Pushing back for trans rights

Submitted by AWL on 22 June, 2021 - 5:45 Author: Angela Driver
Trans rights are human rights sign

Trans Pride in London is on 26 June (2pm from Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner). The organisers are emphasising that it is a protest. There is a lot to protest about.

Formally the Equality Act legislates against most forms of discrimination that trans people might face. The Gender Recognition Act (GRA) allows birth certificates to be issued in the acquired gender. The NHS provides hormone treatment, and surgery to help with “gender reassignment”.

But in reality trans people face a huge level of persecution even today, even on the streets of London. Public humiliation, harassment, and violence are commonplace. Reported hate crime and incidents are on the rise over the last couple of years, apparently as a result of a backlash against moves to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

Trans people are a small minority, and the level of persecution may not be apparent to many people. My partner is trans. At least once a month she tells me about some incident. Last week it was a minicab driver that refused to have her in his car. Another time someone shouted at her that she was a “fake woman”. Last year, in the affluent London suburb of Richmond, a mob of 20 people beat her repeatedly.

These experiences are so common that many trans people feel unable to use public transport. Some are afraid to even leave their homes, let alone get a job.

Despite an increase in trans-friendly workplace policies, one in three employers admitted in a study that they would be less likely to employ someone who is trans. The rate of unemployment among the trans population is twice that of the general population, likely due to a combination of discrimination and mental health difficulties.

Although services are available on the NHS, the waiting lists for Gender Identity Clinics are up to five years long for an initial appointment. The “Keira Bell” court case resulted in a ruling that makes it much harder for under-18s to obtain treatment. The ruling calls into question the ability of under-18s to consent at all, which is of concern to anyone who believes that teenagers should be able to access the morning-after pill.

Politically the Tories are so hostile that three of their LGBT advisers recently resigned. The Labour Party does not appear willing to stand up for trans rights. Some Labour MPs seem able to be openly transphobic on social media without significant consequence.

As with any oppression, the labour movement and the left should be the main force to show solidarity and make progress. But too often transphobic fake feminists derail efforts. They claim that trans rights have a negative impact on women’s rights. So called radical feminists often argue that women need to be protected, and emphasise reproductive features when defining what makes a women.

Their arguments, possibly unwittingly, give succour to the idea that women should stay “safe” at home, and have their primary role as a mother.

In fact a world in which trans people are unable to freely express themselves in their correct gender is less likely to be a safe place for women. Prejudice and discrimination around gender expression oppresses women and gay people as well as trans people.

The vast majority of trans people are part of the working class. The level of prejudice makes it harder for trans people to become rich. A few do manage to reach “celebrity” status, and as often, access to money means that they can avoid much of the prejudice others face. There is no need to rely on NHS services. They do not have to use public transport, or face abuse on the streets.

Despite the weakness of the left, and the unions, it remains the duty of the labour movement to overcome the lack of understanding, and fight for trans rights. The workplace policies need to be implemented.

Stonewall and Mind have both faced public criticism for standing up for trans rights. These organisations are charities. Trade unions should be stepping up too.

• Workers’ Liberty 3/61, Gender: the right to choose, is here
• “Support trans people’s rights!”, Workers’ Liberty conference 2018 motion, is here

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