By Christine O’Mahony
July 16th marked the Trans and Intersex Pride march in Dublin. Many marchers agreed that it was important to march more than ever this month due to the rise in transphobic hate crimes and hate speech in the country.
Meath Local managed to secure an interview with Trans activist and Kells native, Rachel Rathbone, to explore her experience of being a Trans woman in Ireland. Rathbone told us, “I am 50 years old, but I have only started living my authentic self in the last 5 years”. “I have been on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) for 4 and a half of those years”. “I am from Kells and originally from there, but have lived abroad in the past, as most Irish folk have been doing for years. My son who is now 25 years old, lives with me and I have been a single parent/mum since he was 2 years old. I also live with my 4 cats: Feather, Buttons, Max and Toastie. While I am currently unemployed, I make historic videos for YouTube as my hobby”.
“Being misgendered and dead-named is an extremely hurtful and stressful thing, but some people seem to feel free to disrespect me at every chance they get, some even go out of their way to do this to me. These days I rarely leave my home because of it”.
“I also face the constant fear of attack, verbally and physically which has happened in the past and it is not nice. I also have found that no-one is prepared to give me employment hence I have given up looking for work to save me the humiliation of it all”.
“Being Trans in Ireland in general is tough, don’t get me wrong a lot of people are awesome, but there’s the other half that are not, and we have become their targets for the sake of them having someone to hate. In a small town, it is also a lonely place, there’s no-one to rely on, no Trans community, just me and that’s it, any other Trans folk in Kells are either gone somewhere else or are still in the closet, and travelling to meet others like me is out of the question and I can’t expect my trans friends to travel down here all the time.”
Healthcare is another issue that the Trans community must battle with in Ireland. Rathbone claimed, “unfortunately here in Ireland being transgender is regarded as a mental illness in the eyes of medical profession. This goes against the World Health Organisation, which has since 2019, redefined gender identity related health replacing outdated diagnostic categories like the model of care used here in Ireland. So even-though we are signatories to the W.H.O we still refuse and deny transgender people like me our dignity and cause us to either leave the country, go private or self-medicate”.
“Here in Ireland, there is only one route to healthcare regarding hormone therapy. The model used is more akin to conversion therapy than actual gender-identity healthcare, therefore it is near impossible for any of us to get the healthcare we so desperately need and deserve, at least via the public healthcare route, more than often we rely on private healthcare or in many cases self-medicate or D.I.Y if you so choose to call it that”.
“For example, even-though I have 2 diagnosis (diagnosis which are not even required if full bodily autonomy and informed consent were the norm) and have been on hormone therapy privately for 4 and a half years at this stage, I cannot get any healthcare within the confounds of our national healthcare system. As for healthcare in general, I feel ignored, dismissed and ridiculed by the services here even for ailments unrelated to me being Trans. Since I now present as trans I often feel that I am not taken seriously and never actually listened to, therefore my health has gotten dire in the past few years, and I am suffering for it. I generally rely on google these day for anything concerned with that topic”.
In June, RTÉ faced controversy for debating Trans people, inviting very few Trans people to speak about their own lives, but platforming many of their critics. As it was during Pride month, the Dublin Pride organisation decided to end its’ media partnership with RTÉ for the second time, citing that RTÉ’s eagerness to carry out this ‘trans debate’, “breaches trust with our community and causes untold hurt”. Rathbone compared the RTÉ trans debate to the debates on whether Gay people should exist, which took place in the 1970s and 80s. “It is very hurtful, insulting and as a species I thought humanity evolved beyond this point but sadly we have learned nothing from our shared past. To have such a “Debate” not only hurts us mentally and physically, sow division among us all cis and trans, but it puts our personal daily lives in danger, a life where we struggle at the best of times to live safely thanks to societies prejudice and ill-informed ideas of what being Trans is”.
“I personally get physically ill about it and very fearful because as a historian I understand full well how us humans can flip in an instant and turn on each-other, especially turning on the most vulnerable of minorities, like mine”.