Dear fellow British cisgender queers
We are a community, and we should stand shoulder to shoulder with trans people in the face of vile and blatant discrimination. Cisgender queers should take guidance from trans-led public organisations as to how we can be better allies.
Content Warning: This blog discusses the anti-trans narrative coming from the UK Conservative Government, with links to a number of articles for which we advise reader discretion.
by Charlie Roberts
Our trans siblings need us, and we must do more to fight for their right to exist and protect them.
As global politics swings to the right in the shadow of a climate break-down and financial collapse, world leaders are searching for a scapegoat to detract from the issues they fail to address.
Here in the UK, we are not exempt from this. Whilst I could write pages just on Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s attacks on asylum seekers and Albanians, I want to focus on the threat towards trans rights. (But you should still be furious that the Government incites hatred towards immigrants and asylum seekers!).
Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported Prime Minister Rishi Sunak plans to review the Equality Act 2010 to clarify that "sex means biological sex" (it’s not a link to the Telegraph, nobody wants to read that over-glorified loo-roll). Sunak’s comments stem back to the summer, when he initially ran for Conservative Party leader, in a leadership race that saw contenders attack trans people, all of whom continue to be high-up in the Party. According to the now-Prime Minister, he wants to prevent organisations from using the Equality Act to rewrite “the English language so we can't even use words like 'man' [or] 'woman'”.
Part of this change to the Equality Act would reduce access to single-sex spaces, addressing the nonsensical "bathroom debate” which has permeated UK discourse, as our UK Government attempts to copy American-led ways to discriminate. It’s concerning that the Conservatives have already addressed building regulations so that, “[a]ll new public buildings should have separate … toilets,” because “[t]he rise in ‘gender neutral’ toilets raised safety concerns”. As Jolyon Maugham, director of the Good Law Project tweeted, “What will the Tories do once cis women are made ‘safe’ by banning trans women from women’s bathrooms? They’ll need a new scapegoat”.
Dylan Mulvaney (17.14 minutes in) gave a succinct explanation as to the flaws in the “safety” concerns argument. Unfortunately, Karen, we live in a patriarchal world where if a man wants to attack you, he will. ‘Women Only’ sign be damned.
To demonstrate his commitment to LGBT+ rights, Sunak appointed Kemi Badenoch as Women and Equalities Minister - a role the Conservatives value so much, it’s added onto her portfolio with International Trade – despite serious concerns about her past comments and voting record. I won’t bother writing out the full extent of her bigotry towards trans people, you can get the gist from this article.
In her work as Minister, she has actively sought out the views of anti-trans groups such as LGB Alliance (who I would argue are also anti-LGB…). She claims that she wants to hear “both sides of the debate”, but the “debate” in question is about whether someone has the right to exist.
During her previous stint in the ministerial role, Badenoch wrote to the FCA to discourage the organisation from allowing employees to self-identify. Using her ministerial role in this way, the Tories are actively taking steps to make life difficult for trans people, willing to go as far as interfering with an independent body’s internal policies. They want a scapegoat and distraction to their failed policies and the real issues people face in this country.
Elsewhere in the UK, the Scottish Government is currently debating a Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would allow trans people in Scotland to self-identify. If passed, it could pave the way for similar legislation to be introduced across the UK. However, the public has been whipped into a transphobic frenzy and hate crimes have risen by 87%. I saw one commentator tweet she was “crying” because of what this could mean for cis women. This is despite EHRC research unable to find abuse of gender recognition policies in countries with such legislation in place.
Every tweet, letter and protest to the Scottish reform fuels the UK Government’s actions. It allows them to claim they are responding to fears and concerns from women, because really, they’re just trying to protect women (unless, of course, you’re a trans woman).
I often find it laughable when anti-trans groups claim they are on the side of science, the “biological sex is a fact” line. It is true to some degree, but it makes the world extremely binary and ignores the biological sex differences that present in intersex variations. I would encourage you to read the fantastic work being done by groups such as Intersex Equality Rights UK. Understanding intersex variations will help you understand the flaws in arguments about “sex as a fact” and see that our world is not clearly binary between man and woman. If we are to actively fight against the hatred and harmful policies levelled at trans people, we need to acknowledge the impact this has on intersex people, too.
When we must fight for the right for our trans siblings to exist, we focus a lot of energy on the statistics of life being difficult for trans people. We forget to focus on the vibrant and wonderful lives that many trans people lead. We are a community, and we should stand shoulder to shoulder with trans people in the face of vile and blatant discrimination. Cisgender queers should take guidance from trans-led public organisations as to how we can be better allies.
We will show the transphobes and the UK Government that trans is beautiful, trans is natural and trans people will continue to lead joyful and happy lives in the face of discrimination. This is not ‘kill them with kindness’, this is ‘kill them with facts’: Trans people exist and the UK Government cannot stop that.
Let me be clear, fellow queers: they come after one of us, they come for us all. Do you really think we are safe once they have stripped trans people of their rights? It is just the first step for the UK Government to roll back our hard-won rights. The action being taken by the Conservatives means we cannot stop fighting, we can never be complacent.
It is not enough to vote against the Tories. We need to actively make a noise and shout that we will not accept this. We must ensure our trans siblings are not used as scapegoats to the failures of the UK Government.
Some of our ideas of things you can do to help:
Joining protests and marches supporting our transgender siblings
Stand up for trans people in conversations if someone says something transphobic
Read books and articles by trans authors
Charlie is one of the volunteers with LGBT+ Lit Fest. Her passions are reading feminist discourse and LGBT+ literature, and drinking tea.
Intersex Inclusive Progress Flag - Valentino Vecchietti/LGBT Consortium
Charlie - self photographed
All other images - Unsplash