Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Treat trans Jamaicans with humanity

Published:Wednesday | November 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Globally, this week, we celebrate Trans Awareness Week, which recognises transgender individuals and helps persons on the outside to foster an understanding of the issues faced by the community.

To put it simply, transgender, shortened to trans in some instances, refers to persons whose assigned sex at birth (male or female) does not correspond with their gender identity. The term is an umbrella term used to refer to not only transgender women or men, but gender queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary individuals and even persons who choose not to identify with being either a man or a woman.

Globally, trans people face issues far greater than the total population, whether it is in healthcare, social spaces or in legislative policy frameworks. According to the World Health Organization, "Transgender women are around 49 times more likely to be living with HIV than other adults of reproductive age with an estimated worldwide HIV prevalence of 19 per cent; in some countries the HIV prevalence rate in transgender women is 80 times that of the general adult population." Locally, HIV-related data for trans women are startling.

A 2016 study found that just over four in every 10 transgender women here - persons identified male at birth but who identify as female - have tested HIV-positive. There are fears that the figure could be even higher, as many are not among those who are regularly tested. Trans women face a double whammy in accessing treatment as well, as there is stigma and discrimination meted out when they access services from healthcare providers.

It is important to note that little data are available for transgender men or other transgender populations. However, we are not just another statistic and we wish not to be treated in that sense.

The Jamaican trans community is left in a state of vulnerability in a society with a lack of anti-discrimination legislation, gender-recognition legislation and little education of the community, although high officials are aware of our existence.

A simple start is to have dialogue with the community, find out their needs and move from there. Trans people are people; Jamaican trans people are Jamaicans. Recognise them as such.

M.X. WILLIAMS

mikhailwilliamsart@gmail.com

TransWave Jamaica