CHATTING amicably with a group of transgender attendees at the end of Scotland’s Trans Pride march on Saturday, I was approached by a man with a question: “What healthcare do trans people need that they don’t already have?”

A cardboard sign was hanging by my side as we waited for others to join our group – a call for better healthcare for Scotland’s transgender community – and it had caught his attention while on his way for a coffee and catch-up with his mum. It was a genuine question, asked without malice but with real curiosity, and we struck up a conversation.

He seemed quite surprised and horrified to hear that anyone who joined a waiting list for one of Scotland’s few gender identity clinics would be waiting years before having the chance to even speak with a medical professional. In the nearby city of Glasgow, the wait for the Sandyford Clinic is upwards of four years at the moment, with no defined end in sight, the situation having deteriorated to the point that the clinic either can’t or will no longer give an estimate of how long patients will be waiting for their first appointment.

Our sincere conversation was emblematic of the parade through Paisley’s town centre, in which hundreds of trans people came together to march for their rights and liberation.

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Faced with a swaying crowd of flag-bearers and sign-wavers, the response from Paisley’s residents ranged from curiosity to vocal support – with one women shouting across the paved county square as the crowd began to gather to ask what was going on, only to respond with a triumphant “good on you” on finding out.

As someone born and raised in Paisley, it was a joyful return to a hometown that wasn’t always the easiest to grow up in. And in every way it exemplified the gulf between the lived experiences of transgender people in Scotland and the false culture war image cooked up by a vocal and powerful minority of public figures and media outlets – which is probably why there was absolutely zero coverage of the event in the press. It appears the obsessive coverage of trans people in many newspapers expands as far as what is useful in fuelling their hostile narrative – and no further.

Trans Pride in Paisley was, in many ways, a reminder of what Pride is really about. Hundreds of trans people marching and chanting in rhythm with SheBoom, Europe’s largest women’s drumming ensemble, beating a path through the centre with nary a rainbow-bedecked Sainsbury’s truck or police van in sight. At its heart, a protest above all else.

The signs on display broadly reflected, too, the real concerns of the trans community in Scotland, far removed from the talking points of so-called gender-critical activists that are bandied about in online bubbles and Prosecco-fuelled forums.

This was a march for healthcare, and against the ridiculous wait to even speak with a professional, let alone begin any form of physical transition; a reality for the LGBTQ+ community that punctures any claim of trans people being unquestioningly coerced through transition at the diktat of some shadowy cabal – and one we could have explained if only you had asked us.

The National: Scottish Green MSP Gillian Mackay during a Covid briefing at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Issue date: Thursday May 27, 2021. PA Photo. See PA story SCOTLAND Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA Wire

There were banners in support of Greens MSP (above) Gillian Mackay’s consultation on introducing protest-free buffer zones around clinics that offer abortion services, and condemnations of the UK Government’s failure to follow through on plans to ban conversion therapy for trans people and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community.

The march felt charged in a way that Pride events I have attended have not for years, despite being a comparatively shorter march to what we are used to. Maybe that was because it was reportedly the first Pride march in Paisley’s history. Maybe it was because it was the first Pride march I had attended since the pandemic forced us off the streets. But I believe it was because it was a Pride that defiantly took place at a time when hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community is surging once again, and where the issues facing the community were not sidelined in favour of the corporate sponsors who use these events as a massive pink-washing exercise.

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When it comes to the problems facing the trans community in Scotland, we are far more likely to be talked about than listened to. A situation that has led to a particularly warped and conspiracy-driven understanding of trans identities. But when we are heard and spoken to – away from the baseless gotcha journalism that focuses on belittling inclusive language over asking questions on the failures of governments to condemn conversion therapy or fund adequate health services – you will find meaningful conversations on what it is like to be a trans person in modern Scotland.

Given that the electorate has recently rejected in full the anti-trans narratives of political parties who sought to make capital off bashing a minority group, isn’t it time to start listening, as the people of Paisley did, to what trans people are really saying?