New Report Details Ireland's Problem of Transphobic Violence

In Depth

A new report from a transgender rights organisation in Ireland documents the widespread violence, abuse, and harassment transgender Irish face in their daily lives. The stories it shares will surprise no one familiar with transgender narratives.

The Stop Transphobia and Discrimination (or STAD) report produced by the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) outlines the severity and frequency of transphobic (and its intersection with homophobic) harassment and violence. Often times it is not entirely clear from a perpetrator how well versed they are in the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation, so it’s important to recognise that an act which stems from homophobia against a transgender person is still transphobic. These distinctions probably don’t even matter to a perpetrator.

According to the report, 72% of transgender individuals surveyed experienced non-verbal or silent harassment, 64% experienced being mocked or called names, 50% have been objectified, sexualised, or fetishised, 36% have experienced threats of violence, 36% have experienced sexual harassment, 29% suspect they have been turned down for a job, 20% experienced domestic abuse, 16% have been hit or beat up, 12% have been subjected to police harassment, 12% have been subject to some kind of sexual assault, and 6% report being raped, all of these specifically because of a trans identity.

The numbers provided in the report are horrid enough, but the various personal stories of the respondents themselves are chilling. This is just a few of the several stories TENI included in the STAD report, but they are enough to put real lives to the numbers the report has generated.

I was walking with 2 friends when a man started asking if I was a guy or a girl. When I didn’t answer and walked on he started shouting louder threatening to hit me. He then decided I was a girl and started singing a song about how he was going to rape me. He followed us down the road singing this song till he got bored of us not replying.
Was walking down the street when I heard loudly behind me, ‘ya fuckin’ tranny queer’. Ignored it and walked on, held my head high. ‘Tranny queer!’ This continued for a good bit before eventually, ‘watch your back next time I see you.’
Just abusive phone calls making very violent threats and intentions. Such as, when they see me they will hang me from a tree with a live electric cable…yet I don’t know who the phone call was made by.
This incident is not a one off incident as the person sits outside his house with a group of neighbours verbal abusing and intimating me almost on a daily basis. They are also linked with physical cruelty to my two dogs.
While cycling just near to where I lived, I passed three teenage boys, one of which went ‘lads, lads, oh my god, that THING is a woman’. I passed them, without saying anything (which made me feel even more like hell, for not standing up for myself, but since it was three against one, I didn’t fancy my chances) and they threw stones after me (which, thankfully I dodged).
There was one recorded incident of extreme physical violence. An eighteen year old trans man was physically attacked, chased and raped. He experienced broken ribs and his face, legs and back were bruised. The attack took place near his home by one perpetrator who was unknown to the victim. The motives for the incident were recorded as the victim’s gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation which he identified due to the language the perpetrator used and his knowledge of his victim being trans. The victim did seek medical care but did not report the incident to the Gardaí.

An Garda Síochána, which is pronounced On GAR-dah Shee-oh-CAHN-nah, is the Irish national police force, and is generally called the Gardaí. There are reports of calling the Gardaí but receiving no help once the Gardaí arrived. In some cases the victims report that they never showed up to help even after a call was made. A majority of respondents said they didn’t even bother reporting the incidents, for multiple reasons, most having to do with fear of reprisal, fear of the Gardaí officers themselves, or fear of being outed to family members, friends, or coworkers.

This seemed less the case for reports made about the Police Service of Northern Ireland, or PSNI, but the report points out that there is evidence to suggest that the PSNI has had more training on transgender people, and that probably accounts for the differences. The conclusion by the report is that further training is badly needed for both the PSNI and An Garda Síochána.

The Republic of Ireland, unlike most Western nations, has no hate crimes legislation. Jennifer Schweppe, a member of the panel at the launch of the report, and co-director of the Hate and Hostility research group at the University of Limerick where the report was launched, argued that the lack of this kind of recognition actually makes the situation far worse.

Ireland is almost unique in western democracies in not having hate crime legislation. The absence of such legislation has led to a situation where we as a society have given a ‘permission to hate’.

Despite the lack of hate crimes legislation, Garda Superintendent Karl Heller reiterated that local LGBT liaison officers and a National LGBT Liaison Officer do exist within An Garda Síochána, and that transphobic incidents should be reported to those officers or to a local Garda station.

Any crime against a member of the trans community is crime against wider society.

This is hardly surprising to transgender people across the world. It comes as no surprise to me. If I had filled out the survey about my own experiences in the United States and in Japan, I could have ticked off silent harassment, name calling, taunting, threats of violence, physical violence, suspicion of being not hired/fired, and sexual assault. In fact, some of the percentages seemed too low for me, but I admit that might be my bias given how many of the types of incidents included in the reports are ones which have personally happened to me, and I did not view my history as particularly remarkable when it comes to transgender narratives (especially given that I have white privilege, class privilege, education privilege, and all of those things generally tend to mean lower rates of incidents).

There is, however, one major piece of good news for transgender Irish citizens. The report comes on the heel of draft legislation sponsored by Minister of Social Protection Joan Burton which would finally allow Irish citizens 16 and up to have their gender marker changed. The current administration has vowed to enact it and implement it as soon as possible.

According to the legislation, after going through an application process (which includes parental permission and multiple doctors for Irish minors aged 16 and 17), the Department of Social Protection would issue a gender recognition certificate allowing the individual to change their gender marker on their birth certificate and allowing them to marry members of the opposite sex or enter into civil partnerships with someone of the same sex, the same as any other person with their gender marker. It would also allow documents which use the birth certificate as as a master document to be modified.

Image via Khovast and Semmick Photo/Shutterstock.

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