I’ve been a bit busy over the last few weeks launching a little blue and pink frog (or crapaud as we call them here) off its lily pad and into the air! The trans crapaud is Aimé(e) and zhe is the logo for Trans* Jersey. Trans* Jersey is a voluntary not-for-profit group formed: to provide support to transgender, transsexual, androgynous, genderqueer, bigender and intersex Jersey residents; to provide information to cisgender islanders, such as employers, healthcare professionals and teachers, who are dealing with individuals who are undergoing, or thinking about undergoing, gender transition; and, to work to ensure that the States of Jersey’s legislation and government policies that directly affect the trans* community are appropriate and fit for purpose.
The last four weeks have been a round of meetings, media, correspondence and blogging about trans* issues, and in between all that I have done the odd spot of paid work! However, the hard work has been worth it. I’ve met some amazing transwomen; some supportive and genuinely interested cisgender allies; several civil servants who are keen that Jersey should do the right thing by its trans* population and are prepared to listen and learn in order to do so; read numerous stats, studies and papers about the trans* community globally; and discovered that as a tiny island we are, in the main, open to new ideas and tolerant of diversity; all of which would not have happened had I not started Trans* Jersey.
This week we had our first success: we have a documented pathway to care for islanders wanting to transition. It’s a small victory but a significant one. Before we undertook to write down where exactly trans* people in Jersey should be referred for their gender care, both the community and the clinicians were working in the dark. Having a trans* client is a relatively rare occurrence for Jersey doctors so the process is not well-established or well-known; as one clinician said to me, by the time another one comes along, you’ve forgotten the process! Trans* Jersey has now documented that process and will be making it available to GPs and health care professionals.
I started Trans* Jersey in order to gather views to respond to the States of Jersey’s consultation on sex discrimination. That was it. I had no intention of the group being any more than that, but as I spoke to transpeople and other agencies it became clear that it had to encompass more than that. So, its mission statement grew to become a manifesto of aims.
I am in no doubt that had I tried to achieve what Trans* Jersey has so far achieved as an individual I would not have done so. Creating an entity (albeit a goggled-eyed trans* frog taking a leap into the unknown!) around which to focus attention has given trans* islanders a repository for their thoughts, comments and requests, and it has given those partner organisations we have approached a ring of confidence that they are dealing with something that has the backing of the people it represents.
Personally, it has given me a sense of hope that my island will do the right thing when it comes to equal marriage and anti-discrimination legislation. More than that it has given me a community of people to share experiences with who understand what being trans* really means. Cisgender family and friends have been really supportive and sympathetic but, without sounding ungrateful, it is understandably difficult for them to know what being trans* feels like. I always knew I wasn’t the only transperson on the island but I didn’t know how to prove it – transpeople don’t tend to announce their status, for good reason! Now, I have proved it. Not just to myself but to the whole island. We exist in Jersey, just like in every other population in the world, and we have found our voice. Ribbit!