England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Trans rights are human rights! – Report of London protest

Protesters, armed with smart signs, pride flags and pro-trans t-shirts bravely faced COVID-19 to protest in Parliament Square on July 4th to campaign against the Government’s threats against the trans and non-binary community, as well as its handling of proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).

Over one thousand people joined the event to show support to one of the most marginalised communities in recent history. People held up signs saying, ‘Trans rights are human rights,’ and, ‘None of us are free until all of us are free.’

There were a total of 20 passionate speakers urging the government to address the GRA as well as asking allies and the general public to do more about transphobia. Many of the experiences were difficult to hear as they were packed to the brim of transphobic bigotry and a loneliness many of us will never understand. However, each speaker managed to remain positive and end their talk with hope for the future.

Some people in the crowd, like myself, were cis allies wanting to show support and elevate the voices of those who most need to be heard right now. If one part of our society is under threat with their hard fought for rights at risk, then the rest of us must stand beside you to demand your rights remain intact. It is our duty to secure each person’s rights, dignity and equality.

A young woman holding a sign saying ‘Intersectional Feminism,’ described the protest as diverse with many people from many communities showing up to make sure nobody is left behind. She said the atmosphere was palpable and people were showing a lot of love.

At present, the GRA requires anyone who wishes to change their gender on a birth certificate to undergo a detailed psychiatric assessment confirming a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before it can be legally changed. Trans and non-binary people have long argued that this process is harrowing, expensive and intrusive with many deciding to not bother.

The Tories had planned to reform the Gender Recognition Act, but have recently announced that this has been dropped. Unfortunately some in the labour movement have campaigned against the GRA reforms, using transphobic tropes about threats to women. In this they have found common cause with J.K. Rowling, who managed to coincide her 4000-word opinion piece on the lived experiences of others with the governments review of said legislation, making the internet a debating ground for trans and non-binary rights. It’s not a debate. Just like racism isn’t a debate. Many of the speakers mentioned Rowling and how her words had impacted their lives in the boldness people feel to start up new debates on their rights, how their childhood idol has turned out to be an enemy and how people have decided that what she said, ‘wasn’t that bad, was it?’

These destructive tropes that women like Rowling talk about with such certainty despite no evidence actually existing, that seek to impute criminality on all trans people and try to portray them as sexual predators needs to stop. Trans women are not our enemy. Trans women are not seeking to take away women’s rights. I know who I would like to share a bathroom with, and it’s not the bigot.

One of the most inspiring speakers was a young girl around 13. She spoke about how lucky she is as a trans child to have a supportive mother. Like many other young girls she wanted to gossip with friends in the bathrooms and experiment with makeup but this was denied to her as her school took a hard-line stance on which bathroom she was allowed to use. She described the looks she received, the passing comments, when waiting outside the girl’s bathrooms for her friends. One day she decided to defy the ‘rules’ and use the bathroom she was most comfortable using. Her head of year pulled her out of class to tell her, ‘You are not allowed to use the girls bathroom, in fact you will probably never be allowed to use the girls bathroom no matter how old you are or where you live.’ There is a reason we say trans kids’ lives matter. As an educator I was shocked to hear such transphobic words from a teacher. The girl went on to be told she could use the disabled toilet. While that may feel like a win, I worry we are telling trans people they are socially disabled. This young girl said she won’t stop campaigning for girls like her to use the appropriate bathroom and that because of her experience and wilfulness the school now has a group to support trans kids and educate staff. One child did this with support. Imagine what a whole community can achieve?

Thaniel Dorian, one of the organisers posted on Facebook, ‘With just a stubborn determination, three amazing co-organisers, a wonderful set of volunteer stewards and first aiders, and a grand total of 20 speakers… I just ran and hosted a protest of well over a thousand people. Trans people filled every single inch of Parliament Square. We had no money, no organisation, no political affiliation. Just passion, and endlessly generous volunteers and people wanting to help in any way they could.’

Socialist Alternative members were proud to be on the demonstration and to have been involved in pushing for a trade union presence on the protest.

  • Trans rights are human rights! Reform the GRA, bring in self-identification and scrap fees for changing legal gender.
  • No ‘bathroom bill’! Let people use facilities for their true gender.
  • Defend trans kids! Tory threats against doctors who support trans and gender non-conforming children must be resisted.
  • Increased support for trans people – surgery, counselling, hormones and other treatment should be free on the NHS.
  • Unite against the Tories – oppose transphobia in the trade union movement!

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