Bernard and Terry Reed have been honoured with an Attitude Pride Award for their tireless fight for the rights of trans people.
When Bernard and Terry’s trans daughter started attending a gender clinic in the late 1980s, the world was a very different place for LGBT+ people.
Assigned male at birth, their daughter suffered horrible abuse in her macho work environment. She was 20 when she started going to the clinic and eventually told her mum, but by this time she’d been struggling with her identity in silence for years and was now battling torment at work, too.
“With the wisdom of hindsight, you see signs that were there but you didn’t actually read them at the time,” admits Terry. “Seeing your own child go through the kind of torture that she had was incredibly painful.”
When Terry told her husband of their daughter’s impending transition, he was great. “Not for a moment did he have a problem with the issue,” says Terry. “What he had a problem with was how we were going to help her.”
But it would be 14 more years before the UK’s Gender Recognition Act of 2004 came into force and a further six years until the Equality Act.
After three years of abuse, their daughter’s resultant physical deterioration made her unable to work and she was fired. Her employer denied all responsibility, accused her of being a fantasist and refused to help her in any way. The arguments went on for a further four years, ending with an industrial tribunal in 1996.
The tribunal was traumatic for her, but they won, and this galvanised Bernard and Terry into further action. They realised that if this could happen to their daughter, who was fully supported and loved, other trans people in less supportive environments had to be going through hell.
So, they set up a charity: the Gender Identity Research Education Society (GIRES). “At that time, there was very little information about gender diverse young people as so few were being treated. What we saw then was the suffering in the older people,” explains Terry. “They’d been given the same spiel by doctors as gay men had been: get married, that’ll cure you. All that nonsense.”
The couple continue to work with experts worldwide and, in 2016, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health presented them with its education award. They also maintain daily contact with trans people, keeping them grounded in the every-day realities of their lives.
“I have one woman who’s emailed me every day for the past five years. There’s no point in doing it if you can’t help the individual,” Terry says.
And these past few years have been busier than ever for the couple, who volunteer at the charity full-time. “We probably feel like everybody working in this field right now; this is not the time to be backing off and saying, ‘oh, the work’s been done all these things have been accepted’,” Terry adds.
“Because we’ve seen political changes that are very unwelcome and things could go backwards [at any time]. “It doesn’t stop. Whether it’s legal, medical, science, or whatever, we feel able to tackle it. And we will keep on pushing.”
You can read full interviews with each of the winners in the August issue of Attitude – out July 20.