Last week, poll for the air force found that out of more than 2,000 people in Scotland, only ten percent have a family member or close friend who is transgender, and just over half did not know a transgender person at all.
This is a problem, because how can we decide what we think about something if we don’t know enough about it?
Maybe it’s a good idea to start with what we mean when we say “trans person”.
The clearest way I can describe it is when a baby is born and the midwife says, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!”, for almost everyone, this will be a comfortable fit for how they think of themselves for the rest of their lives.
Trans people are people who at some point understand that it’s “it’s a boy!” or “it’s a girl!” The announcement doesn’t match how we feel about ourselves and whoever is taking steps to live our lives and appear to others the way we feel.
Let’s take ourselves for example. I am a non-binary transgender. This means that I don’t feel that any of the terms “male” or “female” describe me. After many years of figuring this out, I realized that I needed to take steps to live more sincerely.
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To do this, it was necessary to confess to friends and family and let them know that although they see me as a woman, I don’t see myself that way at all. I changed my name. I asked people to start using gender-neutral pronouns for me (“they” and “they”), and most of them were happy.
I decided to transition from a medical point of view, which for me means taking hormones and several surgeries. I changed the gender on my driver’s license and medical records (there are currently only male or female options, but for me, of the two imperfect options, “M” fits much better than the original “F”).
Not all transgender people do all of this.
Someone makes social – goes out, changes the name. People make very personal choices about whether medical treatment is right for them. And some people renew some identity documents but not others, perhaps because (for example, the process of changing gender on a birth certificate) it is so difficult, expensive and intrusive that they do not feel able to do it.
“Cuming” and “transitioning” can mean many different things, and there is no single path that all transgender people will follow. But what unites us all is our sincere desire to be able to live our lives and be seen by others as we really are.
So if you don’t know a transgender person and aren’t sure what you see on the news, it’s okay. Most of us understand that a lot of this is new to people and that sometimes we may need to explain what our life is really like or what our identity means to us.
But we do ask that if you really want to understand more, you try, whenever you can, to hear from transgender people themselves.
Vic Valentine is the manager of Scottish Trans.