trans gender protesters

Abused daily for being trans

By Poppy Joy Watson

Joy tells Poppy Watson how she has suffered countless attacks because of her gender identity.

Joy was enjoying a night out in Edinburgh with friends when a man approached her in the smoking area of a jazz bar.

He grabbed her crotch and whispered obscenities into her ear. When Joy, now 26, slapped him across the face, he wrapped his hands around her neck and choked her until eventually his friends dragged him off.

This is one of countless times Joy has experienced men’s violence since coming out as a trans woman in 2017.

She is not alone. The Scottish Trans Alliance found that 80 per cent of trans people have experienced hate crime at least once in their lives. According to the Police Scotland website, hate crime is ‘any crime which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated (wholly or partly) by malice or ill will towards a social group.’

It can fall into one of three main categories: physical assault, verbal abuse, or incitement to hatred – which means acting in a way that purposefully stirs up hatred.

Joy, an Edinburgh-based musician who goes by the stage name Lady Incarnate, said: “[Attacks] are daily, people go out of their way to disrespect me.

“I’ve also experienced a lot of confrontation, verbal and physical violence in public spaces.”

Reports of transphobic incidents in Scotland have doubled in the last five years, with recent statistics from Scot Gov revealing that between 2014-15 and 2019-20, hate crimes against the transgender community increased from 48 to 96. But it is likely the true rate is far higher. Only one in seven trans people report their experience of abuse, LGBT+ charity Galop’s Transphobic Hate Crime report found.

Joy, who was born in Norwich and moved to Edinburgh at 18 to work in theatre, suffers “one or two” serious transphobic attacks a year on top of “a slew of less severe incidents like catcalls”.

Joy is self-confident and has a close group of supportive friends to lean on. But the abuse has taken a toll on her mental health.

She said: “I think I’m going to get killed one day. I flinch when men walk too close on the street and I’m often primed to fight if a stranger approaches. I do not feel safe.”

Joy was leaving an Edinburgh nightclub in 2018 when a group of men jumped her from behind and beat her in front of her friends. She tried her best to fight them off but was repeatedly knocked down.

“I don’t really remember much apart from tasting concrete a few times,” she said.

Her face was so badly beaten, she was forced to cancel her job interview the next morning.

And more recently, she was cycling to the videogame company where she works in Edinburgh when workmen shouted transphobic slurs out of their window while driving past her.

She said: “They slowed down and tried to squirt some liquid on me”.

“At the time I thought it was an acid attack, so I swerved on to the next lane, putting myself at risk of getting hit by other cars.”

When they were stopped at the next set of traffic lights, she peddled over, blocked their van with her bike and shouted: “Why do you think it’s okay to act like this? Do you think your family will be proud?”

After causing a traffic jam and seeing that they were ‘sufficiently embarrassed’, she let them pass.

She said: “I regard this as probably one of the more stupid things I have done… I was so furious, I wanted them to think twice before harassing another trans woman.”

But Joy has never felt safe reporting these crimes to the police.

She said: “The police are useless, calling them does nothing. They have betrayed minorities and queer folk so many times, I do not trust them to have my best interests at heart.”

This fear stems from their failure to prosecute a group of lads who assaulted her on a bus as a teenager, despite CCTV capturing the attack. Joy, who sought a medical transition from male to female last year in a bid to ‘feel beautiful before I got old’ continues to stand her ground as a proud trans woman.

“It’s my world as much as anyone’s,” she said.

Becky Kaufmann from Scottish Trans Alliance said: “The dramatic increase in reported hate crimes against trans people sadly reflects what we have seen in our own research.

“But things can and will change if we all speak out against those who seek to single people out just for being different.

“We can do this if we teach people from early on in life and continue to reinforce the message that everyone, whether they are like us or not, is valuable and worthy of respect.”

Co-director of Zero Tolerance, Laura Tomson, said: “Trans women are particularly likely to be the target of male violence because of a toxic combination of misogyny and transphobia.

“Gender inequality depends on the myth that biological sex determines who we are; this is what makes the existence of trans people so threatening to misogynistic men.

“No-one should have to live with the constant fear of violence, and work to prevent violence against women must be inclusive of trans women.”

A Police spokesperson said: “We understand the challenges that face the LGBTI+ community as a whole and that many people within these groups are disproportionately affected by areas of crime, in whole or in part, because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

“We work closely with trusted partners such as LGBT Youth, Terrence Higgins Trust and Scottish Trans Alliance who provide guidance and advice to Police Scotland in order to ensure that the voices of the LGBTI+ community are heard and acted upon.

“Any crime reported to Police Scotland is recorded and investigated thoroughly and Transgender prejudice is no different.”

If you have been the subject of hate, please call the police or contact them through their online or Third Party Reporting provisions. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse contact Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline on 0800 027 1234. Support is trans-inclusive and available 24/7.


This article was originally published in the Daily Record and is a part of the Write to End Violence Against Women campaign and awards organised by Zero Tolerance, which celebrate high-quality writing around the subject of violence against women. Poppy Watson was awarded a bursary by Zero Tolerance to write a series of articles to raise awareness on violence against women and promote gender equality. For more information and Media Guidelines visit http://zerotolerance.org.uk  Read more of Poppy’s bursary articles here: https://www.zerotolerance.org.uk/write-to-end-bursary-20192020/ 

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