CW: Suicide, Transphobia


 Yesterday’s debates in Westminster Hall have come and gone. Debates ostensibly about either changing the Equality Act to strip protections from trans people or to keep the Equality Act as it is, but in reality was just another vehicle for MPs to regurgitate hate in the safety of Parliament


And I did what I do in these situations. I sat down and watched the whole debate while tweeting about it, trying to walk the tightrope of explaining what was happening to those not watching whilst at the same time stripping out all the hate directed towards us 


I like to think I did a pretty good job finding that balance. For me it’s an essential part of what I do. Providing information and analysis without adding to the fear and stress that is a part of everyday life for trans and non-binary in the UK. It’s essential for me to do what I do without deliberately adding to the fear and stress of others


Thankfully, I don’t have to be that kind to myself. Yesterday, I sat down and did what I always do. I tweeted about what was happening whilst walking that tightrope in a world that turned entirely grey, and flat and devoid of all emotion the moment the first speaker started speaking


What I experienced is disassociation. It’s not anything new to me. It’s how my brain has been protecting me for decades; a survival mechanism born out of desperate need that came from growing up experiencing abuse. And a mechanism that came about because I have a long and complex history with suicide 


My first experience of hospital as an adult was being admitted to one of the old Victorian psychiatric hospitals that still existed at the time. It was after yet another suicide attempt, somebody found out, and because I was in university at the time it was decided it was of the upmost importance that I “should receive necessary medical care”. Not that it really had anything to do with care. The university didn’t want me killing myself while I was there. It would have reflected badly on them. That was the limit of their concern for me 


That wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary back then. Care in the Community had only in place for a handful of years by that point and a society that, up until then, had dealt with people with mental health issues by locking those people away for the rest of their lives now suddenly found themselves having to deal with ‘a huge problem to a sane world’ living amongst them, to borrow a phrase 


That was reflected in the attitudes of NHS mental health care and Adult Social Services. Psych patients like me weren’t meant to be around and being an issue. Up until that point we’d been detainees for life in estates billed as hospitals, but in reality were nothing more than prisons for those who’d committed no crime. For both arms of the state people like myself and the friends I’d made inside the mental health system shouldn’t have been allowed to publicly exist 


That wasn’t a secret they kept from us. All of us fully expected to die young because we knew that’s what happened. We knew that once you were part of the system and had a history of suicide you’d be expected to take yourself out. It was an outcome to be desired by the system, even when they claimed otherwise, because it meant we stopped a burden to them 


The NHS and Social Services didn’t have to do anything in particular to pursue that goal. The standard back then was that your psychiatrist would put enough drugs down your throat to “stabilise your mood” and as soon as they could claim with enough plausibility that you weren’t a danger to yourself or others they’d discharge you where your GP was meant to take over your medical care and Social Services would help you with your care and support needs 


But your GP didn’t want to know and would often remove you from their surgery, leaving without a GP, and Social never seemed to have anybody available to help you despite you very literally having just been discharged from hospital into homelessness 


And so around would come the breaking point where you couldn’t carry on and in one or way another you’d try and check out. And you’d either fail and the cycle would begin again, or you’d succeed and the system worked in the way it was meant to 


That’s no exaggeration. I entered the mental health system nearly 30 years ago and made so many friends there; friends now dead by their own hand. All but one of them died of suicide 


That was the system working as it was meant to 


That is my background


That is what lives with me every moment of every day


And like almost all trans and non-binary people in the UK I know friends who are trans or non-binary who have taken their own lives


.      .      .      .      .



And so yesterday I did what I always do. I sat and watched and commented on the debate, filtering out as much transphobia as possible to spare others unnecessary pain. And I watched Joanna Cherry mock and laugh about the death of our friends 


And I felt nothing 


Even with distance I don’t particularly feel anything about it. Cherry and the others behaviour is — for me — simply the behaviour of the system I’ve lived under my entire life and, for all of my adult life, has sought my death at arm’s length through one means or another 


Because I have severe mental health issues and so am a ‘huge problem to a sane world 


Because I’m disabled, and so to the people in the system I’m a ‘huge problem to a sane world’ 


Because I’m trans and non-binary and so to these people I’m a ‘huge problem to a sane world’


That isn’t to say that I don’t find the actions of those politicians deplorable and contemptible. Of course I do. But I’m not surprised by it, and I’m not surprised by the inevitability that no action will ever be taken against them 


Because this is the system working as it’s meant to 


Not just against trans and non-binary people, but for any marginalised person in the UK 


Ask severely disabled people in the UK what it’s like to live here in a culture where we are repeatedly inferred to be ‘scroungers’ and ‘parasites’ on a ‘society of decent, hard working Britains’ by government ministers at the Despatch Box 


If you’re white take to the time to learn what the system is and does to Black people in the UK 


Take the time to see what system does to the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community in the UK 


Look back in history and see what they system did to men convicted of being homosexuals


That is the ‘great and proud British sense of fair play’ working as it is entirely meant to 


We’re all considered a ‘huge problem to a sane world’ and the UK’s response in Britain has always been the same. Why round people up and ship them off to put a bullet in their head and bury them in mass graves when you can create a society and system so hostile to us that so many many of us will end up seeking our own deaths at our own hands, and so many of us will succeed? 


So no, I’m not surprised, or angry, or frightened by Cherry’s laughing at our deaths 


For me that is simply yesterday being true to history. Cherry’s response is merely nothing more than the true public face of a system that sees any “outcast” as a ‘huge problem to a sane world’ 


My anger is at the system that allows this. My anger is fully directed at the system that killed my friends. My anger is at the system that has killed far too many trans and non-binary people 


That’s where my anger is directed. It’s where my focus is directed. I live with the certain knowledge that there is no “changing the system” while keeping the system in place. That the only answer is to tear that system down, level the ground, and build something new and better in its place 


Remove the system and remove people like Cherry. You'll remove the people who find our deaths desirable and humorous both. As an activist my goal is to smash that system and I’m not going to let the petty actions of a despicable example of humanity distract me from that goal 


I’m not going to focus on removing Cherry because too many others like her within the system who will just take her place 


My sole goal is removing the system itself and replacing it with something better 


And I know I'm far from alone in that