Trans People Say They’re Leaving England Because of Non-Stop Transphobia

The UK government's decision to block a Scottish law making it easier to change gender has trans people more worried than ever.
trans-people-leaving-england
Trans rights activists protest outside Downing Street this week.Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Trans people in England have told VICE World News that they are packing their bags and leaving the country because of the constant transphobia they face online, on the streets, and at work. 

It comes as the UK government triggered a Section 35 order – for the first time ever – effectively blocking the Scottish government’s gender recognition law which would have made Scotland the first part of the UK to allow people to legally change their gender by self-declaration and without the need for medical diagnosis.

Advertisement

Last year, VICE World News revealed that UK government officials were trying to block Scotland’s plans to allow trans people to self-identify as male or female for the purposes of getting a gender recognition certificate. At the time, then UK Prime Minister Liz Truss asked lawyers for help to “pause or prevent” the Scottish government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. Just over four months later, current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s team has done exactly that. 

For some trans people, it’s a step too far, and they say they have “no choice” but to leave their home nation. 

Do you have a story to share? We'd love to hear from you. You can contact Ben Hunte at ben.hunte@vice.com, or via Twitter or Instagram.

Emilia Beckers stepped outside and lived full-time as her true identity in April 2022. Now, she is packing up to move to Belgium. 

Beckers is a trans woman, living in London, in a flat she bought a few years ago. She said the UK government’s latest move is what pushed her, but that she'd also battled rife transphobia for years.

“I transitioned in the UK, during a successful career in finance, and as a result, I noticed just how differently people treat you once you cross that transition line. It is quite scary,” she said.

Advertisement
processed-4d9b006c-1b45-4001-843b-1566632538fb_4PplWCZO.jpeg

Emilia Beckers. Photo: Supplied

“Nobody understands the reality of living as a transgender person in England. There is a complete blackout of any positive trans reporting. Anything that hits mainstream news is 99 percent likely to be negative and hateful. We make up a tiny part of the population, yet there are so many negative articles about trans people every day in UK newspapers, painting us as child groomers, abusers and rapists.

“The constant negativity has affected my life. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. The majority of trans people won’t even report incidents to the police now, because they know the police will be the last people to stand up for them.” 

An investigation by VICE World News last year revealed that transphobic hate crime reports in the UK had tripled over the last five years, and police forces also recorded their biggest ever yearly rise in transphobic hate reports. 

Asked how difficult it was to decide to move, Beckers said “not very.” She left a senior job in the UK before transitioning, and she hasn’t been able to work at the same level since. 

“I went from one of the highest ranks to one of the lowest ranks. The difference was very clear. Suddenly, I was barely getting interviews for even junior roles with no real responsibilities. It’s insulting.”

“But I'm lucky, because I have a job. I know many trans people who since transitioning in the UK can’t even find a job.”

Advertisement

“However,” she added, “I’m still leaving a huge part of my life behind. Being able to live here, and create a home, and find a community when I first moved here was such a relief.”

Asked what she would like to say to UK politicians, Beckers quickly responded: “Maybe it’s time the government sat down with actual trans people to understand what it is to be trans. Politicians need to stop demonising an entire group of people.”

“I’m upset at seeing what the UK has become. They want to erase trans people. That is the only end goal. It is so dangerous, and anyone who thinks that this will stop at trans people is delusional.” 

Kate Anderson is a trans woman who has been out for six years. Later this year, she’s aiming to leave her life in England behind and relocate to Germany. She’d rather learn a new language than continue to face what she called England’s “casual transphobia and a constant feeling of dread”.

Anderson spoke to me from Germany where she sounded extremely positive about her future.

“It’s so nice here. It’s much easier to be queer in Germany. You see people being openly affectionate in the supermarkets here. In England, you’re always looking over your shoulder, worried about how other people will react.” 

“I’m lucky that people don’t assume I’m trans, and that means I’m not impacted by transphobia in the same way as some of my trans friends,” she said. “But the Conservatives seem to be using trans people as scapegoats, and I’m so worried about what the next terrible thing will be. Will they restrict access to our medication, or stop us using public toilets?”

Advertisement

“I don’t speak German, so if I find a job here it will be very limited, maybe food delivery or working in a warehouse. I’m trying to learn the language at the moment.”

tempImg.jpg

Kate Anderson. Photo: Supplied

Asked whether she knows of other trans people trying to leave the UK, Anderson replied “of course!”

“I know of lots of people on social media who want to get out of England, but it isn’t even a possibility for them, because they don’t have the means to leave.”

“I was the first trans person a lot of my colleagues and customers had met,” said a 29-year-old black trans man now living in Greece. He asked to remain anonymous because his family don’t know where he has moved to, and he doesn’t want them to know. “The gym manager was obsessed with how when I started at his centre I looked like a woman, but a few months later I started passing as a man.”

Before relocating to Greece, he moved from a village in the South of England to Birmingham. There, he worked as a personal trainer for a major gym chain, and he expected to be more accepted. 

“The daily transphobia all got too much. It would become a game for my manager to out me to customers by seeing if they could guess who was the trans person in the team. He would leave female uniform packs out for me, knowing that when people looked at me they only saw a muscly man. It got to the point where other people at work would come into the gym and deliberately misgender me, treating my life as a joke.”

Advertisement

Alongside issues at work – which the 29-year-old reported, but nothing changed – the man’s family cut him off after he introduced them to his trans partner. 

Crying, the man added: “Leaving the UK was the difference between me staying alive or not. In the UK, I was battling for my existence every single day, always fighting fake news about my identity. It’s so sad, but I completely ran out of steam just trying to be me.”

Many trans people VICE World News spoke to are unsure of what to do next. They feel like they’re not wanted in England, but they’re not sure where to go, or whether they even should go. 

Michelle Snow could count as one of those people. After several years working in journalism and activism, the 37-year-old trans woman has been trying to get out of England.

“I feel thoroughly unwelcome as a trans person in England,” Snow said, “it is very very hostile here.”

She added: “I feel like I’m being pushed away by the UK government, and I don’t think they know how awful that feels to trans people. Every few weeks I get this feeling like I’m not welcome here, and I’m just being used in some sort of political game.” 

Michelle Snow. Photo: Supplied

“I know so many trans people who physically cannot leave, even though they desperately want to. I’d say around half of my trans friends in England want to leave.”

Last year, Snow began looking at flats in Edinburgh, Scotland, convinced – like many other trans people – that life in a different part of the UK could be a major improvement compared to what England offers them. 

Advertisement

“I don’t have a passport, so that limited my options of where I could go, and money was an issue, but also, I have friends and family here, and I felt like I could make an impact with my work by staying.”

Karen Adam, a Member of the Scottish Parliament with the SNP, played a key role in ensuring the Gender Recognition Reform Bill was approved in Scotland, while fighting abuse and misinformation tactics. She told VICE World News: “The consistent and systematic targeting of trans people from extremist organisations, should concern anyone in the UK who wants to live in a harmonious society and just get on with their lives.”

Adam added: “It is my hope that when our children, and our children’s children look back in their history books, they can see that it was here, in Scotland, in 2022-23, we took a firm stance and decided to join many other countries in best practice to support some of the most marginalised people in our society, and that we advocated for the rights of our LGBT community, and that we made Scotland a safer and more equal place to live in.”

Snow, the 37-year-old trying to leave England, spoke of how dangerous she felt it was being trans – especially online. 

“Sometimes it feels like we’re being hunted,” she said, adding: “Anything that is trans-related and put in the public-eye can now become a massive media story and be portrayed as dangerous to the country. That’s really scary, and now I’ll get nervous if I put something out on social media, because it can get loads of heat and threats.”

“Every time anyone in the UK parliament talks about trans people – cabinet ministers, prime ministers – all of the anti-trans activists then use their words. It makes it feel like the world these activists want, without trans people, is coming. It’s terrifying.” 

“What gives me hope at the moment is the trans community coming together and responding to this threat. I really cling onto that.”