Growing up in Manchester, I’ve always been part of the vibrant LGBT+ scene where I’ve socialised and made lifelong friendships with people from all walks of life, but I’ve never really got to know anyone who identified as Trans on a personal level.
A couple of years ago, I was fascinated by a blog written by someone I went to school with, which detailed their journey through transition and the barriers they faced. I had also attended an LGBT+ specific domestic abuse support training course where the course leader used some terms that I had never heard of before, which made me realise I actually knew very little about what the ‘T’ stood for in LGBT. As a proud member of the LGBT+ community and someone who has worked on and off in Equalities for over 20 years, this really got to me, so I set out to find out as much as I could about the Trans community and how I could support them.
I have become familiar with Sparkle, the national transgender charity based in the UK, best known for organising the annual Sparkle weekend in Manchester. There, I have helped to host NHSBSA’s stall for the past two years, where I have been fortunate to speak to many people about their experiences, their needs and transition journeys.
I learnt what is legally and medically required for people to transition and how the NHS is admired by the Trans community in the UK for the help and support it offers people during this time, as well as finding out about the limitations of support and the struggles that people can have when coming out as Trans and transitioning.
I always assumed I would have a better understanding of Trans people and their experiences, based on mine growing up and coming out as a gay man. However, I couldn’t be further from the truth. Experience for Trans people is completely different, in particular, living life not feeling comfortable with the body they have, the clothes they wear, their name and how people address them. This can completely rob them of many years of their life of feeling content in their true, authentic self.
This is what inspired me to take part in Stonewall’s Trans Allies Programme, which consisted of a one-day awareness training to learn about the process of transitioning, as well as how we can support those who identify as Trans and Non-Binary.
There are so many medical, legal and costly aspects to transitioning, not to mention the many months if not years that it could take. That’s why, as an organisation, it is important that we are fully inclusive so our colleagues and customers know they have our full support and understanding.
As part of this, I was delighted to deliver a Trans Allies session to our first group of NHSBSA Trans Allies in June, and it was fantastic to have two members of the NHSBSA Leadership Team in our second group in August. These groups of colleagues will emphasise the visibility of our commitment to ensuring our colleagues across the organisation feel comfortable and able to be their authentic selves at work.
Additional sessions are planned to train more allies in the future with the aim that every NHSBSA building and department has at least one Trans ally.