerns about the potentially damaging impact of the Government’s plans to forcibly disclose a student’s gender identity to their parents:
“The organization highlighted specific concerns that such advice may not be guided by the human rights legal requirement of the best interests of the child, if suggesting to forcibly reveal their gender identities to their parents, in light of high rates of transphobic abuse in family environments.”
It is so important for Westminster politicians to acknowledge that what is currently happening to trans people in the UK is causing immense harm, and recognise that many more trans young people, like me, are being forced out of mainstream education.
Transgender young people have the right to not only attend school without fear of bullying or harassment from students or staff, but to be actively embraced by their local community. The Independent Expert’s report reiterated the fact that in the UK this is not currently always the case, but the resilience and vocalness of the UK’s trans community can propel us further despite any barriers we may face.
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