With RTÉ hosting “Generation Gender” while UCD hosts panels on Trans issues and closed spaces, Elliot Savage takes a deeper look at how these discussions are framed on and off campus

Following the RTÉ debate surrounding the PrimeTime segment “Generation Gender”, the discussion on campus is proving to be quite different to that at a national level. Ireland is considered to be a ‘world leader’ when it comes to trans inclusion, however socially it is not keeping in line with legal acceptance. The Gender Recognition Bill, signed into law in 2015, gives adults the right to apply through the Department of Social Protection in order to be legally recognised as the gender by which they identify. However, 16 to 17 year olds have more of a struggle, requiring parental consent to legally transition, an issue if their parents don’t recognise their gender the same way as they identify, and for younger people this is not available. A review proposes that this recognition be extended to all ages, with minors requiring parental consent and also that a system be introduced for non-binary people.

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Discussion on trans issues is not new around campus. Last February, the University made the decision to re-designate more than 170 toilets to “gender neutral” and introduce changing facilities for transgender members at the sports centre. Students can also change their names on official University documents without a gender recognition certificate. The LGBTQ+ society leads the discussion on trans issues on campus, dedicating a week to events around the issues, including a vigil on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. There are a number of committee and society members who are part of the trans community, and there are a number of events each semester such as trans info night and trans only closed spaces.

National conversation surrounding trans issues is growing, both negatively and positively. More people are being made aware of issues faced by those in the trans community. There have been calls for the improvement of trans healthcare in the country and for reform to take place in order to tackle the immense waiting lists faced by trans people seeking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Trans people also face high levels of discrimination nationally. Marginalisation is ripe in homes, schools and workplaces, and issues faced can cause major upset or distress for trans people. Unfortunately, with the airing of this program came the changing of some people’s views on trans issues. Many parents of trans kids reported family members who once ‘tolerated’ their kids identities now were refusing to respect names and pronouns and many young trans people feared attending school in the days following the debate for fear of backlash from staff and fellow students. It is likely that discussion differs between campus and nationally due to the presence of the LGBTQ+ society and the work they put in to bringing issues to light, as well as many student having more liberal views, while nationally, you have to take into account the older generation, many of whom either do not understand or refuse to accept trans identities.

A group from UCD recently attended the protest at RTÉ against Graham Linehan appearing on the Prime Time segment “Generation Gender”. In the lead up to the show, the public complained about the planned inclusion of Linehan in a debate on Irish Law. Many questioned the reasoning for this when he is ‘a known transphobe.’ A petition was set up but RTÉ failed to change their stance on the issue. Linehan has a history of making transphobic comments including likening trans activism to Nazism. He also attempted to block funding to Mermaids, a charity supporting trans youth in the UK. This was counteracted by YouYube/Twitch gamer “hbomberguy”, playing a 57 hour Donkey Kong stream to raise money for the charity, resulting in the raising of £250,000.

The UK, where Linehan has lived and worked for many years, has significantly more TERFs(Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) in its feminist movement than Ireland. Last week, two British women ambushed Sarah McBride, the National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign following a meeting between the Parents for Equality National Council and members of Congress. They complained that “this ideology”, presumably meaning the belief that trans people exist, had been “imported into the UK by America.” They claimed they had gone to its “source” to reduce the “female erasure.”

The UK is falling behind Ireland in terms of tackling trans rights, with the failure to provide a law allowing for gender recognition best on self-declaration. Since 2004, trans people have been able to have their gender recognised under restrictions. They must be 18 or over, be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have lived for at least two years in their acquired gender and “intend to live permanently in their acquired gender until death.” TERF ideology comes into play when certain feminist groups criticise the Gender Recognition Act and the idea of furthering trans rights. They argue that in some circumstances trans women should be treated differently to how cisgender women would be. They argue that some women-only spaces and jobs should be reserved specifically for cis women.  

The counter-argument here is that this is scaremongering and likely rooted in a transphobic biased. They need only look at Ireland as an example to see that issues they ‘fear’ have not yet occurred despite trans people having the right to self-declaration. Ireland still has a lot of work to do in terms of trans healthcare and legal recognition for non-binary people, but as things stand currently they are far ahead of the UK in terms of tackling issues faced by the trans community.