Actureads Book Club: The Transgender Issue
Following our inaugural meeting in November, the Actureads book club reunited last month!
Actureads was established to explore issues connected to equality and inclusion; we aim to champion underrepresented writers and engage with their vital perspectives. Our first title was Michaela Coel’s debut – Misfits: A Personal Manifesto – which explores identity, though the lens of the author’s personal trials and triumphs.
The Transgender Issue
This time around, in recognition of LGBT+ History Month, we read The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye. Throughout this eye-opening title, the author explores the plights of the transgender community, including societal prejudice, legislative alienation, and pervasive homelessness and unemployment. Faye reclaims the ‘transgender issue’ and fetters the unjustified sense of authority held by many cisgendered people on this multifaceted subject. Early in March, the Actureads group met over Teams to discuss our key takeaways.
Firstly, many of us were shocked by the sheer volume of saddening statistics:
- In 2017, 41% of trans people had experienced a hate crime or incident in the last year;
- Per charity akt, 24% of homeless young people identify as LGBTQ+, a significant overrepresentation; and
- In 2018, 1 in 5 trans people had experienced domestic abuse from a partner in the previous year.
Faye goes on to discuss the impact of Section 28 (Local Government Act 1988) legislation which prohibited, inter alia, ‘the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’. This provision was only repealed in England & Wales in 2003. In its wake, the entire queer community has struggled to find its place in a society programmed for bias. This has been particularly true for trans people who, as the author highlights, have even faced rejection from LGB factions of the wider LGBT movement.
The book also drew our attention to the personal struggles of the trans community. Gender dysphoria describes the feeling of a person’s identity and gender not corresponding with their birth sex. Dysphoria is the antonym to euphoria (a feeling of elation), indicating the distress and discomfort it can evoke. The author goes on to employ Andrea Long Chu’s analogy of gender dysphoria feeling ‘like heartbreak’; an ‘incapacitating grief’ which ‘can be so all-consuming it interferes with your everyday life’. Clearly, when the media reduces trans issues to demeaning headlines, it does everyone a grave disservice. Trans people face uniquely complex battles, and the author implores us to pause, listen, and empathise.
Personally, I wholeheartedly recommend The Transgender Issue; it provides a refreshing dose of reality to a narrative which is too often callous and sensationalist. Moreover, it was great to discuss this challenging subject matter in the open and friendly Actureads setting. We gained a deeper understanding of the issues facing trans people and what we can do to alleviate these, as individuals and as a society.
Below, I have included some additional resources for those who are tight on time but keen to engage:
- The author has her own podcast, entitled Call Me Mother, in which she talks with other ‘LGBTQ trailblazers who have something important, interesting or enlightening to say about what it means to be queer in the world today’. These episodes provide snippets into the lives of those who experienced the beginnings of the trans liberation movement.
- Shon Faye also appeared on Florence Given’s Exactly podcast last month. The pair explore ‘the culture war being waged against trans people in the media, what exactly a Radical Feminist is and [address] why trans rights are so divisive amongst both the left and the right’.
- Lastly, a shoutout to Queer Lit, the Manchester-based independent store which supplied our copies of The Transgender Issue. The team there maintain an excellent blog comprised of book reviews, longform pieces and recommendations (far more eclectic than anything I could put together).
Happy (belated) LGBT+ History Month, and happy reading!
 Importantly, not all people who experience gender dysphoria choose to transition, neither is gender dysphoria a precondition to becoming trans.