I realise I’ve been posting a lot on trans stuff recently. But I must beg your indulgence just one more time. A thing has occurred which I need to address, because to be silent on it, after my recent focus on the harmful rhetoric of one woman, would be negligent. I’ve said before on here that I am lucky. I’m well aware of it: I am a fringe case of a trans person who has had very few issues throughout their transition. But, if anything, that privilege obliges me to speak up all the louder, and I cannot let this development pass without doing so.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Transphobia; Suicide.
Yesterday the UK regime took a step to further inflame hatred and mistrust of trans people – pandering to alienating, othering rhetoric in order to deepen division in an already fractured society. The move they made was to abandon plans to update the 2004 Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification – that is, to allow transgender people to identify themselves as such without the need for recourse to medical services.
You may have views on the validity of this, but the view of relevant professional organisations around the world, including the WHO, the NHS and CDC, as well as professional psychiatric bodies, is that the mere state of being transgender is not a medical issue. As I said in a previous post, it is simply a manifestation of human variety: some people are transgender. Being provided with treatment, whether that’s drugs or surgery, can fall under the purview of medical organisations – but simply being trans, and being recognised for who you are, should not, in the view of professionals. The legislative update would have acknowledged that medical and psychiatric consensus in UK equalities law.
If you encounter this story in the news or on social media, you will see that it’s being framed in terms of access to single-sex spaces. Can self-identified trans women use, for example, women’s public toilets? You probably have an opinion on that already, or would arrive at one quickly enough if asked, even if it’s something you hadn’t thought about before.
But that’s not what this is really about.
In making the announcement, the regime also said that it would be looking into legislation to protect single-sex spaces. But that’s just the rhetorical delivery system. The solvent, if you like, in which is suspended the active substance: the othering and alienation of transgender people.
The preservation and protection of single-sex spaces is the oh-so-very-reasonable ‘debate’ that you’re supposed to focus on while you absorb, even if unconsciously, the intended underlying message: that trans people are a threat. That we are dangerous. That we are predatory abusers, and perverts trying to use trickery to get close to women so we can abuse them. That we are not what we say we are. We are deceivers. We are liars. We are wrong, and bad and should be made to go away for the good of honest, decent society.
That’s the message you’re supposed to take away. That’s why the campaign has been mounted. That’s why the regime has made this move and, specifically, that’s why it’s done it bang in the middle of Pride month.
The truth is that trans people are not a threat. Trans people are threatened. They are threatened by people who hate them; by people who want them not to exist. Like so many other groups, they are threatened by societies that push them to the margins, push them down and hold them down until they stop struggling.
And they are threatened by their own minds.
Like lesbian, gay and bisexual people, minority ethnic communities in majority-white societies, the disabled, women, or any other frequently demonised and dehumanised group, trans people can internalise this hate. They come to despise themselves on the basis of others’ treatment of them – and that’s on top of the revulsion and self-hatred they might already experience simply from being transgender in the first place.
Internalisation means that after a while, the abuse, the threats, the violence, the social rejection, the hatred from others are no longer necessary to subjugate the person and defeat their sense of validity and worth: their minds are simply conditioned into the pattern and do it automatically, even if they didn’t start out that way, as many will have.
On this day four months ago a trans woman of my Twitter acquaintance decided she could not continue in this life any longer and ended it. I read her note. I owed her that much. Her pain and her suffering and her rage and her despair was torn through every word.
And she is one of countless who reach that decision, amongst many countless more who consider it, day after day after day. Countless more are subjected to abuse, threats and violence simply for being – or trying to be – who they are.
Perhaps worst is the insidious assault by “reasonableness”. I mentioned it in my recent long blog post on JK Rowling as ‘sealioning’: it’s the daily drip-feed of invalidation and dehumanisation whereby trans people are constantly expected to ‘debate’ their own right to exist, to perform for the approval of challengers who only want them to fail. And when they snap and can’t do it any more, when they swear, or they walk away or block the person, then they are cast as the unreasonable ones, as being uncooperative when all their abuser wants to do is “have a discussion”.
All this plays out before a public largely unfamiliar with actual trans people, and therefore, lacking any frame of reference for fact-checking, prone to being swayed by any opinion stated confidently enough. And those who hate trans people are very confident indeed in their opinions.
The legislative decisions the regime has made this weekend are only the beginning of this issue. You might notice that the move is to abandon proposed changes to, and not to remove, existing legislation. So it could be tempting to argue that trans people haven’t “lost” anything, because nothing we already had has been taken away.
But, as I said at the top, this decision, and specifically its timing, is a statement. It’s a statement by the regime to trans people that we do not matter; and it’s a signal to those who hate trans people that they may express that hate freely. It empowers and enables them, making their position stronger at the expense of trans people. It is a victory for mistrust, prejudice, and hate, and a loss for humanity and equity – both of which are already severely endangered in the UK under the Tory kakistocracy. But that’s the point.
This corrupt regime, brought to and kept in power through lies and deception and secrecy, has sought at every turn to divide the UK, to turn us against each other; to attend to, cultivate and advance the most extreme, the most intolerant beliefs and attitudes; and to keep us constantly off-balance, warring between ourselves and watching for the next issue to focus on, rather than scrutinise what the regime is doing and has done.
As we watch “government” ministers condemn largely peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protests for ‘violence’, yet say little to criticise far-right beer-swilling yobs fighting with police while ‘counter-protesting’ a protest that wasn’t there, it’s clear what their priorities are. Keep us split. Keep us angry.
Keep us frightened. Keep us at each other’s throats so that they can indulge themselves without organised resistance. And it works. People are always happier attacking each other than uniting in the society’s overall best interest.
I don’t know how to resolve this. All I can do is stand by my trans siblings, binary and non-binary, as I stand with my LGB siblings, with women (trans or not), with Black people and those from all minority ethnic communities, and with everyone whom our inequitable society pushes down.
I see you all. I stand with you all. And I remember.
And, reader, in the midst of Pride month, I’d ask you, as well, to remember. Consider looking at the site linked below, if you feel up to it. It’s the memorial roll maintained by the organisers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Its content is, unsurprisingly, harrowing. But even if you can only afford a brief glance, it might help illustrate my point when I say that trans people are not a threat to you. They are threatened – by others and by themselves.
Read their stories, if you feel you can. Look at their faces. Say their names.