Transgender rights
Some of Britain’s largest police forces saw hate crimes against transgender people soar in 2014Getty

While trans rights have reached a tipping point, transphobic violence against men and women is an escalating problem. Trans issues have filtered into mainstream culture thanks to the likes of Caitlyn Jenner, but verbal abuse, assault and street harassment are still an everyday aspect of life for many. And while the disproportionate violence and discrimination faced by trans women is becoming increasingly documented, abuse towards trans men remains a relatively unchartered territory.

"Trans men do suffer with violence, many are affected by hate crimes too," says Alex Kaye from transgender rights organisation SafeT.

"I've been called a dyke and a lesbian, I've been spat at and I've been kicked," says Kaye. "We learn to live with questions like 'are you a boy or a girl' from an early age, which carries on into adulthood. It's a case of what doesn't kill you does makes you stronger."

It is easy to assume that because transgender men are men, they are exempt from violence and abuse in our patriarchal society, which values the male gender higher than any other – but this is not the case.

Last year, some of Britain's largest police forces saw reported crimes against transgender people soaring, including verbal abuse, assault and harassment in the street. The Metropolitan police saw offences against trans men and women rise by 44% in 2014 with 95 crimes recorded, up from 66 in 2013. But charities warned chronic under-reporting means the number is likely a tiny fraction of the true number of crimes.

According to the LGBT charity Galop, a third of trans people in the UK go through transphobic abuse every year, but as much as 80% of transphobia is not reported.

In addition to violence and harassment, discrimination against trans people in the judicial system is an acute problem. In November, two trans women were found dead after being sent to all-male prisons; the body of Joanne Latham, 38, was discovered in her cell in MHP Woodhill in Milton Keynes just weeks after 21-year-old Vikki Thompson died at Armley Prison in Leeds. If sent to the incorrect prison for their gender, trans people face an increased risk of abuse, harassment and violence.

According to the Prison Service, it is "long-standing policy" to "place offenders according to their legally recognised gender" – but this is part of the problem. It is a lengthy and difficult process for trans people to gain legal recognition. To obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, the individual must pay a £140 fee, be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, secure letters from medical professionals, show evidence of having lived in their "chosen gender" and gain approval from a gender recognition panel.

With this long list of requirements, many trans people live without legal recognition and are denied their basic rights.

Jack*, a transgender man from Manchester who had been in care until the age of 18 after the murder of his father, was sentenced to one year in prison for hitting a police officer after retaliating against someone who verbally attacked him on a train. Suffering from gender dysphoria, he drank and used drugs to escape, which further deteriorated his mental health. Despite having identified as male since childhood, he was sentenced to serve time in a female prison – where his mental health worsened.

In prison, Jack voiced his dislike for his body and talked about the masculine aspects of his personality, which were diagnosed as symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia. He was moved to a female forensic high security hospital, where he remained for 8 years. He shared the ward with 10 patients, two of whom had killed their children.

It was only when a transgender nurse came onto the ward that Jack learned he was not schizophrenic, but suffered from the symptoms of gender dysphoria. Since then, he has been moved to a halfway house but he is still with women and feels he is not supported as a male. He is currently waiting to start hormone therapy.

Bernard Reed, a trustee of the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES), says: "Recent studies in the UK and overseas indicate that at least one person in 100 experience varying degrees of gender variance, perhaps half of whom were assigned as girls at birth. Hence it is likely that everyone is in contact with a trans man or a trans woman but most are unaware of it.

"There is still so much discrimination, hostility and violence against trans people that they are fearful of revealing who they really are," Reed says. "To help trans people, including those who are non-binary, to live happily, society has to understand and respect them, a process that must begin in school. GIRES campaigns to secure for them the respect to which they entitled."

*Names may have been changed to protect identities. Human Rights Day is marked on 10 December.

Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is defined as the NHS as: A condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

Biological sex is assigned at birth, depending on the appearance of the genitals. Gender identity is the gender that a person "identifies" with or feels themselves to be.