Today, 31 March, is Trans Day of Visibility.
In this research project, a large portion of our work is secondary analysis of existing datasets based on population-level surveys of Great Britain – particularly Understanding Society and the ONS Wealth and Assets Survey. However, these datasets only ask about sexual identity – whether someone is heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual. There will be some exciting initial findings from this work package on this blog soon.
However, this means we could easily erase trans people from our wider exploration of how this marginalised group of LGBT+ people experience Great Britain’s welfare systems, and accumulate assets or debt over their lives. Aware of this, and to make trans people’s experience very visible, we are explicitly over-recruiting trans people in the qualitative research for the project. If you identify as trans and are interested in being involved, do get in touch!
As well as ensuring trans lives, which are particularly under-researched in this area, are made visible, we are also concerned that the bureaucracy of administering welfare may present specific barriers to trans people. Processes such as having to prove identity and residency to receive benefits may clash with the life trajectories of trans people. Having to deal with front-line staff may lead to people being misgendered, or other distressing experiences. Such experience has been reported by our participants, even in the early stage of our research. Research from the US suggests that when made positive, such bureaucratic encounters can be a site for trans liberation.
Our interviews are also suggesting that the erosion of the value of working-age benefits in the UK (“social insecurity“) is compounding negative experiences for trans people. Lower levels of Local Housing Allowance for under-35s is leading to people living in difficult circumstances as they cannot afford to live in safe housing alone. The extra costs of private treatment, such as gender-confirming hormones, are a struggle to afford on an income from welfare benefits. The mental health challenges of being trans in a cisgendered world make it difficult to find work.
As the research progresses, we are looking forward to understanding more about trans people’s experiences, and we hope that through the outputs of the project we can improve lives in future. Ultimately, on Trans Day of Visibility, we want to make trans people visible through our research.