The Clare Project was originally formed in 2000, and since then has provided a safe space for the Brighton trans community. Their core service is a weekly drop-in session at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church where trans people can seek advice and support, as well as low-cost psychotherapy.
In a caustic world where leaders like Donald Trump are seeking to abolish the basic fundamental rights of transgender people, organisations like The Clare Project are crucial for maintaining compassion and harmony.
Dr Sam Hall is a trans man with five children working as a GP in Brighton. Since attending a session in 2012, he’s helped The Clare Group become recognised as a charity and has big hopes for the role they can play for trans rights and health in Brighton and beyond.
In advance of the Trans Day Of Remembrance (20th November) we spoke to Sam about the work Clare Project do, the complexity of trans healthcare, and how the workplace can embrace the rights of transgender people.
Hey Sam! How did The Clare Project start
The Clare Project originated in a beauty salon [Shadi Danin] where the beautician was doing electrolysis for a number of transgender women. She introduced them to one another and it became a meeting space. The early organisers were intent on having mental health support because the impact of being trans in today’s society on one’s mental health can be huge. So they got a grant early to provide mental health support and it ran from there. It moved to Dorset Gardens church and has been running since then as a weekly drop-in.
What does your drop-in service entail?
It’s very loose and a facilitated drop in service on Tuesday afternoons. They tend to be visited by the most vulnerable: trans women, that get abused in the street and can’t work because no-one will employ them.
We get first-timers attendees arriving, saying that they can’t live their life as a male anymore. Sometimes they’ll actually go and change clothes and become their real selves. That’s very powerful There’s also very low cost psychotherapy for those that want it.
What are the primary issues attendees report?
The Clare Project has traditionally supported trans women more than anyone else because they tend to be most vulnerable. They’re generally more noticeable, often with facial hair, bigger hands, deeper voices. It’s so difficult to be seen as who they are. So many people make the transgender issue around genitals but the average transgender experience is so little about genitals: it’s about how other people see you.
How can you help these people increase their confidence?
We try and encourage them to get involved with volunteering with us, so they’re a bit more visible but in a safe way. It’s about capacity building in the community.
You mentioned about trans women’s problems with employment. This must surely be affected by this?
Absolutely. One thing that really frustrates me is there’s so many trans people with skills that don’t get utilized because people don’t employ them. They can live very small lives and that’s such a shame.
What more can businesses do to help?
We’ve found a real willingness to engage from the business sector. The main problem is a lack of information and/or education. Stuff like why access to the right bathrooms are important. Why it’s important to use the right pronoun when addressing people. People are scared to make a mistake, so often it’s simply a case of educating them. Brighton is, without doubt, the best UK city for advocating trans rights, where private and small business sectors are jumping onboard with us.
And the council has been supportive?
What we have in Brighton and Hove is relatively unique. We have a history of public and statutory bodies engaging with and championing the cause of trans people. The council did some exemplary work in 2015, producing a needs assessment for trans people; that was the first of its kind in this country, engaging the trans community in the way they do other minorities. We’re also feeling increasingly supported by Sussex Police.
As a GP, you must have a passion for trans health?
Yes. Health care provisions for trans people are third world in comparison to people that aren’t. Many GPs will refuse to treat trans people, citing a lack of knowledge or the fact they don’t think it’s right. There’s inherent transphobia in the system that makes access difficult. The few specialist clinics that are available have extremely long waiting lists. It’s hugely complex.
Take one issue i experienced: I was born with a female body but identified as male and was walking about as a man, but then needed to go and have a smear test! Imagine how that must feel? That’s just one example.
How has your transition shaped your view of gender roles?
We’re addicted to gender roles and we’re addicted to misogyny. It was fine for me: I got handed white male privilege on a plate! It’s frightening to experience both sides so I’m obliged to fight against it as I can see very clearly it’s not healthy to the human race.
What do you seen in the future for The Clare Project?
I see us as a sizable charity with a political voice, as well as delivering much-needed health and social care for trans people. I hope in future we will be committed by the NHS to provide services.
You guys are great, thanks Sam!
Check our previous entries in our ‘We ❤️ Brighton Heroes’ series