A panel of Brighton and Hove councillors will hold an inquiry into issues affecting the trans community.
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council Overview and Scrutiny Commission voted unanimously to set up a panel to explore the needs and experiences of trans people in Brighton and Hove.
The research will take place after Green councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty asked colleagues to look at matters such as community safety, hate crimes and health.
The decision was taken at Hove Town Hall yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 27 March).
Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “The council recently supported the launch of a new campaign to make Brighton and Hove the UK’s first zero tolerant city for LGBT hate crime and we should show our commitment by taking it a step further.
“For example a disproportionately high percentage of trans people are reported as having mental health problems – much of which is down to discrimination, which causes depression and anxiety.
“Many also have problems accessing services because of prejudice and misunderstanding.
“We must show our support and our solidarity with this marginalised community in the city.”
A report to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting said: “While we do not have numbers for our trans population we know that trans people migrate to the city because of the perception of LGBT friendliness.
“Trans equality has been an area of concern in the city for a number of years due to the particular vulnerabilities of trans people particularly in relation to discrimination and safety.
“In terms of general health services, some trans people report difficulties in accessing primary healthcare services, with frontline staff (particularly GPs) displaying a lack of awareness of/sensitivity to trans issues and sometimes being actively antagonistic.
“If groups of people under-use primary healthcare, then, on average, they will have poorer long-term health outcomes because health conditions may not be routinely identified at an early stage.
“Early diagnosis and treatment of many conditions is strongly correlated to better outcomes and lower expenditure.
“In addition, primary care is an increasingly important forum for preventive health messages.
“People who do not have regular contact with primary healthcare may not be receiving all the advice they need to lead healthier lives.
“Groups which under-present to primary healthcare tend, on average, to over-present to secondary care, eg, at hospital A&E.
“This has cost implications and can exacerbate the already considerable capacity problems faced by urgent healthcare services.
“Trans people are disproportionately likely to use mental health services.
“Given that trans people typically experience high levels of bullying, discrimination, etc, it is unsurprising that they should suffer disproportionately from conditions such as depression and anxiety.
“However, given that trans people are more likely than average to experience anxiety/depression, it may be that services treating these conditions should be particularly careful to ensure that they meet the needs of the trans community.
“Some trans people also feel that they tend to be categorised as having mental health problems simply because of their trans status.
“This is a complex issue, as there are recognised mental health conditions which directly relate to gender dysphoria, ie, being uncertain about one’s gender, even though gender dysphoria is not itself formally classified as a mental illness.
“However, the point is essentially that while it may be that some people with gender-related mental health problems may tend to identify as trans, it does not follow that everyone who identifies as trans suffers from mental illness.
“Another complicating issue is that the pathway for gender reassignment surgery is managed by mental health services, with people seeking reassignment essentially being treated (according to many of the individuals involved) as if they have mental health problems.
“Gender reassignment services are specialist services which are not provided locally.
“Brighton and Hove residents seeking gender reassignment have to use services at Charing Cross Hospital, London. There is widespread and longstanding user dissatisfaction with this service.
“For several years, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has been planning its own gender reassignment service, but this is still at the planning stage, and in the short term there is no realistic alternative to Charing Cross.”
The council employs four staff who have identified themselves as trans.
Managers within the council have access to a toolkit that tries to define the term trans.
It says: “Transgender is a modern-day term. Common interpretations are … an umbrella term to cover the entire trans community, eg, transvestites, transsexual and transgender people and even in some cases those diagnosed and identified as intersex or gender variant, ie, where individuals do not fit comfortably into what we think of as typically male or female.”
It adds that other common interpretations include “an individual who lives in their acquired gender with or without some medical intervention and with no desire or intention to undergo gender reassignment
Surgery” or “an individual who adopts an undefined gender identity, seeking to be a ‘third sex’ and adopting a persona that is not gender specific.”
The toolkit includes more definitions and information about, for example, transsexual and transvestite people, the gender reassignment process and the contact details of relevant organisations.