International Trans Day of Visibility takes place on March 31st each year to celebrate trans and non-binary people and raise awareness of discrimination faced by trans people worldwide.
Stephanie Hayward, Freedom to Speak Up Guardian  at Somerset Foundation NHS Trust  and Major in Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, shares her reflections.

"Despite this change, I’m still me... It is the beginning of the end of maybe decades of uncertainty, deceit, and hiding; the beginning of a new life of hope."Stephanie Hayward Freedom to Speak Up Guardian at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust

I am Stephanie Hayward, Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. I am a Registered Mental Health Nurse. I am also serving as a Major in the Army Reserve, 243 Field Hospital.

I came out as transgender in the military, at work, and at home in December 2022, and began my social transition on March 5th 2023.

There is no one ‘best way’ to begin transition. There are many ‘not so favourable’ ways, and I guess lots of ‘you really shouldn’t have done it that way’ ways too!

Reactions can range from outright hostility and hatred, to disbelief, rejection, anger, passive acceptance to being embraced and loved. Feelings can range from fear, desperation, hope, joy, and overwhelming relief.

The press variously claims that we are all either intent on invading single-sex spaces in order to abuse or just another part of normal society; freaks to be pitied, ostracised, or ridiculed; or targets for abuse and murder.

It’s not all sweetness and light as you can see. It is, however, the beginning of the end of maybe decades of uncertainty, deceit, and hiding; the beginning of a new life of hope.

Despite this change, I’m still me.

I came out very publicly at an Army Reserve training weekend in February. I am a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Practitioner, and the unit was expecting a D&I lesson on a Sunday morning, just after breakfast. Not the best time, and certainly one of those subjects that can be dry and just another mandatory training session.

I presented facts – a LOT of facts – about the transgender community, focussing on the harm we can suffer on a daily basis in day-to-day life, receiving health care, and the effect on mental health. They are grim reading. I had a stunned audience of healthcare professionals.

The good news is, there is research that shows that 75-80% of these negative effects lower to match those of the general population with one simple intervention – respect.

Just being able to use one’s desired pronouns and name at home, work, and out and about reduces incidence of depression in trans people by 71%; thoughts of suicide by 34%; and attempted suicide by 65%. (Uni. Austin, TX)

In short, treating someone as they wish to be treated can save their life.

They had questions. Although there were some off-limit topics – bits and plumbing, hormones, surgery, sexuality, and relationships – the overriding message I wanted to give was questions are ok. Because ‘No one makes a mistake on purpose’.

What does this mean for me as a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian?

Through my leadership positions in the NHS and Army, and my days as a Royal College of Nursing representative, I have spent years finding myself as the voice of those who feel wronged,  making sure all are treated fairly. Having supported others, I now find myself with lived experience of being part of a minority group.  Trans people could be described in large part in a similar position to that in which the LGB community was 30 years ago, the minority ethnic population, and even – believe it or not – left-handers at various points throughout history! (By the way, the Latin for ‘left’ is ‘sinister’ – words can be so powerful on a collective mindset.)

And for those questions that go too far deliberately or provocatively? If a ‘quiet word’ doesn’t or won’t work, there’s always:

The Principles of Public Life; the Trust Values; Professional Values; Trust Policies; Networks; Freedom to Speak Up Guardians; Unions; Respectful Resolution; Colleague Support; Equality Act 2010; Gender Recognition Act 2004.

And back to Defence, which has a 39 page policy (public domain) which can be summed up in what should be an exemplar to all organisations: “We will bend over backwards to support you”.

Stephanie and Lord Evans