So this month not only observes the Trans Awareness Month 2016 but it also saw the first anniversary of the Young Transgender Centre of Excellence project here at the Leicester LGBT Centre.  And with this in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on some our key achievements of the year, some of our ongoing challenges and our hopes for the future.

 Well…what a year it has been! Coming into post on 2 November 2015 I didn’t know what to expect. But I did know this. That I felt honoured and privileged to have been given the opportunity to take on this project and hopefully make a difference to someone or hopefully a number of people.  But did I think back then that that the project would have achieved to date what it has. In all honesty, no – and I am no pessimist!

 We have come so far in such a relatively short amount of time and I know that I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of wonderful colleagues at the Leicester LGBT Centre, the magnificent volunteers who have given their time – notably Oscar, Rob and Em – but there are so many others too! And to all of the young transgender people, the families who have fundraised for us and the stakeholders who’ve welcomed the support of this project to help them improve the lives of the young transgender people they also support.

 This year we’ve:

·         supported 27 young transgender people

·         completed 11 referrals to NHS Gender Identity Services

·         trained 109 professionals around transgender awareness

·         supported 17 families with transgender children

·         worked with 26 different stakeholders and organisations

We also felt very honoured to be asked to be a stakeholder for the Department for Women and Equalities after Nicky Morgan MP – Former Minister for Women and Equalities officially launched the project back in April 2016. For the young people’s voices to be heard at government level has been a fantastic experience for them and has had a positive impact on their confidence and self-esteem.

The best part for me is the advocacy work. In so many ways I wish it wasn’t necessary however there is very little information out there for stakeholders and other organisations so I often find myself advocating on behalf of a young person or the young people collectively. And yes the discrimination they face and the challenges and barriers presented to them are heart-breaking but when the project supports someone and delivers a positive outcome – their smiles and visible relief makes it all worthwhile. And more importantly it gives them a real sense that they are going somewhere and knowing that myself, other colleagues and the wider LGBT Centre will always support them is invaluable at an otherwise uncertain time in their lives.

 So many excellent things have happened over the last twelve months and I couldn’t possibly list them all – as much as I would love to. But what about the future? Well, in recent weeks the first few young people to complete a referral with me to the Tavistock and Portman Gender Identity Development Service have gone to their first appointments. And over the next few months even more of our young people will be following in their footsteps – an exciting and nerve-racking time for everyone. But progress nonetheless.

We have also been able to set-up a young trans swimming session at a local leisure centre – providing a safe and private space for young people to exercise and have fun with friends in a place they feel comfortable to do so – a rarity for many trans people.

Furthermore, the young people and their families will continue to develop friendships and peer support systems through the weekly ‘T Party’ and the monthly parent and carers group. If this project has done only one thing it’s most certainly developed a sense of community that simply did not exist 12 months ago.

As optimistic as this blog post is – at least I hope it is, I am aware that there is still a long way to go in terms of ensuring the lives of both the adult and young trans people in the East Midlands are as good as they could be.

But what would this look like I hear you ask? Well for me it would simply be that every trans person is taken seriously, respected for who they are and treated equally. Additionally, every organisation or stakeholder who might also work with a trans person will be aware of how to support them – asking the right and appropriate questions and using the correct names and pronouns are a must. And similarly, for schools, colleges or any other spaces a young trans person might access, professionals should be aware of their responsibility in ensuring that every young person is supported to be who they are and want to be whilst they endure the agonising wait to be seen by a gender identity service and are therefore able to move on with their lives. Because for those who are heading down the medical route, it is a daunting and tiresome wait of months and in some cases years before their first appointment and for me, it is up to all of us to ensure that young people are supported during this difficult and often mentally detrimental time.

And to end on an optimistic note – I told you I am no pessimist. This is why this project is so important. Not only do we offer advice, guidance, support and a safe space to young trans people; we offer an abundance of information, advice and guidance to stakeholders who also want to support and improve the lives of young trans people at a time where there is a still a great uncertainty from many of what to do, when and how.  

So writing this today makes me feel proud of all of our successes and the difference we are making and I feel very excited and positive about the future. Here’s to a fantastic year gone past and fingers crossed for a brilliant next two!

If you want to find out more about what the Young Transgender Centre of Excellence offers click here.