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As the recent public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act came to its conclusion, issues surrounding the right of trans people to self-ID resulted in increasingly toxic debate, much of it played out in the vilest, most abusive form on Twitter. People on both sides of the argument, who should know better, have been guilty of the most despicable abuse, with trans people who just want to get on with their lives being subjected to bullying, harassment and vilification, and some feminists, expressing misgivings about the practicalities of self-identification, also being insulted, abused and threatened. Whatever the rights and wrongs of a particular standpoint, this is no way to carry on.

In amongst this maelstrom of finger pointing, no-platforming and deadnaming, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there are young trans people in our cities, towns and villages who are suffering. They’re suffering from their own identity crises, they’re suffering in the face of parents who don’t understand, and they’re suffering from bullying, isolation and cruelty at school. No wonder that the American Academy of Pediatrics (sic) has recently reported that more than half of transgender male teens, and 29.9% of transgender female teens, say they have attempted suicide at some point in their lifetimes. Even those most vehemently opposed to self-ID must agree that this is a shocking state of affairs and it cannot be the intended consequence of their activism.

Two of the young stars of “Listen”

It is against this backdrop that, during the current Trans Awareness Week, award-winning writer/director Jake Graf, in partnership with the charity Mermaids, has released a powerful short film called “Listen”, featuring a cast of 11 – 15 year-olds, all of whom have experienced bullying.

Jake is one of the highest profile trans men in the UK, and is soon to appear in the movie “Colette” with Keira Knightley. Commenting on “Listen”, he said, “As a transgender man who grew up feeling lost, scared and unheard, I am more than aware of the damage that can be done to trans children when they are not listened to during their all important formative years.

“When school life is also difficult, it can often feel like there is nowhere to turn. Trans kids are constantly in media, doubted and vilified in equal measures, and it was really important to me that they were just seen as the children that they are, as deserving of kindness and respect as anyone else.

“Having grown up without any positive trans role models, I had long wanted to give a voice and platform to the new wave of brave, inspiring and visible young trans faces and activists, and was really excited to be able to work with these incredible people.

“We have seen that whilst trans visibility is on the rise, so too is the backlash against trans people and their right to simply live. Trans children are attacked so frequently that most feel powerless to stand up and be heard. We hope this film gives a voice to all transgender children, and begins much needed conversations about positive progress.”

Watch “Listen” right here, right now:

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Rob Harkavy

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