Scottish Election 2021: Trans rights issues are being debated without any actual trans people. All we want is fair treatment – Vic Valentine

Maybe you are excitedly following the election build-up. Or maybe not.

Trans rights demonstrators outside the Scottish Parliament (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)

For most, fears about our own and our friends’ and family’s health, and readjusting to something closer to normality, loom large. How we vote can feel disconnected from these daily worries, but who we put our trust in to take decisions will make a big difference.

For trans people – people who identify our gender differently from what we might expect based on the bodies we were born with – the outcome of the election could have a huge impact on decisions made about how we are treated in society.

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Many people may have never met a trans person. You might feel confused about what language to use. Or not quite sure why anyone would feel so strongly that they need to take steps to change how they live their lives and ask others to see them as who they are. But we are your colleagues, your neighbours, the staff in your local supermarket.

We’re concerned about many of the same things as everyone else ahead of the election. Concerned about our NHS, and making sure it’s properly funded. The clinics that provide healthcare to trans people already had waiting times of years before coronavirus; now the largest in Glasgow predicts people will wait over three years for their first appointment.

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Like so many others, we’ve been struggling with our mental health, cut off from friends and communities. Trans young people living with unsupportive parents during lockdown may have spent this last year feeling they can’t safely be themselves.

Some of us can’t wait to vote, others are pretty indifferent. But there will be trans people who haven’t been able to register to vote with a glitch in the system meaning that, for some of us, after changing our names our local electoral offices can’t find our new details.

The last few years saw conversations about trans people on a bigger scale than before. We are regularly the subject of media discussions and political debates.

Often, these conversations happen without any trans people in the room. At approximately 0.5 per cent of the population, there are not many of us working in mainstream media, and no trans MSPs.

This has left lots of us feeling like those taking decisions that could affect our lives have been doing so without understanding much about what our lives are really like.

My hope is that over the next five years, that can change. That politicians and the media will talk to us, and not just about us.

That they’ll take the time to learn the pain of being on a waiting list for years with no support, and properly fund improved vital services. That they’ll do more for people struggling with their mental health, and help change the conversation so that all young people can be themselves at home.

That they’ll help remove barriers we face, so we can register to vote like anyone else. That they’ll support us trying to live our lives the only way we can.

Here’s hoping that come Thursday, we have voted for politicians who listen, care about our struggles, and will make the changes needed for us all to live in a fairer, more equal society.

Vic Valentine is manager at the Scottish Trans Alliance

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