Self-identification & the struggle for equal rights

The left should take care before assuming proposed legal changes will advance the equality agenda


Trans rights were thrust back into mainstream politics this week when Jeremy Corbyn offered Labour Party support to government plans to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.

The law is in desperate need of reform, but introducing gender identity as a protected characteristic and allowing people total freedom to self-identify their gender may not be the best way forward. Continue reading “Self-identification & the struggle for equal rights”

Our Movement Can Defeat Homophobia

Trade unionists must call out discrimination wherever it occurs

LGBT+ rights are enshrined in law. The 2010 Equality Act could not be clearer: discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment are explicitly prohibited.

Prejudice, however, runs deep in our society, and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia remain endemic problems in the workplace and elsewhere. They have a pernicious and destructive impact that can sap the confidence of LGBT+ people, compromise their mental health and destroy their careers.

Following debate at last year’s TUC LGBT conference, the TUC undertook extensive research to identify the extent of the problems and better understand the experiences of LGBT+ workers, both unionised and non-unionised. Continue reading “Our Movement Can Defeat Homophobia”

How to avoid trans stereotyping?

Trans people need to commit to working with other marginalised groups – because when those groups speak with a single voice, their concerns can no longer be dismissed as minority interests.

TRANS issues have become mainstream in recent years and they remain high on the news agenda, even in the midst of austerity, an NHS in crisis and an education system at breaking point.

But while press coverage is generally very positive, some commentators — for example Sarah Ditum and Janice Turner — have raised concerns and questioned the impact of trans rights on women’s rights.

Sadly, but perhaps predictably, the effect has been to further inflame a debate that was already polarised and toxic. Suspicion and mistrust have taken root, playing into the hands of those who oppress both women and trans people alike.

There should not and need not be any conflict between trans rights and women’s rights, so how did we get into this mess and, more importantly, how can we get out of it? Continue reading “How to avoid trans stereotyping?”

International Transgender Day of Visibility

How can we promote the message that “Trans People are People. Get Over It.”

March 31st is the annual International Transgender Day of Visibility. In recent years, even a casual observer may feel that transgender people are already very visible, and query the need for it to be marked by a day in the calendar.  Whilst campaigning groups have promoted the message that “Some People are Trans,” the press have published a seemingly endless stream of news reports and feature articles about trans issues. Editorial policy might not always be sympathetic, but the battle for visibility seems to have been won. Continue reading “International Transgender Day of Visibility”

I’m a trans woman and I believe Julie Bindel should be heard

Bindel has strong opinions, some of which are very different to my own, but she has a right to argue them in respectful debate. Banning her from talking […] will not prevent hate speech being propagated at meetings elsewhere, and across the internet.

The furore surrounding Julie Bindel’s invitation to speak at the Working Class Movement Library during LGBT History Month rumbles on, and competing petitions have now amassed hundreds of signatures. Frances Donnelly demanded that “Bindel is not given a platform at an alleged ‘LGBT’ event.” In contrast, Catherine Costello welcomed the invitation and seeks to counteract the damage being done to the Working Class Movement Library, its funding and reputation. At the time of writing [21 January 2017], Costello’s petition leads by 1917 to 564. Appeals to popularity do not provide the best support for arguments but the two petitions reveal seemingly intractable divisions between LGBTQ+ people, with significant numbers holding strong feelings on both sides. Continue reading “I’m a trans woman and I believe Julie Bindel should be heard”

Trans equality debated in parliament for first time is slow but sure progress

Maria Miller MP called on the Government to review its response to the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee report on Transgender Equality, to ensure that the UK leads the world on trans equality rights.

On December 1st, Transgender Equality was debated on the Floor of the House of Commons for the very first time. Maria Miller MP moved the motion calling on the Government to review its response to the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee report on Transgender Equality, to ensure that the UK leads the world on trans equality rights.  Following on in debate, Angela Crawley MP highlighted the shortcomings of current legislation, specifically the uncertainty surrounding the rights of non-gendered and non-binary people. Ruth Cadbury MP acknowledged the cultural shift that is happening in society, especially among young people where there is greater acceptance of gender differences. Whilst that is to be applauded and celebrated, transgender people continue to face widespread prejudice and discrimination. Continue reading “Trans equality debated in parliament for first time is slow but sure progress”

Caution urged when Parliament debates changes to trans rights

Protections may be weakened not strengthened if self-declaration replaces expert testimony, and gender identity replaces gender reassignment as a protected characteristic.

On 1st December 2016, the House of Commons will debate the motion:

That this House notes the UK’s status as a pioneer in legislating for equality for LGBT people; welcomes the Government’s announcement of a new trans equality action plan; and calls on the Government to review its response to the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee’s report on Transgender Equality to ensure that the UK leads the world on trans equality rights, in particular by giving unequivocal commitments to changing the Gender Recognition Act 2004 in line with the principles of gender self-declaration and replacing confusing and inadequate language regarding trans people in the Equality Act 2010 by creating a new protected characteristic of gender identity.

As a transwoman, I am delighted that Parliamentary time is being devoted to trans rights. Trans people continue to face systemic discrimination and bias, so it is timely to review the legislation. However, the more I reflect on the two specific proposals in this motion, the more anxious I become. Continue reading “Caution urged when Parliament debates changes to trans rights”