A former British Airways flight attendant is on a crusade to educate Swindon about a forgotten part of their community - transgender people.
Janey P Templer-Milligan knew she was different when she was 11. At 64 she is an established Psychotherapist/Counsellor and LGB & Transgender Specialist, and she wants to make sure that children growing up today have the same support she did when coming out as bisexual.
As a former long-haul flight attendant Janey has always been welcoming of diversity. She explained: "I’ve always been aware of diversity and I think that was developed when I flew because I was travelling all over the world and going to different countries and experiencing different cultures. It’s given me a greater perspective of difference, of minorities, of cultures.”
With a practice set up in Old Town, Janey is set to be introducing her workshop ‘Transgender People’ into schools in the autumn. She explained: "It’s a very simple message: these are people, these are human beings."
The premise of these workshops is to help children understand from a young age that transgender people exist, and that's okay. As a bisexual Janey has experienced discrimination first hand and wants to support people who are experiencing the same thing.
She said: "When I first came out as bi I had sort of the more militant feminist lesbians saying, ‘you’re a disgrace’. I had one woman say, ‘you’re a disgrace to lesbianism, you need to stop sitting on the fence and make a choice’ and I said ‘well that is my choice – this is me’.
“It’s just unbelievable how this bigotry and hatred could exist in 2018. And this leads to transgender people feeling very isolated, and that they can’t come out as trans, and I definitely think they are an overlooked minority group – it can start as young as three.
"I think it’s really important because it is stigmatised with words like ‘tranny’ or ‘heshe’ or ‘chick with a dick’."
Janey spoke about an incident which occurred in Swindon six months ago when she went for food with a friend who had transitioned from male to female. She explained: "By the time that we walked down the street she was pushed, spat at, verbally abused. We went to McDonalds where some kids on another table started to throw food at her.
“Because so little is known about it, this is why I feel it’s important for things like my workshop to be delivered so that the community has a better understanding of what transgender is and is about.”
Through her practice Janey has worked with people from the transgender community from all different ages, jobs and backgrounds. This is one of the reasons she believes her workshops will be beneficial in institutes such as mental health organisations, businesses, schools, colleges, and hopefully Swindon's Great Western Hospital.
"I was talking to one of the nurses there and she said, ‘when a transgender person comes in here we don’t know what to do, we don’t know where to put them – whether or not to put them on the male or female ward, we just don’t know enough about it.’ I’m hoping with my workshop I can help educate people," she explained.
Even with laws now in place to protect the transgender community - the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act - Janey recognises that there is still a lot of work to do within the mainstream society. She believes there is a lack of understanding and acceptance which makes some people uncomfortable simply because they are faced with something different. This lack of understanding, she tells me, has horrific effects on both children and adults.
She explained: “There’s a lot of self-harm amongst young transgender people – I’ve known young children to try and mutilate themselves. I had one very young six-year-old boy who saw himself as female and he tried to cut his genitals off, which is when the parents realised the extent of his feelings. I think they thought it was an aberration to start with, but then they realised this was something much deeper.
"Some of our clients do really horrific things, like cutting right down to the bone."
Through her 'Transgender People' workshop Janey hopes that children will be encouraged to be more mindful and accepting from an earlier age about people in their community who feel suppressed and ostracized.
Already prepared for the backlash of some parents and schools rejecting her workshops she said: "If a child of theirs was having this terrible turmoil, would they reject them? Would they show that sort of hatred?
"I have known young teenagers to be really rejected, completely, by their families and that of course makes everything so much more difficult. If they are thrown out on the street, then they become more vulnerable - it's dangerous.
"Your childhood shapes the way you become as an adult, and I knew I was different when I was about 11 but I had a very open-minded mother who said, ‘All I want you to do is be happy and safe’ and that’s how I feel that human beings should be allowed to live, not fearing for their life."