Transsexual people comment on their experiences

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A man has been convicted of murdering a transsexual prostitute in north London. Destiny Lauren was one of a number of transgender people to suffer violence, and there are concerns such attacks are on the increase.

Murders are obviously at the extreme end of the spectrum and remain very rare. But BBC News website readers Sarah Brown and Zoe O'Connell told us about the verbal abuse and discrimination they received after transitioning.

Sarah Brown from Cambridge is often asked inappropriate questions

I am a transsexual woman, and the one thing that strikes me over and over is the extent to which our lives and medical history seem to be considered public property by all and sundry.

I've had complete strangers nonchalantly ask me questions about my genitals, often in the most inappropriate of settings.

I get sick of hearing people authoritatively claim, "oh, if you have a penis then you're a man" and I imagine walking along a busy street must be very confusing for someone who thinks like that - not being able to tell whether people they meet are men or women because they have clothes on.

Sometimes I am baffled by the way the minds of non-transsexual people must work - so many of you seem obsessed by genitals!

I think the media must take some of the blame for the shabby way we are treated by society... getting exposed to the same ignorance and prejudice day after day after day can be very, very tiring.

Image caption,
Kellie Telesford, Destiny Lauren and Robyn Browne were all murdered

"No, these are not implants, yes, I have had 'the surgery', not that it's any of your business, no it didn't hurt - they used anaesthetic, no, I'm a lesbian, not that that's any of your business either, yes, my real name really is Sarah, will you please stop talking about genitals? I'm trying to eat!" and so on.

We are not media stereotypes. If you live in a large city you pass several of us every day without realising. You share toilets and changing rooms with us and are none the wiser.

We generally mind our own business, and don't feel the need to ask you about your genitals or your medical history, or take any weird hangups we may have about our sexuality out on you. It would be nice if you would grant us the same courtesy.

Zoe O'Connell finds it 'soul-destroying' when people treat her badly

Yes, as a transwoman myself, I can say that transsexual people can be terribly vulnerable. It's not just the "trans-panic" murders and the constant threat of day-to-day abuse if one doesn't "pass".

It's also that trans folk in general will often find themselves joining vulnerable groups in other ways, such as having to resort to sex work or living in dodgy areas because we've lost our jobs, our homes and our families.

When we do end up calling the police, it's just as likely we'll be arrested or discriminated against even when we're the victims rather than helped. So many people feel they simply can't call for help.

Image caption,
Leon Fyle had sex with two prostitutes after killing Destiny

It's the same with medical services - whilst the majority of doctors and nurses are genuinely helpful there are a few who are truly transphobic and will refuse to help.

This has been made worse by the Equalities Act 2010 as when it comes into force in October, it will be entirely legal to discriminate against anyone even suspected of being transsexual in the provision of services such as sheltered accommodation or rape councilling.

Those higher up the chains of command in such organisations also sometimes genuinely want to help, but even more so want to protect their staff.

So far, I've not seen a single complaint against the police or health service that's been upheld with more than promises of "further training" or "words of advice" if you're lucky, which means the few bad apples know they can get away with not caring.

Some, such as myself, are luckier and kept our jobs and our support networks.

But we still may end up having to work to pay off loans needed for medical treatment and spending time and effort explaining ourselves to or defending ourselves against the police, the health services and even supposed allies in the LGB community every time we need basic - even non-Trans-related support.

Most of us would rather spend our efforts doing something more positive: Campaigning to ensure this doesn't happen again.

More comments

I am just beginning my journey of transition and I'm a 27 year old transsexual. After reading of the original article, it does make me worried that this could happen to me one day.

Justine Hay, Brightlingsea

One of the reasons why transgendered people are targeted is because of how we are mis-represented and abused by the mainstream media. The terms tranny, sex swap and sex change are all preparative but used by the media on a regular basis. Also the use as transsexual as a noun is also offensive. A friend of mine recently went to see a surgeon regarding her treatment and he patronisingly told her she shook hands wrong and should shake hands with people in a more feminine way... nothing really has changed since the 1960's on the treatment of transpeople. The problem is there are many old outdated archaic views on what is male and what is female. Transpeople transcend this and are regularly told, (mainly by men) on how to behave. My experience after transitioning is I realised just what a male misogynistic world it is.

Janey, Salford