Transgender Awareness Week

A review of The Transgender Issue - An Argument for Justice by Shon Faye.

Shon Faye, writer, comedian and podcaster, joined us earlier this year to shed light on pinkwashing as part of our Engine Presents series of talks where we break out of the bubble and chat to folks who can give us a fresh perspective, new ways of thinking and provoke creative solutions.

During the discussion, Shon was excited about the imminent publication of her debut book entitled The Transgender Issue - An Argument for Justice. The book became a Sunday Times Bestseller, making Shon the first trans person to be a bestseller since 1974. 

Engine Transformation’s Helen Gracie has written a review as part of Transgender Awareness Week, observed November 13th to 19th to help raise the visibility about transgender people and address issues members of the community face.

Shon Faye takes us on a journey through what it means to be trans and living with the problematic systems that keep trans people oppressed. She reminds us that, despite what the media might have us believe, “historical accounts of gender-variant people who lived in a social role different from the one assigned to them at birth occur in almost every recorded human culture”, going on to cite examples from 3,000 BCE, the Old Testament and Roman Emperor Elagabalus. If transgender people have been part of human culture for thousands of years, why is there still an “issue”?

Faye exposes the discrimination faced by the trans community when it comes to the things most of us take for granted: housing, employment, healthcare, education, law enforcement.

While the trans community are not the only people who are marginalised in our society, the analysis in this book details the ways in which the trans community bear the brunt of it – including being ostracised from LGBT and feminist organisations and movements. As the trans community are repeatedly misgendered, overtly sexualised, and cast as predators by the media and those who follow it, they are kept at arms-length from the rest of society and robbed of the basic rights and support the rest of us take for granted.

We expect Trans people to defend their existence while other people openly discuss their genitalia in a way that would be immediately deemed unacceptable if the subject were presenting as the gender they were assigned at birth. This obsession with genitals is dehumanising, offensive, and completely unnecessary. Can’t we deliver housing based on a person’s needs rather than what’s between their legs? Can’t we deliver healthcare based on the person’s anatomy and physical needs rather than what gender is recorded on paper? If humans have been recorded as gender fluid for 5,000 years, why are we still so fixated on the binary notion of gender and seemingly afraid of anyone who chooses to walk the gender spectrum rather than confine themselves to one of two options ticked on a form.

This book is not a memoir. It is a well-researched, detailed analysis of the experiences of transgender people living in Britain today and the problems in the systems that are repeatedly failing them. The book opens with “The liberation of trans people would improve the lives of everyone in our society…I believe the humbler goals of ‘trans rights’ or ‘trans equality’ are insufficient,” and this is the rallying cry carried throughout.

In each chapter Shon Faye offers up well-researched, well-structured arguments, solutions and ways in which these things can be overcome. While it is evident that the politics, society and media with which we all live in Britain today is inherently transphobic, this book brings hope that there is another way; a more inclusive way to live that will benefit us all.

Shon’s book is a must read for allies looking to broaden their perspectives and LGBT+ people alike, available at Bookshop.org for £20.

Missed the webinar? Watch it here: