How LGBTQ+ rights have progressed in Britain, and what is still yet to be done.
Written by: anonymous
Pride this year arrives during a period of great difficulty for many of us, and at this crucial juncture we must reflect on the fundamentally political nature of our movement. You have likely heard that the modern push for LGBTQ+ civil rights began at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, spearheaded by Black and Latinx people, many of whom were trans and many of whom were sex workers. You may have heard some of these names – Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Riviera – or you may not. LGBTQ+ people the world over have benefited from this work, but this fact is often obscured. It is our duty, as the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights, to recognise this history, and our community’s role in marginalising the struggles and contributions of people of colour, and of trans people.
The fight for LGBTQ+ equality is by no means settled. A coordinated effort from conservatives and self-styled ‘liberals’ and ‘radicals’ aims to roll back trans rights and public acceptance in the UK today. This discourse is a rebranded strain of second wave feminism’s unsavoury perspective on trans individuals, repackaged as ‘Gender Critical’ to legitimise their perspectives. Organisations such as the LGB Alliance, Transgender Trend, and others have formed with the express intention of demonising trans people and dismantling civil rights protections. Many major newspapers in the UK have taken an editorial stance in favour of these organisations, supported vocally by prominent journalists and academics, and tacitly by many politicians and celebrities.
Both the UK and Scottish Government consultations on amendments to the GRA – Gender Recognition Act – have been stalled significantly by the intervention of anti-trans organisations. In the case of the UK government it is now unlikely the amendments will occur until the current administration is voted out of power. The amendments proposed would have expanded gender recognition to non-binary identities, as well as streamlining the arcane process of official gender recognition – which currently requires several years of psychiatric review – to a process of ‘self-ID’.
Anti-trans organisations recycle archaic homophobic arguments and use them as justification for opposing these reforms. Claims that trans people ‘groom’ young people, or that recognition of trans women’s identities poses a risk to women’s rights – particularly in single sex spaces such as bathrooms – are commonplace within these circles. As with gay rights before it, the evidence for these claims is unsubstantiated. There are, however, anecdotal reports of trans-exclusionary communities behaving in a way which resembles a cult – indoctrinating vulnerable LGB youth and punishing those who speak out, as their ‘activism’ leads to increasing social isolation and mental health damage.
Many countries have introduced self-ID laws already – primarily in Europe and Latin America – without any of these predictions coming true. The UK already allows de facto self-ID for passport changes, and most of the supposed ‘problems’ of amending the GRA would be true under the status quo if they held any basis in fact.
Anti-trans organisations, contrary to their stated mission of preventing further liberalisation of gender legislation, in reality aim to roll back existing protections. Such organisations have recently appealed to the equalities minister, Liz Truss, to restrict access to puberty blockers for trans youth. They have also pushed for the overturn of Gillick Competency, the legal standard which allows persons under 16 to seek medical treatment without parental consent. This move not only threatens trans youth, a demographic at particular risk of mental health problems, but also threatens to become precedent for the rollback of reproductive rights to under-16s.
Anti-trans groups pose the greatest threat to trans people, but their advocacy of punitive legislation and employment of incendiary anti-trans rhetoric have implications for the broader movement. For instance, the founder of LGB alliance, a supposedly pro-LGB group which spends most of its time campaigning against trans people rather than campaigning for LGB people, recently called for restrictions to be placed on LGBTQ+ societies in schools, threatening a space of refuge and support for vulnerable young people.
Pride must return to its radical roots, and recognise that there is still much work to be done for LGBTQ+ acceptance. So long as the oppressive institutions of the state exist, and any LGBTQ+ person remains under threat, we are not free. If you are serious about LGBTQ+ equality, be serious about police brutality and look to the work of Black activists on the abolition of the prison industrial complex. As the world’s attention is focussed on the issue of police brutality, it is worth remembering that 16% of trans people in the United States – including 53% of Black Trans people – have experienced police violence. If you are serious about LGBTQ+ equality, be serious about the violence inherent in borders and the notion of ‘citizenship’. If you are serious about LGBTQ+ equality, be serious about inequality and poverty, and pay attention to statistics which show that 24% of homeless people in the UK are LGBTQ+. Pride is radical in the face of a cisheteronormative societal order, but it is nothing if it is divided and exclusive.