Posted on 16. February 2012 in Campaigns

do trans and public transport go together?

photo:  Mirjam Logonder



Do trans and public transport go together?


Around 40 public transport users and operators from across Europe will meet in Coimbra, Portugal in March to discuss how to realize social inclusion. With workshop preparations underway, there is still time for Europe’s transgender community to add its view to their agenda.

Check out how you can contribute!

However, there are a few hurdles to overcome as well. One practitioner I talked with recently about transgender people’s concerns first thought I referred to transsexuals, before concluding they were such a small fraction of users that their views barely warranted consideration.

Nevertheless, public transport operators can be an important ally in responding to our calls for fairer treatment by society – as long as our community makes its voice heard. In a recent call for case studies related to transgender persons’ public transport experiences (both good and bad), just one report on their quality of life in Flanders (Belgium) came to light.* The study (PDF, 1.35MB) was completed in 2011 by Joz Motmans et al of the Policy Research Centre on Equality Politic(University of Antwerp). Within that survey, 135 anonymous transgenders ranked 6.28 out of 10 their perception of the quality of public transport (where 1 was ‘very bad’ and 10 was ‘very good’). Not bad overall, but compare this with the reaction of 135 Flemish non-transgenders who scored 7.35, and one can see there is a case to be made for listening to the transgender community’s views on public transport.

Another survey completed in 2008, this time by the Brussels-based Institute for the Equality of Women and Men provides further evidence that the time is right for dialogue. In “Being transgender in Belgium(PDF, 1.8MB)**, the authors specifically looked at the way people are treated in different spheres of life. Although just one of 244 online respondents explicitly reflected on public transport, saying: ‘I don’t use public transport (bus and tram) any more,’ over 43 percent of the group mentioned that in general they feel ‘less well’ treated ‘in the street.’

If we consider in addition the findings of a 2009 report (PDF, 319kb) by the UK’s Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) which stated “All who cross-dress are at risk of bullying and hate crime, especially if they venture outside the home in clothing of the opposite gender,” it becomes obvious that transgender people’s safety and security are of paramount concern. In fact, the European transgender community’s forum at: regularly reports of their experiences in terms of violence and discrimination on public soil in Europe. Since the safety and security of passengers is a concern to public transport operators too, it would seem obvious that the two groups could gain from working together.

Safety and security innovations are already being tested and applied, thanks to a European Union Initiative called CIVITAS (CIVITAS stands for cleaner and better transport in cities). For instance, closed circuit television cameras on buses and at public transport stops and stations are already intending to make older people and younger children feel safer riding the bus or tram, as can the presence of greater numbers of staff in uniform. Technology can also be used to enhance safety and freedom in open spaces such as cycle ways, pedestrian areas, public squares and parks and gardens too.

“Social Inclusion” means Transgender People too!

But what about the transgender community? “Is it a significant enough target group?” the transport practitioner still asks. If we consider the number of transgender people was recently estimated at less than one percent of the total UK population (see the updatePDF, 53kb) of the abovementioned GIRES report), one might hear a resounding ‘no’ from transport operators. But if we consider what defines social inclusion, the numbers shouldn’t matter. Considered in terms of its opposite; to be socially excluded is to be unable to access the opportunities in life that society often takes for granted. And that does include transgender people, as the Belgian survey respondents intimated above.

Fortunately positive steps are already being made. An association of six Passenger Transport Executives in northern England (called PTEG) recognised in a May 2010 report (PDF, 1.5Mb) *** that “public transport has a key role to play in tackling social exclusion by providing people with the means to get to the jobs, services and social networks to which everyone should be entitled.” According to its authors, public transport “is a vital tool in ensuring people have the means to be connected to the wider world and the opportunities it has to offer.”

The opportunity to present transgender peoples’ concerns as users of public transport arises in less than two months’ time in Coimbra, Portugal. On March 22 and 23, 2012 a training event will explore how sustainable mobility can support social inclusion. According to the organisers, the workshop will “lend opportunity to hear inspiring case studies from across Europe that shows innovative approaches in the field of social inclusion.” Interested participants are also being encouraged to share their own experiences, to present local challenges and work together with public transport operators and practitioners on possible solutions.

There may never be a better occasion to demonstrate that better public transport can mean transgender peoples’ social inclusion too. But for this to happen, Europe’s trans community needs to bring forward its concerns and experiences at the city level, both good and bad. Details on any legal cases and/or appeals are also welcomed, as are your recommendations and suggestions for future public transport operator/social inclusion strategies. The European network, Transgender Europe, will collate your responses and based on these will introduce the community’s views at the Coimbra workshop in March. Further information on the event, which is funded by the CIVITAS Initiative, is available here.

Send your input as individual or organization to TGEU Policy Officer Richard Köhler: Richard [at] until March 9th.

* De levenskwaliteit van transgender personen in Vlaanderen (PDF, 1.35MB). Motmans, Joz, Meier, Petra, & T’Sjoen, Guy. Steunpunt Gelijkekansenbeleid, Universiteit Antwerpen – Universiteit Hasselt. Belgium. (2011)

** Being transgender in Belgium: mapping the social and legal situation of transgender people (PDF, 1.8MB). Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (Brussels, Belgium). Motmans Joz, de Biolley Inès, Debunne Sandrine (2010)