Whilst many of you are rightly horrified and taking to your keyboards to express your anger and outrage, we would like to say thank you to Jeremy Clarkson for his recent opinion piece in The Sunday Times on 24.1.2016. If you’ve already read the article, it may not be the response that you’d expect from an organisation solely dedicated to supporting LGBT+ people, their families and their allies. On first read, you may be initially horrified at his inappropriate comments and perceptions of the NHS treatment and holistic support of gender dysphoric individuals and their families, to say nothing of the ingrained CisHet white male privilege oozing from every line – reducing half of the self-identifying binary population to wearing make-up and having breasts, for example. But he does raise the issue of the care of Trans* individuals within a gender binary prison system, something which has been in tragic recent news with the deaths of Trans* people in prison. He also expresses concern for the support options available for Trans* children. As an organisation, we are seeing clients at a younger age, wanting to express an acquired gender not based on their biology, and whilst we can provide support, advocacy and information, we cannot provide options which involve medication or surgery. Children develop mentally at different rates, and begin becoming aware of gender at an incredibly early age, so perhaps setting a definite age at which these options become available would be beneficial to some, and incredibly frustrating for other families. Whilst he does trot out some wonderfully outdated phrases, such as ‘living in the wrong body’ (1980’s sex-change headline, anyone?) he does show at least a basic awareness of some of the more recent issues and news stories focussing on Trans* people.
Coming back to our original point, we would sincerely like to thank Mr Clarkson for his article. Whilst the language, spirit and sentiment of the article is vile and self-assured narcissism, it shows that Derbyshire LGBT+ and organisations who focus on work like ours – the support, advocacy and providing of information to LGBT+ people to allow them to lead happier, safer lives – still have a lot of work to do. In the tiny, remote circumstance that we ever needed to prove to anyone why it is absolutely vital that we as an organisation still need to exist, we would like to thank you, Mr Clarkson, for showing why we and others like us are still needed and helping us gauge the work we still need to do. Your outdated attitudes, sweeping generalisations and frankly insulting phrases give us a marker to measure the less enlightened members of our society. And it is by the least enlightened that our civilisation is consistently judged. Our country has advanced and evolved in recent years with respect to understanding and acknowledging LGBT+ issues; it’s a great shame that your attitudes haven’t. You have given us renewed purpose to spend every minute that we can help improve things across our county. Whether it’s providing LGBT+ awareness training, talking to the spouse of the Trans* person, helping a young gay man come out, providing safe and welcoming spaces for our social groups, helping someone get advice on homophobic hate crime, giving someone confidential space to explore their own issues, or providing a lesbian couple with safe sex advice, we will ensure that some good comes from your words. Even if you care not to.