Lisa Mac

Trans rights: Labour must be on the right side

Lisa Mac
Trans rights: Labour must be on the right side

IN A DISTURBING TREND, a group of radical feminists are attacking the most under-represented and marginalised people in society: transgender people, and particularly trans kids.

Some of these have recently appeared in my home town of Norwich under the name of Woman’s Place UK. They secretly hired a hall and invited an audience. Before the meeting had even started, it was stated from the platform to all who were present, including several trans women, that the ladies’ toilets in the building were only to be used by “biological women”. This policing of toilets will obviously affect trans women as well as “cis women” (people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth). Do Woman’s Place UK believe they have the right to judge who qualifies to be treated as a woman based on how they look? It seems so.

Ruth Hunt, the lesbian CEO of the UK LGBT charity Stonewall, has described how recently her own partner, a cis woman, was asked to get out of the ladies’ toilets in the British Library, because she has “short hair and narrow hips”. Is this the future Woman’s Place UK want? You cannot launch an attack on a group of people because they do not reach your expectations of gender and not expect it to have a wider impact on society in general.

Fortunately, Norwich, with a Labour council and a diverse tolerant population, has a great tradition of standing up to intolerance. My colleagues in the local LGBT community, along with Labour Party councillors and Momentum members, managed to quickly muster a peaceful counterdemo outside the venue.

Transphobia is a socialist issue as much as racism, disability access, or workers’ rights are. When the weak are attacked, the labour movement must be there to stand up for them in all circumstances. The Labour Party must always stand on the side of the underdog. This is who we are.

Trans rights are the same as all our rights. There is no rationing of equality that dictates that if vulnerable trans people are protected, then other sections of society will lose out. Yet this is the flawed language of Woman's Place UK, who believe that allowing trans people rights and protection will be at the expense of women’s rights.

Here’s something to ponder: among the transgender population, the rate of attempted suicide is about 40% compared to a general population rate of 5%. Transgender people are, by percentage, more likely to be victims of sexual or street violence than any other section of society.

Donald Trump has rolled back trans civil rights and protections in the US; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán banned gender studies programmes at the country’s universities; and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro routinely gives vent to rabid misogynist and anti-gay sentiments.

Of course, there are discussions to be had around transsexual people in sport and the often-magnified problem of transsexual prisoners. These discussions involve a tiny number of people and one thing is certain: the trans people affected are not the ones making those policy decisions. They are dictated to by others and have to accept the rules put down to control and legislate them. So why blame them?

Finally - and this is where it gets absurd to the extreme - it is often argued that legal trans gender recognition will be used by male abusers to gain entry to women’s spaces, toilets and changing rooms, so they can attack females. Think about that for a minute. The premise is that a male sexual predator will visit his GP, ask for referral to a specialist Gender Identity Clinic (with an approximate waiting list of two years), meanwhile changing his name by legal deed poll, in order to change his driving licence and passport and, eventually, his birth certificate. This change in gender will, of course, have to be justified to his family, spouse, children and employer. Then, when the strict criteria of the Gender Recognition Panel have been satisfied and, eventually, legal female status is gained, he will sneak into a women’s public toilet or Marks & Spencer's ladies’ clothing department changing room and attack a woman.

Lisa Mac Really?

Norwich North CLP, chair of Norwich Momentum, Unite Community, LGBT activist and artist