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Transgender society aims for greater tolerance

A member of the transgender community has spoken out about the difficulties transgender people have integrating into society.

Fiona Johnson, 59, represents Kent for the Beaumont Society, and helps to provide support to members of the transgender community across the county.

Fiona supports people from the transgender community across Kent
Fiona supports people from the transgender community across Kent

Fiona identifies as non-binary, meaning neither male or female, and prefers to be referred to as 'they'.

They said: "You transition to the female group, you lose your male friends, but you don't gain the female friends.

"You're not one of the girls. And it's the same for the boys who have transitioned from being female.

"You no longer fit comfortably in that box that society tells me you should be in."

The society was originally set up in 1966 as a way of men meeting for dinner and dressing up in women's clothes, also known as transvestism.

Fiona at a Beaumont society event
Fiona at a Beaumont society event

In 2010 the society became a fully-fledged charity, aiming to educate people about the trans community and offer support to those who need it.

"We are a voice, we are a friend," they said.

According to Fiona there has recently been an increase in parents asking for support for their children.

Listen to Fiona discuss difficulties the trans community face on the KM Community podcast

"We have a lot of cases where a lot of boys have been saying that they should have been girls," they said.

"And in the last couple of years, there's been a huge spike in girls identifying as boys."

Although Fiona is not a trained councillor, they offer a helping hand to parents with children who feel they are the wrong gender.

Often they will refer parents to Mermaids, an organisation supporting families and children dealing with gender nonconformity.

The organisation has supported children across the country who have transitioned or are going through the gender reassignment process.

Fiona says there has been an increase in children feeling they are in the wrong body
Fiona says there has been an increase in children feeling they are in the wrong body

Recently the Beaumont society asked 100 companies for information on their policy on addressing transgender customers over the phone.

Of all the companies contacted, only 19 responded.

Fiona said: "If I say 'I'm Miss Fiona Johnson,' and they continue to call me sir, then I am going to get agitated."

At an LGBT music night in Margate last month, punk musician Ray Prendergast said towns and high streets can still be a place of abuse for many LGBTQ+ people.

Fiona said they routinely speak with and provide support for transgender people across Kent who have been abused or attacked.

"I've never been personally attacked. I've had a few people say a few words in my direction.

"But I just shrug it off and I just ignore it. I'm the bigger person."

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