Martin Luther King, Jr. said “When you have lost hope, you have lost everything. And when you think all is lost, when all is dire and bleak, there is always hope. We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
When everything around you is crumbling, hope is vital. It’s what we need to cling on to. And this is why Labour really need to rethink carefully about their message currently being delivered to the trans community, and the real harm being inflicted, no matter how unintentional, on the most marginalised and targeted minority in the UK today.
This is no better illustrated than by two items on social media.
The first is an article by Pink News The numbers don’t lie – Labour is woefully out of touch with its own voters on trans rights. This article features the results of a recent YouGov Survey on the way the UK population view those within the LGBT community, and the survey is split between the voting intentions of main political parties.
There is no question that the levels of negativity have alarmingly jumped over recent years and we are experiencing ever increasing levels of hate crimes, especially against those transgender. Only this week our own Director Steph received a vicious death threat that was reported, and now being dealt with by the Police – this is the reality of being trans in the UK today. And it’s not just limited to trans people; we have been saying for years that a rise in socially acceptable expressions of hate against the trans community will be seen as a green light to all forms of discrimination, and we take no pleasure in seeing this come true, with clear examples of the recently reported homophobic attacks. Hate crime in the UK is soaring.
And the current levels of hate are hardly surprising against a backdrop of a Government openly and gleefully targeting trans people in a desperate attempt to pander to the far right of their party (a faction that is so far right that if the earth was flat, they would be falling off the edge), and to deflect from all the economic damage they have inflicted on this country resulting in a crippling Cost of Living Crisis and an NHS that is broken beyond repair. This Government have pushed and promoted ‘Freedom of Speech’ rights to empower bigots to discriminate and give them the ‘Freedom to Hate’.
The Tory party have made their views very clear, and their public position is the complete destruction of trans lives. No matter how it is framed, if they achieve their aim to change the definition of Sex in the Equality Act to mean ‘biological sex’ or ‘sex as assigned at birth’, there would be no recognition or protection for anyone trans living in the UK.
The very Act that specifically included ‘Gender Reassignment’ in clear recognition that trans people needed legal protection against unlawful discrimination, would be removed. Were this to happen, it would literally be impossible for any trans person to live true to who they are in the UK.
So you would think that facing such a position, trans people, their families, friends and their allies would be able to turn to, and rely on Labour to offer that much needed hope and confidence that trans lives will be safer under a Labour Government. And the YouGov survey (as highlighted in the ‘Numbers don’t lie’ Pink News Article that I previously referred to) clearly shows that this is the way Labour voters feel. The survey reveals that 55% of Labour voters still feel positively toward trans people.
The stark fact is that across the whole of the population the survey revealed that only 39% of the UK are positive toward trans people, which is truly concerning, with 25% (so 1 in every 4 people) holding negative feelings, all overwhelmingly fuelled by exposure to endless negative media stories plus Government public attacks and hateful ridicule from the likes of Sunak, Braverman, Anderson, Badenock, etc etc.
The fact these deliberately targeted and heavily funded attacks have been steadily building over the last 7-8 years, I would have expected the numbers to have been even worse; given all the exposure to intentional misinformation and outright lies printed in mainstream media every single day, there may be an argument that we should cling on to a level of 39% of the UK population who still feel positively, as I would have expected that number to be even lower by now. We all base our beliefs on information we receive, so for the level to still be not far off double the negative number (39% Positive and 25% Negative), there is still something to cling onto. But this still needs addressing urgently before it gets even worse.
So the question facing Labour voters is how their party deals with trans rights, and can they be trusted to protect them. As we head ever closer to the next election due in 2024 and with party policies already being set out for the public, how is Keir Starmer positioning his party to reassure the 55%, knowing only 12% currently hold negative views toward trans people?
And this is really brought into focus when we consider how important trans issues are to the UK. All national surveys consistently show that issues relating to trans rights come right at the bottom of all key issues of concern.
So based on this evidence, and the fact that every politician interviewed during recent by-elections, regardless of the party, stated that trans issues were simply not an issue and almost never raised ‘on the doorstep’, why are Labour so afraid to support trans people in line with the clear wishes of its party members?
Given the clear position of support for trans rights and the evidence that support will have no genuine impact on voters, you would think Starmer would be giving trans people that much needed vocal support and hope. But the opposite is true.
We now know that Labour have now abandoned support for so called ‘Self ID’ to be included within their GRA ReformGRA Reform Gender Recognition Reform Bill - Scotland https://www.gov.scot/news/gender-recognition-reform-bill/ Published 03 March 2022 09:34 Part of Equality and rights Simplifying how trans people apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate. See Also https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/mermaids-manifesto-for-gra-reform/ https://www.stonewall.org.uk/what-does-uk-government-announcement-gender-recognition-act-mean policy. We still await the full details of exactly what they are proposing, and in fairness, whatever that may be, it will in no way be as destructive as the Tory intentions. A Labour Reform may or may not go as far as we want, but I do believe we must try to not lose sight that at its worst, Labours plans may not advance trans rights further forward, whilst Tory plans will totally demolish and destroy them.
I maintain that trans lives are infinitely safer in the hands of Labour than this far-right Tory Government, but at such a dangerous time, does the community know and believe this?
The reality is that the rhetoric currently and misguidedly being used by Starmer, Streeting and Dodds are causing serious damage and Labour are in real danger of losing more and more internal support as a result. It is actually in danger of splitting the party in two, and the consequence of that would be to hand the next election to the Tories and we know the consequences of that.
To be publicly removing support for Scotland’s GRA Reform is so damaging to the trans community, especially if citing the invented reasons used by those Gender Critical and the Tory Government. And as for their highly dangerous comments regarding the rights of trans kids, they are simply showing no understanding or awareness as to the true impact and risks to young lives that this would have.
Trans people need hope, and it is up to Starmer to deliver this as failure to recognise this will have a considerable impact on trans lives between now and the next election. Hope is vital.
Hope at this time will literally saves lives.
And this brings me onto the second social media article; a truly heartfelt and alarming Twitter thread from Dr Amanda Brunton, which I have printed below in full because it is a truly important real life story that needs to be heard and understood.
When I talk of needing hope, this single twitter thread sums up the true position of ‘hope’ in the UK today. It sums up the whole feeling of what trans people are genuinely facing – and when you read this (and I seriously hope Starmer, Streeting and Dodds will do), please keep remembering; this isn’t the true life story of someone living in Russia, Poland or Qatar …. this is here in the UK.
This is the reality of trans lives in the UK in 2023:
Almost a year ago, my niece told us that she is trans. Today, she moved to Canada to get out of the UK.
I follow/am followed by a lot of trans or trans-adjacent folks, but I have no idea how many people who follow me don’t really know any trans people, and who, on seeing the rising hysteria about trans people, feel that maybe there really is something to worry about.
Maybe they feel no hostility to trans people, but have been led to believe that there are ‘reasonable concerns’ to be addressed, or that they are ‘just asking questions’. At least one of my followers follows Cambridge Radical Feminists network, an openly trans-hostile group.
So if you’re trans, or an ally, CW for transphobia and sadness here, maybe don’t read this. But if you are feeling a bit ‘on the fence’ I’m begging you, listen to those of us telling you things are really bad here, and getting worse.
Neither my niece or my nephew were brought up with ‘traditional gender roles’. My husband is the virtuoso cook in our household, and we have loads of pictures of both ‘nephews’ cooking with him. My niece wore her hair long, because she liked it long, and hated haircuts.
Her favourite colour is purple, so it featured a lot in her wardrobe, but I think because no fixed ideas of what it meant to ‘be a boy’ were imposed on her or her self-expression, gender was just a shrug to her. Until puberty hit, and suddenly she was very uncomfortable.
She was a bit grouchy and withdrawn, and began to act out at school. Not surprising for a kid in their early teens to be moody and challenging, not the stuff of newspaper headlines. We just took it in stride. Then a few months later it all came together – she was a girl.
We swapped pronouns, and once she decided on a new name, adopted that (it’s a lovely choice!). My happy, goofy, animated little weirdo came back out of her shell. Her school friends are wonderful and supportive (we had a ‘Gender Repeal’ party where they brought hand made cards!
But getting healthcare, counselling and support for her was another story. Obviously we all had questions around whether this was a phase, or perhaps a stepping stone to something else – nonbinary identity, or just life as a boy who was quite gender-nonconforming.
These aren’t things we are qualified to help her work through! Also, if in time and with a good counsellor it is established with certainty that yes, she is a trans girl, then we want her to have a therapist to help her with her feelings around that.
It’s not an easy path through life, and it would be reasonable to have some anger, some ‘why me’ feelings, or some fears about that. We really want her to have that support.
We also wanted to have puberty blockers for her. She had expressed a desire for them, and it would buy her some time to think about what she wants from her future and her body without the pressure of a body that is changing in ways that are deeply distressing to her.
Since the Tavistock closed, there is no Gender Identity service on the NHS to refer her into. The new system is expected to open with a three year wait list. Her friends won’t get their first appt until they are around 17 or 18.
We got her blockers privately. It’s challenging because not all GPs will agree to share care with private services, so you’re always hopping between two systems. It’s not cheap either. Just over £100 a month. Not a lot of families have that going spare right now.
She had a fantastic youth club for LGBT+ kids that has been such a fantastic source of support. Their windows have been smashed more than once.
Newspapers regularly talk about the threat trans women pose to us. There was even a debate about it in Parliament. It’s hostile here.
At the beginning of the year, when Gary Lineker was being hauled over the coals for suggesting our government’s narrative around targets of hatred was akin to 1930s Germany, the kids’ parents offered them to move to Canada. Their dad texted us to say they seemed keen.
Canada has a better healthcare system for trans people, and there, my niece can change her gender officially with a minor bit of paperwork. Nowhere right now is perfect, but it’s better.
So today, my niece and nephew left their home, their friends, their school, and most of their family to seek a better life away from the UK, which has become intolerably hostile.
I’m relieved. Canada is lovely. Travel broadens the mind. They are charismatic, kind, engaging kids. They will make new friends.
But we won’t get their formative teenage years back, with them living ten minutes’ cycle away. They won’t get homework on my couch after school.
They won’t get time with their dad or their grandparents, except for holidays. They won’t play frisbee with their uncle, or go kayaking with me after school. We will be half a world away, hoping for the best.
This is the cost of the rising tide of transphobia. Lineker was right. Having a chunk of your family uproot for their safety and wellbeing while being victimised by your government probably does feel reminiscent of 1930s Germany.
I encourage you to scratch a little deeper at the ‘just asking questions’ brigade, at JK Rowling’s desire to just ‘protect women and girls’. That protection doesn’t extend to my niece. The questions about her personhood left her without counselling, support or healthcare.
And one day, when she is not a trans child but a trans woman, I don’t want her living somewhere that her identity is constantly sharing space with ‘just asking questions about rapists’, ‘dangerous men in dresses’, or discourse around whether she is allowed to pee outside her home
The anti-trans brigade shares space, and a great deal of its ideals with fascism. Nazis attend their rallies. They quote Hitler. The policing of identity, the reinforcement of gender norms, the intense focus on fertility – all straight out of the fash playbook.
And those pressing for the marginalisation of a minority, squeezing them out of public life, pillorying them in the press, ruining their public standing – they don’t stop there. Other targets for hate *will* emerge, if left unchecked.
One of the most famous images of Nazi book burning is from the looting of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexology, which was leading research in trans and gay identities/sexualities at the time.
And fascist powers don’t start with laws that say things like ‘kill all the Jews’. They are worded as positives. The first anti-Jewish law was ‘Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service’ barring Jewish and ‘politically unreliable’ people from service. (You can read more about anti-Jewish legislation here)
Anti-Jewish Legislation in Prewar GermanyNazi anti-Jewish laws began stripping Jews of rights and property from the start of Hitler’s dictatorship.
So when you see things framed as ‘protecting women and girls’ and ‘defending women’s sex-based rights’ (surely things *no one* reasonable can disagree with!) ask yourself protect *from who* and *at whose expense*.
As we are left behind in a nation that is increasingly demonising foreigners and turning on its own, I am left with the thought experiment we were all given at school, ‘What would *you* have done if you had lived in that place, at that time?’
Now is the place and the time.
Please, do something.
(end of thread)
That was not fiction and not a lesson from history – when the only option facing those trans in the UK is to flee the UK, then all hope has literally gone. The position is hopeless.
There is very good reason why the comparison in Dr Burton’s twitter thread was made to 1930’s Nazi Germany, and I myself as a UK Jew totally agree with this comparison (which I always state never includes the 1940’s Holocaust), due to the way a vulnerable minority is used politically by a Government, targeted, publicly demonised through vile propaganda, isolated, and ultimately destroyed and removed from society. This is exactly what is happening in the UK today.
“Please do something” is a desperate cry for help.
In reality, only Labour can provide a genuine challenge to this Government, and Labour could and should be now fiercely promoting that trans lives are safe in their hands and safe to remain living in the UK, because as it stands this simply isn’t the case. The copying of Tory Gender Critical language needs to stop because trans adults and trans kids are listening and you are filling them full of fear.
When times are as genuinely this desperate, you need hope.
Starmer, Streeting, Dodds. We hope you are listening.