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The transgender community is facing a silent genocide in the U.K.

London Trans+ Pride Protest
Loredana Sangiuliano/Shutterstock

As the U.K. snap elections take place, a British-American trans woman reflects on the painful and lasting impact of the anti-trans movement in the country.

In the United Kingdom, a thriving radical feminist movement has popularized and radicalized opposition to the transgender population, capturing the narrative and heavily influencing media, society, and government as it rails against 'gender ideology.'

The transgender community lies beneath the wreckage of this juggernaut. Once acclaimed for its progressive stance on queer rights, the U.K. has become notorious for its hostile treatment of transgender people and legitimizing anti-trans hatred.

When I was a trans kid in rural England, I learned to survive life in transphobic spaces by kicking a hole in the back of the closet and hiding in Narnia. Even as a teen, I knew the National Health Service's (NHS, the U.K.'s publicly funded healthcare system) trans healthcare system was fundamentally broken. I soon learned, too, that I could not access care or treatment without a supportive family. As the wait time for an initial appointment takes years, I felt and watched as puberty changed my body.

Though I've since moved to the States, making Boston my home, my trans childhood casts a long shadow. I mourn a lost decade, a life at the edge, and what could – and should – have been.

Time is everything. Those diagnosed with gender dysphoria should receive timely access to the care they need. For a child, this might include psychosocial support and delaying puberty, and at 16, possible hormone treatment. For trans adults, they will often receive hormone therapy, and many pursue gender reassignment surgery. Time means better treatment prognoses and resources. But it also means limiting the time before someone can transition and maximizing the time they have after.

They rarely look back.

Yet in the U.K., it is routine for trans patients to wait upwards of half a decade for even an initial appointment. Treatment takes longer. The NHS often requires patients to have begun 'social transitioning' before receiving treatment, which is a high demand of people without support or care in an increasingly intolerant society.

The controversial Cass Review has seen puberty blockers effectively banned and their possession criminalized as those on hormones face battles to receive their medication. Children are being forced to detransition – an act of irreparable harm. If any other minority community were treated as such, it would cause a national scandal that could end careers and collapse governments.

But for the trans community, there is only silence.

Caught between prohibitive NHS waitlists and the economic barriers of private healthcare, some have turned to DIY care by acquiring hormone treatment overseas and administering it themselves. The British government has begun to restrict this widespread, well-developed practice. It is the desperate practice of a community in true crisis, devoid of the primary care and support it needs. When safe routes for what is often lifesaving medication are inaccessible to a majority, it is only natural that other pathways should emerge.

In the U.S., the transgender population is the target of sustained attacks in every state, with hundreds of anti-trans bills tabled at the local and state levels. An overwhelming majority have been defeated, but several red states have adopted anti-trans legislation as a response to misinformation about the treatment of trans children. In response, some transgender Americans have sought to move to safer, "blue" states.

Where the Biden Administration has been an outspoken advocate for the trans community, Prime Minister Sunak and his government have inflamed, encouraged, and legitimized anti-trans rhetoric. During one session in the House of Commons, Sunak cracked an anti-trans joke in the presence of a murdered trans teenager's mother. Where U.S. states have declared sanctuaries, the British government intervened to veto Scotland's passing of a trans recognition bill. While the U.S. can account for groups formed at the local, state and national levels, the United Kingdom has few. Its most influential groups - Stonewall and Mermaid - have been damaged by investigations and controversy from the government’s “War on Woke.”

Though rooted in second-wave feminism, the 'gender critical' movement has rapidly and radically shifted from low-level debate about pronouns and bathrooms to an overt and virulent assault on transgender life in the U.K. and beyond. Trans individuals are deliberately and viciously exposed both in the media and on social media. Led partly by the likes of J.K. Rowling, they are malevolently conflated en masse with criminals, pedophiles, and groomers. They are thus branded in the public eye as dangerous predators that present a clear, existential threat to women and children.

The threat to transgender Britain, once marginal and sporadic, is now all-consuming. There is no escape. The transgender community is now targeted in effectively every aspect of life: from hospital wards to the classroom, hospitals to the workplace, and bathrooms to pronouns. When challenged on their anti-trans views, opponents invariably and oh-so-innocently return to the gently spoken, reasonable line that they are 'just asking questions.' That, somehow, trans lives are up for debate.

Yet poison, no matter how softly spoken, is still poison.

It is no surprise that an exodus of trans-Britons is underway. Perhaps the most distressing part of this tragedy has been the stark realization no minister or party is coming to rescue the trans community. In the U.K.'s culture war, the trans community is an acceptable target. In the end, it will not matter who delivers the fatal blow to transgender Britain, for it will be the crime of an entirely complicit society.

There will be no tears.

But when the British government issues an apology in twenty years—and it will issue an apology—they look forward to rejecting it with the utter vehemence and contempt it deserves.

Billie Burton is a British-American transwoman based in Boston, MA and a recent graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. As a geospatial expert working on war crimes and human rights, Billie currently serves as a NASA Lifelines fellow. In her spare time, Billie finds meaning in writing about the transgender community and mental illness.

Voices is dedicated to featuring a wide range of inspiring personal stories and impactful opinions from the LGBTQ+ and Allied community. Visit Advocate.com/submit to learn more about submission guidelines. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on any of our stories. Email us at voices@equalpride.com. Views expressed in Voices stories are those of the guest writers, columnists and editors, and do not directly represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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