“My experience would’ve been completely different if I wasn’t trans” – Charity trustee shares his story of discrimination when accessing homeless services

Faz Bukhari spoke to SR News about his troubles as a homeless trans person.

FAZ Bukhari was just 24 when he first became homeless in 2016 and turned to his local authority for help. However, instead of being greeted with a safe space, he told SR News that he experienced misgendering and discrimination.

“I got called to the front and I almost felt criminalised for being trans. I felt like they didn’t respect my pronouns, it was like ‘oh, you’re that, why don’t you just go home’.” he said.

He continued: “There was no understanding of safeguarding around trans people. There was no risk assessment around that.

“You’re being referred to as a female. You’re already homeless and going to a place like that, you almost lose all hope in homeless units.

“I felt really lost. I really felt like I actually didn’t have anyone. You almost feel trapped.”

Unfortunately, his experience is not an isolated one.

A study by LGBTQ+ homeless charity, AKT, found one-fifth (20 per cent) of young LGBTQ+ young people had experienced misgendering or dead-naming (referring to a trans person by the name they were assigned at birth) while accessing services, while over half (59 per cent) of LGBTQ+ young people have faced some form of discrimination or harassment.

London-based Faz said: “My experience would have been completely different if I wasn’t trans. We almost filter ourselves and our gender identity and expression because there’s always that fear of how people are going to perceive it.

“When you go into that environment where you have to disclose that kind of information not knowing what the other person’s prejudices are, irrespective of the organisation, people you’re speaking to are individual people, so people’s biases come out somehow.”

The charity has a North East branch in Newcastle, and over half its service users are trans/non-binary.

Last month, SRNews spoke with service manager Dawn Gasgoine and we got in contact with her again after finding out about Faz’s story. She said: “Things have moved on massively, but there still are pockets out there of discrimination and abuse.

“But for trans/non-binary young people, things haven’t moved forward for them the way it has for other parts of the community.”

Faz believes that since he accessed services, trans-positive figures and awareness has encouraged positive change and that he now has the tools to combat this form of discrimination.

He said: “If it was me now, yeah I would’ve challenged it, I would’ve had the terminology and the language. Back then, I even lacked the vocabulary, [and] how to articulate those concerns it’s very difficult.

“When you’re broken you can’t be broken any more. You don’t think to yourself ‘I want changes’ you’re like ‘I just want this to be over, I just don’t want to be broken any more’”.

Faz also believes there is still a stigma against homeless people.

He said: “[People] look me up and down like ‘oh, you’re clean, you’re not messy, you’re not dirty, you don’t have an addiction. All these things are so associated with people who are experiencing homelessness.

“I’ve used that not to empower myself. I don’t think it has good connotations it’s almost like the blame game starts and 100% the blame is on you until you can convince them otherwise.”

After finding AKT online, Faz was able to access services for three months, which was enough to have a career break.

Now a trustee of AKT and a budding author, he is using his experiences to educate others.

He said: “Right now, I’m very proud of who I am.

“I know where I come from, I know my experiences prior to me transitioning and my experiences now are very valuable.”

For support, visit the akt website or call 0191 218 0099.

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