Statement on Online Abuse
Since the spring we have supported a local Trans person who had been the victim of transphobic bullying online. Online bullying is a serious issue, which research shows is on the rise, and affecting many different vulnerable groups. The police have issued guidance, and parliament is looking at ways to tackle this growing problem.
When transphobia is combined with online abuse and bullying it can have a devastating effect. Many Trans people are isolated, and the internet can provide a valuable lifeline, in terms of support, friendship and advice. More needs to be done to address the specific way in which online abuse can harm Trans people, and to train those who provide support to understand better the needs of the Trans community.
However in this specific case we have been especially concerned since those leading the abuse were in positions of power, councillors with Morpeth Town Council As such they have a duty to represent all their constituents including Transgender people. Demonstrating transphobic attitudes in public spaces is unacceptable, given their positions within the community.
We have approached NCC with the hope of engaging staff, county councillors and town councillors and others in training, which is clearly needed. The Women and Equalities committee recently reported on the situation of trans people in the UK;
High levels of transphobia are experienced by individuals on a daily basis. This is a very serious problem in a wide range of settings, and can undermine careers, incomes, living standards, access to services, quality of life, and physical and mental health. It is a sobering and distressing fact that disproportionately high numbers of trans people have reported attempting suicide.
As a marginalised community Trans people are often overlooked, and the harms against them minimised. As service users their needs are neglected, or not even recognised, and transphobia often impacts their engagement in all areas of civic life in their communities.
We emphasise this because we feel strongly that every local authority needs better training of staff, leadership and councillors. We have recently worked with Gateshead Council, who are determined that every one of their councillors has training to ensure that they can meet the needs of their trans constituents.
However we have been very disappointed this week to see the experience of a vulnerable person weaponizsed and used to score what feels like party political points. A campaign has been launched without consultation with the trans community, which would have highlighted that the real need here is better understanding, training and co operation with the trans community.
We will continue to work with all those who wish to improve the situation of trans people. We call on those who genuinely care about this to consider whether publicising an individual without ensuring they have sufficient support is a tactic they would endorse. Lastly we look forward to working with Northumberland County Council, its councillors, and others to ensure that all the residents of Northumberland are respected, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
As the Chair of Be: Northumberland says
Be:Northumberland exists to provide support for Trans people and as a result I cannot condone any actions, whether in good faith or otherwise, that put the well being of one of our community at risk. I will always prioritise the mental well being of our members and will continue to provide appropriate support for the individual concerned.
As the Managing Director of Be Trans Support and Development North comments;
I have no desire to see the councillors in question lose their jobs. A public apology to the Trans person impacted and a commitment to engage with Trans organisations such as Be who can help develop much needed organisational cultural competency for the benefit of Trans people would be sufficient to resolve this matter.
If you would like support about bullying due to your gender identity, either on or offline you can can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Or you can find support and information from Childline if you are under 18
Stop Online Abuse offers information and support to adults being abused online