International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia

16 May 2020

Sunday 17 May is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – a day dedicated to drawing attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexuals, transgender, intersex people and all other people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or expressions, and sex characteristics. The date was specifically chosen to commemorate the World Health Organization’s decision in 1990 to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

One of our chief engineers, Mary Deans, who transitioned at work five years ago, explains how being able to transition resolved an inner conflict and has enabled her to be a more content person.

Accepting myself for the person I am

‘Transgender’ has had different meanings over time, and in different societies. Currently, it is used as an umbrella term describing all those whose gender expression falls outside the typical gender norms.

It is hard to measure how many trans people there are, because many are not visible – either because they have not yet disclosed their condition publicly, or because they have undergone reassignment of their gender status and therefore have disappeared back into the community. It is estimated that a small percentage (maybe 1 percent) of the population is gender diverse. However, only a small percentage of this number medically transitions. This includes non-binary and binary (male to female (MTF) and female to male transition (FTM)).

Gender issues were often misunderstood in the past, but science now indicates clearly that having an identity that does not align with the sex appearance at birth is an innate biological development. This is now recognised as such by the World Health Organisation under the new classification, ‘gender incongruence’.

>When I was young, there was little available information about being trans. There was a small amount of information in encyclopaedias and the like, available at the library. Apart from that, it was just sensationalised stories in the newspapers. I knew that I was different from a young age, but could not have explained it. Like everybody else, I just wanted to be accepted in society and so I had to conform to expectations. I gained a degree in physics and started working for what was then Marconi. I got on reasonably well and had a good career in engineering and later engineering management and lived like many others. I found out about trans as information on the internet became available.

Then about 10 years ago, some circumstances changed in my life and I became free to explore my gender identity. I was able to join some local support groups and proceed through the medical system. I learnt that in the end, being trans is all about self-acceptance. This included transitioning at work five years ago, which was a major hurdle for me. Occupational Health and HR were very helpful during this process. We were fortunate to be able to arrange for the Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES) to come and deliver some training at the site where I work, which I believe helped considerably when I transitioned at work. In the end, it all went very smoothly; I know that some people found it disconcerting and others kindly offered me their full support. Many people treated me just the same as before, which was just what I wanted. I am not so different from the person that people will have known before, apart, of course, from my appearance.

Being able to transition resolved a conflict that I had within myself and has enabled me to be a more content person. Life of course still has all the normal day–to-day problems, but I have been able to accept myself as the person that I am.

There has been a lot in the papers recently about trans issues. Please don’t believe everything you read; some of these people have their own agendas. Like almost everyone else, trans people seek to be accepted and to be valuable members of society. So if you know a trans person, then please be kind and considerate. If you are a trans person, then it’s OK, help is out there.