Dr Sam Hall spoke to Brighton Journal in Trans Awareness Week about The Clare Project, transmisogyny, and how we can help as allies of the trans community.
Last week marked Trans Awareness Week in the UK which seeks to dismantle social barriers between the trans community and wider society. Brighton and Hove is home to many services designed to support those who identify as transwomen, transmen, and non-binary; one of these organisations is The Clare Project.
Dr Sam Hall is a GP living in Brighton and Chair of The Clare Project, a transgender support and social group investigating issues around gender identity based in Brighton and Hove. Sam stepped into the role in 2014 after walking through their doors as a service user, just two years prior at the beginning of his own transition.
Since the conception of The Clare Project around 2000, the organisation has grown from its beginnings as a safe space in a beauty salon where the electrologist treated a lot of transwomen. It has grown from a small community group to a sizeable charity in the short space of time since Sam joined. “I really saw the opportunity for this organisation that had some longevity and kudos within the trans community but was relatively unknown outside of it.”
Speaking to Brighton Journal, a spokesperson for Brighton & Hove Pride said: “As well as our Trans Community Area as part of the Pride Festival on Preston Park, all our fundraising is all distributed independently through the Rainbow Fund and Social Impact Fund.” According to Brighton Pride, The Clare Project received a grant of up to £1,700 for core costs and up to £15,000 for capacity building, outreach and community engagement.
These funds go towards improving the vital services the charity provides, such as their weekly drop-in sessions every Tuesday. “We offer local counselling to our drop-ins, as well as crisis counselling which is needed, a really vital service that’s constantly under threat because counselling is something that is hard to get funding for.” The Clare Project also hosts a monthly social event called Meet&Eat, which takes place at an accessible and trans-friendly venue every month.
Transmisogyny and hate crimes are on the rise despite this increase in visibility
Reports in the media this summer claimed a doubling in hate crimes against the trans community in 2017. Sam highlighted a mixture of two factors contributing to a sharp rise in transphobia: “It’s two-fold, one is that the police are making a lot of effort with the trans community to pledge their support and show it. Secondly, it may well be becoming more common.”
Sam emphasised how increased awareness of trans issues encourages people to trust in the police force and report abuse. The societal shift in gender discussion through mainstream media attention has people speaking out from opposite sides of the argument: “The increased visibility is also bringing allies out so you have opposite ends of the spectrum. With the London Pride march being hijacked [by an anti-Transwomen group], and then Brighton Pride having trans people at the very front of the parade and celebrating.”
“I think because what you’re seeing is misogyny, but it’s an exclusive and specialised version, it’s transmisogyny.” Sam acknowledged that large numbers of people who come for support from The Clare Project are transwomen who have experienced exclusion from social spaces. He spoke of attending ‘A Woman’s Place’ event, a campaign which has come under fire for excluding the rights and voices of transwomen.
Sam, who attended the event with his wife, said: “I left just feeling a bit sad more than anything of the appropriation of what’s rightfully an area of concern for women by what I saw as some kind of far-right privileged exploitation of women’s fears.”
In Brazil, between 250 and 300 transwomen are killed every year as a result of transmisogyny. “They are murdered at alarming rates which is why we have Trans Day of Remembrance, which is coming up on Sunday. People are welcome to come along it’s not an exclusive event.”
So what can we do to help as allies of the trans community?
“Number one thing for allies to do is to get genders right, in particular, with transwomen. This is to really fight back against the rhetoric of having a penis meaning you could never be a woman.” Sam also raised the significance of neutralising language to be non-gendered, so it is automatically inclusive to those who identify as non-binary.
With gender so deeply ingrained in our sense of self, misgendering someone who is transgender can strike right at the heart of a person: “If you misgender a trans person, effectively what you’re doing is you’re saying ‘I don’t care what you think or who you think you are, I know better.’”
Although Sam does not experience misgendering anymore, he explained how many transwomen and those who are non-binary do not have the privilege of being able to hide in plain sight. “To truly deny someone their sense of self, and I think that’s the worst thing you could do to a human being, is to deny them dignity.”