By Valentine Stirling (she/they)
Protests broke out across Scotland in response to the Tories’ ‘Section 35’ attack on trans rights, expressing the outrage and defiance at the blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill.
21 January saw a demo called in Glasgow at short notice, and despite this the main shopping street was brought to a standstill. Buchanan Steps echoed with chants: “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re going nowhere” and “Trans rights are human rights”. By blocking the Bill, Westminster Tories revealed their lack of confidence in the power they hold over oppressed communities and their fear of the power of the racially and gender-diverse working class people uniting to defend them.
The Bill represented a small step forward for the rights of trans men and women, reducing the humiliations and piles of paperwork required to receive a gender recognition certificate reflecting our lived gender. But it falls short of establishing the basic right to change our documentation.
Trans people would still be forced to undergo a three-month wait to “prove” who we are, extended to six months for 16-18 year olds! There is no reason for this ‘purgatory’. Trans people should be able to self-identify immediately. The Bill also excludes non-binary people who will still have no right to documentation reflecting their gender. But even this was too much for Sunak and his transphobic ministers.
Tories’ actions embolden reactionaries
On 5 February, the transphobe Posie Parker’s campaign ‘Standing for Women’ bussed protestors from across Britain to Glasgow, not just opposing the GRR Bill but even demanding repeal of the oppressively medicalised Gender Reform Act 2004.
Outrageously, the demo included far-right, anti-abortion and racist activists. Despite financial and organisational backing from a rag-tag alliance of reactionaries, reinforced by a scurrilous press campaign branding the whole trans community as rapists following Isla Bryson’s conviction, Parker attracted fewer protestors than had hit the streets spontaneously a fortnight before. A mass ‘Cabaret against Hate Speech’ sang, danced and chanted defiance to drown out Parker’s transphobic bile.
Protesters did not see Parker as the main enemy though. Most anger was reserved for the Tories – not only for transphobia but also for attacks on democratic rights in Scotland. By blocking the Bill, Tory Ministers have doubled down on their refusal to allow a second independence referendum. This was summed up in one homemade placard, which declared ‘self-determination is a human right’.
Protestors often spoke of how the hate campaign had increased hostility and violence against trans people and expressed fear as to how far this could go. Exactly how far this can go, and the fact that this trans witchhunt had spread beyond Scotland, was shown by Brianna Ghey’s murder on 11 February. Undeterred, trans people and those who stand in solidarity hit the streets again, holding vigils commemorating Brianna across Britain.
The SNP government has offered little, if anything in the way of resistance to these undemocratic attacks. Instead of mobilising the powerful mood to resist shown on the streets of Scotland, they limit themselves to appealing to the very courts which denied the Scottish people a vote on independence. Only the growing power of working people, linked up with our class siblings South of the border, can force a retreat from the Tories and defend both trans and democratic rights, including the right for self-determination.