I don't often do this, indeed I think this might be a first, but today I am posting a bit of a political statement. I have tried not to let this become a "Transgender Blog" because that is just one aspect of my life. I generally try to keep it light and not dwell unduly on the attacks being made on trans people here in the UK ~ of course this impacts on me, that's one of the reasons I am active in local trans and LGBT+ groups. I had originally written this with the hope of it being published elsewhere, hopefully where it would get a wider readership. Anyway, enough preamble I think the rest of this is pretty self explanatory, and normal service will be resumed soon!
Time to Set the Agenda
Yet again this morning I find my social media flooded with news of the transphobe and bigot in chief spreading her particular brand of vitriol and hate. This is not that unusual, it feels like most mornings I will be greeted with the news of what some transphobe has said, the latest article or opinion piece proposing reducing the rights of trans women, or some setback in the courts or the USA. It all gets a little wearing. Indeed, towards the end of last year I just found myself running out of enthusiasm for the battle, I was exhausted by all the hate and attacks we have had to endure since our Government first thought it might be a good idea to make our lives a little better! If I felt like this I hate to feel how those more engaged than me must have felt, I can only assume that they have been feeling wiped out by the continued strain.
So, why am I seeing all this? Am I a member of Mumsnet? A subscriber to the Guardian? Do I make a point of following transphobes on twitter? No to any of the above! I see all the hate posts because they are being shared by my fellow trans people ~ I am sure that they share them with the best of intentions, know your enemy so that we can counter their attacks. But in many ways that is the trouble. We get ground down by seeing the attacks, yet we are impotent in refuting their bile. I see my friends and fellow bloggers writing at length rebutting the diatribe by JK Rowling or taking apart the latest bit of nonsense from Posy Parker or Graham Lineham. Then there is the alarm around hate groups like LGB Alliance, Fair Play for Women etc. etc. no wonder we’re exhausted seeing all this feeling we have so much to deal with, we become overwhelmed!
Yet of course we are not dealing with it, the only people who read our blogs are people who agree with us, our rebuttals, our polemics, and our social media posts are only read by friends and allies, we are in effect shouting into the void. We read the attacks on us, but our attackers never even see our replies, and if they do it won’t make any difference ~ you can’t enter into rational discussion with irrational people, and our haters are irrational.
But if the mainstream media won’t publish us, and our blogs won’t get read what are we to do? How are we to undermine the attacks we have to endure? How are we to demonstrate to Government that their fears are unfounded?
Well here’s a plan, a cunning plan! We don’t! (I think that’s enough exclamation marks for now)
It is time for a change of tactics, time we stopped being on the defensive and went onto the attack ourselves. As I see it the trouble with what we have been doing is twofold, first off we are on the defensive all the time. We feel we are being forced to justify ourselves, our very existence. We feel we need to counter the arguments of our attackers showing them to be unfounded and illogical. We end up being engaged in a culture war that for the vast majority of people is seen as being irrelevant and as a “Toxic Debate” rather than the fight for survival it feels like. Joining in the argument gives it credence, it suggests that there are two sides and that reconciliation is possible ~ it’s a bit like trying to engage in rational discussion about racism with the KKK.
The second is much more important, all the time we are defensive, all the time we are responding, we are allowing a very small, highly toxic, highly vocal, but very small minority to set the agenda. Sure they are well funded and have much of the main stream media on their side, but being on the defensive only plays into their hands ~ we end up playing their game, with their ball, to their rules ~ we simply can’t really expect to win in those circumstances now can we.
Let’s face it the big issues that we face in our lives are not really related to the things we are accused of. Most people are rational enough to not want to force trans women into men’s loos, and would not expect trans masculine offenders to be put in women’s prisons.
I believe it is time that we simply stopped engaging with our opponents, that we stopped responding, instead we need to move the spot light off of ourselves and on to Government and their apparent inability to defend us as citizens. In short it’s time that we started to set the agenda. We need to think about the things that we want ~ reform of the GRA was not really on the agenda before the Government itself decided to put it there, neither was access to single sex spaces until others tried to stop it, so what do we want? What do we really, really want?
I believe all that most of us want is to just quietly get on with our lives in peace and quiet. But until a few things change that’s not going to happen. Those things are simple we need respect and recognition. We need to have non binary identities legally recognised. This means we need to push for a change on all ID, including passports and birth certificates, to either exclude gender or have a third gender alternative, an X as well as the M and the F. Personally I am not at all sure why we need to have our gender legally defined at all, why does anyone else need to know? With NI numbers and biometric passports, now that we have equal retirement ages and entitlement to benefits, in these days of equal marriage why does our gender need to be legally defined?
We need to be able to live how we identify, I think that this does now mean ensuring that a legal change of name and legal gender are timely, administratively simple, and financially accessible.
But I suspect that more important than this to most of us is proper, appropriate health care. We need to press for better funding for gender identity services, we also need to press for an appropriate approach in all aspects of our health care; an approach that ensures the correct people are called in for the appropriate cancer screening, we need assurance that if we are going into hospital we will be in the appropriate ward, we need to be assured of being treated with respect at all times. Often our doctors are the only ones who know our history, certainly they are the only ones who need to, yet I often hear about inappropriate behaviour from nurses, receptionists and of doctors themselves ~ some of this may take government action, some of it will need policy implementation from the NHS, and some of it will require training, but all of it requires action.
For all of this we need to get our political masters on side, not just a few front bench spokespeople, but the whole lot of them. A while back the LibDems adopted a definition of Transphobia, and it now looks like the SDP after their recent internal spat will be doing the same, the idea is that once a party has agreed a definition of transphobia they can then discipline members for breaking their code of practise. This is great progress, but the LibDems and the SNP are third and fourth in the political batting order, both with no real chance of forming a UK administration so we need to persuade the Labour and the Conservative parties to follow the example (the recent launch of Labour Trans Equality are asking for exactly this). If we can rid these parties of transphobes then we will be sure of allies in high places, and the marginalisation of the opinions of our opponents. Transphobia will no longer be the last sociably acceptable resort of the bigot. There is a definition already up and running after much debate within the Trans Community the group Trans Actual have worked out and published a definition of transphobia, complete with some examples, political parties, NGOs, Local Authorities can all just agree to adopt this, then they will know what transphobia looks like, and how it impacts people's lives.
To sum up we need to learn from Trump, we need to learn from the “Leave Campaign”, we need to learn from Community Security Trust (in their campaign against antisemitism) we need to learn to take control, we must stop responding, instead we need to take control, we need to be the ones setting the agenda!