October 29, 2012

IconIreland – is transgender the new black?

In the coming weeks, the Irish government is scheduled to announce legislation in relation to transgender people. I should be happy about this. I should be hitting up interflora for my girlfriend and browsing Tesco’s finest cake isle for the local Trans Support Group, but instead I’m anxious – anxious about what our government will force upon already vulnerable people.

As a community, we’re not hopeful.

The current state

While Ireland has made very sudden and swift advancements in human rights legislation, it is still disturbingly far behind. Gays and lesbians can’t marry; they have to resign to civil partnership. They can adopt, but still only singly, cutting off one parent legally. But this is all progress in the eyes of the Irish; transgender people still have no legal protection. An article by Senator Katherine Zappone, published by the Irish Times on the matter, garnered these online comments:


Get yelled at or get beaten up?

“So if I (with all my equipment intact) put on a dress and sign a form then “hey, presto” and as if by magic I’ll be woman?”

“’Get over it’; you are still a man who has undergone castration”.

As if transgender people don’t have to deal with enough in airports, at graduations, outside toilets and changing rooms, they have to see it all online. And as outlandish as the above comments may seem, hear it from me, living in Ireland for 10 years, these comments are the norm – in cafés, living rooms and clubs.



The legislation

This upcoming legislation, if the quotes from our Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton are to be believed, will drag apart happy and stable loving marriages and families. Going on legal advice from the Attorney General, the new laws will continue to cause ‘forced divorces’ of transgender people because of the constitutional protection of marriage.

The Irish have had to adapt rapidly to the changes in law, educating themselves in tolerance, and this is to be applauded. Although, as commendable as this is, these changes in law reflect issues that have existed for a long time. These issues are far from new, and it’s time that people recognize that.

The comments above are just disgusting and its time our government acted at the root of this thinking to allow transgender people in Ireland to feel comfortable in their identities and allowed to express it.

The concern of the community here is that the new law will require transgender people go through intrusive surgeries or accept a diagnois of a mental illness in order to gain gender recognition.


The reality

Currently trangender people must visit a psychologist and admit Gender Identity Dysphoria before they are offered any further transitional medical help. They have to pay for and attend three expensive private psychologist appointments, convince the psychologist they are gender dysphoric and have them write a letter detailing their private and personal lives. They then take this letter to their GP, have their GP refer them to Loughlinstown Hospital in Dublin and THEN be seen by an endocrinologist and receive tests to check their suitability to hormones.

These are huge hurdles to leap through to access the most basic in trans healthcare. This all before surgery. If they require surgery they must have their hormones at appropriate levels, checked at a clinic which is only open one day a month, and then fly over to Charing Cross Hospital in London for their operations. Trans children are treated the same way.

With treatment so inaccessible for trans people and transphobia so widespread, it’s not suprising that rates of suicide are so high.

In Ireland and the UK, 78% of transgender people have seriously thought about ending their lives and 40% of those have attempted, 22% of those at leest 2 to 5 times. (The Trans Mental Health and Well-being Survey 2012)

These figures show to highlight the need for adequate human rights legislation in relation to transgender people. Transgender people should not have to undergo surgery to identify in their gender. They should not have to be diagnosed as having a mental illness. And they should definitely not have to separate from their loved ones to be who they are.

Vanessa Lacey of TENI at the TEA Rally for Recognition in Dublin on 20th October.

Activists outside the Dáil, the Irish Government.

LGBT Noise, TEA, ILGA Europe amongst others at the protest.












Another blow

Recently Meteor, a mobile phone provider, placed this advert into Irish broadcasting. While it it was aimed at having a laugh, the state of society and law facing transgender people currently meant it was grossly offensive and just another cheap slur at another minority group a.k.a. Paddy Power style. TENI, the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland issued a Twitter hashtag, #meteorshame, which trended in Ireland and is a major talking point of the community. The advert serves as an example of the Irish context on transgender rights.

The word is out

One positive that can be seen coming out of this advert is the creation of a dialogue. The meteor ad has created debate amongst not only the people of the trans community but also those outside of it. I’ve heard people debating in my café, I’ve heard them at home and I’ve heard them on the street. The rights of trangender people are coming to the fore and lets goddamn hope the Irish government get it right. As a country, we’re adapting fast but we’ve still many an adaption to take on – I’ll be so proud if we do.

Right, I’m off to bookmark those flowers and cycle down to Tesco to check out the celebration cakes. Wish me luck!

15 Responses to Ireland – is transgender the new black?

  1. Annabelle Larousse says:

    Great article–and very timely for me. After decades in the closet, I’m coming out. But I wonder what I’m coming out to. I’m operating on faith that I won’t be driven back in. I don’t want to go back in. I’ve got a serious case of “closet-phobia”. Will the present government please give me some very badly needed help?


  2. Julia says:

    As an example of the negativity found online, you can go to it tells you in a very rough way how much positive and negative stuff is said about a word. The word transgender has less positivity associated with it and more negativity than the word terrorist.

  3. As-If says:

    No. Black is black, black struggle and identity is black, it is not up for grabs by people who are trans and are not black. There are black trans people, and even asking this question in a satirical sense is disrespectful. This article would do well on its own with a change of title.

    Once again:
    Black is the current black, there is no “new black.”
    There are black people who are trans, too.
    Black is black.
    Stop trying to claim black oppression for non-blacks (i.e. “is transgender the new black” which takes from black oppression and appropriates it to people who aren’t black).

    • Hi ‘As-If’,

      The headline ‘Ireland: Is transgender the new black?’ refers to the nature that issues are discovered in Ireland and seemingly resolved. At first it was women’s rights, then it was racism, then homosexuality and currently it’s transgender rights.

      The aim of the headline was to highlight the fact that these issues have always existed and should be treated as such. Just as black people have always existed, as have transgender people. As communities, both have been or are treated as issues rather than people and this was what I wished to address. I agree, there is no ‘new black’, but the transgender community is being seen as such, lets hope they don’t receive more of a similar oppression.

      • As-If says:

        ” At first it was women’s rights, then it was racism, then homosexuality and currently it’s transgender rights.”
        What you are not getting is that none of these have been solved. None of these things are being neatly picked up, solved, and then on to the next “black” one. These issues intersect. You identifying a group (trans) as being “the new” group to be treated as poorly as “black” exemplifies this.

        Case in point: “I agree, there is no ‘new black’, but the transgender community is being seen as such,” NO. They’re not. They’re being seen as trans, as unequal and that is awful and needs to be addressed in its own right as its own form of oppression. “lets hope they don’t receive more of a similar oppression.”
        You’re saying that “the transgender community is being seen [as black]” And once again you are ignoring people who are trans *and* black!

        Because this right here? “lets hope they don’t receive more of a similar oppression.” They do- the *trans black* folk do; they receive oppression because they’re trans, because they’re black, and because members of their own community want to erase them and then take on their oppression for comparisons of convenience.

        Seriously- all you have to do is change the title. Stopping erasure and the blatant ignoring of intersectionality would be great, too.

  4. AJ says:

    Your above comment to As-If makes me wonder if you actually read their comment. The problem is not the fact that Ireland is disregarding human rights, it’s the fact that you’re negating the ongoing oppression of black people by claiming that there is a ‘new black’ when the struggles of black people are not over. Furthermore, trans* people, while we encounter plenty of oppression, are not about to be enslaved, raped to produce more trans* people, and our descendents aren’t about to experience systems of institutional prejudice set-up to disadvantage them.

    The title is problematic and shows that you have little understanding of anti-racism theory.

    • AJ says:

      *The problem is not the fact that they don’t understand Ireland is disregarding human rights.

    • I don’t know about anti-racism theory, but I don’t think you have any understanding of the phrases “the new black”. It’s a fashion term, not a reference to race:

      • AJ says:

        I know the term is also used for fashio. But I wrote my comment after the author made the comparisons to the struggles of black people in the comments.

    • Renata Costa Renata Costa says:

      I agree that black people have encountered unique forms of oppression, including forced mass kidnapping, rape and slavery, and that the consequences of this oppression–and new forms of oppression–live on in the Twenty-first century. However it is clear in this article’s description of the health system that trans people do face institutional prejudice that denigrates and disadvantages them. That is what this article is about.

      • AJ says:

        Then why even go there with the comparison in the title? And clarify it as a comparison to black people? With a different title, it’s perfectly articulate, non-offensive piece.

  5. skobywan says:

    Ireland is still a very right wing country you have to remember that. Nations and people have to progress at their own rate and not be manipulated into it. As a country we have far more important things to be concerning ourselves with than some guy why wants to chop his cock off.

    I’m sorry to say most of these non-issues serve as nothing more than distractions to bigger issues. There will always be the oul wan who tells everyone everything. The weak bullied child who becomes a powerful cop. And the tragically misaligned who want to draw special attention to how difficult their path is. Get over yourselves.

    The way any human gains acceptance is by being a benefit to their fellow man. That is what transcends cultural prejudices and norms. You can’t demand to be something special and expect to fit in. Ask Israel how that works out.

    • Vicky says:

      Are you a transphobic troll? Or did you just not understand the article? I ask because I looked at the same piece as you and it was very clear what the author’s intent was when they wrote it. So I am at a loss regarding the arguments you make in your post and if you could clarify yourself that would be appreciated.

  6. Hilary says:

    The saying ‘x is the new black’ refers to a new fashion trend. It’s not referring to black people.

    • As-If says:

      I can’t even say “nice try,” that’s blatant ignorance and you know it. Perhaps you should read between the lines, understand a play on words, and pay attention.

      The headline ‘Ireland: Is transgender the new black?’ refers to the nature that issues are discovered in Ireland and seemingly resolved. At first it was women’s rights, then it was racism, then homosexuality and currently it’s transgender rights.



The L Word Theme (parody)

We love this parody of the L Word theme by Laura Catlow.

July 11, 2012