Posts Tagged ‘cuts’

Putting the “T” into Stonewall? An important opportunity

23/07/2014

LGB rights charity Stonewall has a difficult history of engagement with trans issues. For 25 years the charity has been a powerful voice in the struggle for LGB equality, but ‘trans’ is not included in its remit within England and Wales. Stonewall has been criticised on one hand for this omission at a time when a majority of ‘LGB’ organisations have become ‘LGBT’, and accused on the other of undue interference in trans matters.

After years of misunderstandings and disagreement, Stonewall announced in June that it would be addressing these problems:

“At Stonewall we’re determined to do more to support trans communities (including those who identify as LGB) to help eradicate prejudice and achieve equality. There are lots of different views about the role Stonewall should play in achieving that. We’re holding roundtable meetings and having lots of conversations. Throughout this process we will be guided by trans people.”

I have been invited to a closed meeting that will take place as part of this process at the end of August.

I really welcome the proposal from Stonewall. In this post I’m going to explore why this dialogue is important, outline some of the proposed approaches to working with Stonewall (or not), and outline my priorities in discussing this issue with both Stonewall and other trans activists.

I also encourage readers to leave their own thoughts and feedback in the comments.


The current situation for trans people in England and Wales

I don’t feel it is an exaggeration to describe the current social and political climate as an emergency. Whilst it is true that trans people in the UK currently benefit from unprecedented civil rights, and there is talk of a “transgender tipping point” in terms of public discourse in the English-speaking world, many trans people still face very serious challenges in everyday life.

For instance, trans people are still likely to face discrimination, harassment and abuse in accessing medical services, as demonstrated in horrific detail by #transdocfail. Trans people are particularly likely to suffer from mental health problems, and this is often made worse by members of the medical profession.

For many years now there has been an exponential rise in the number of trans people accessing transition-related services; with cuts and freezes to healthcare spending from 2010, this has meant that many individuals now have to wait years for an initial appointment at at gender clinic. This problem has been compounded for trans women seeking genital surgery by the additional backlogs accompanying the recent resignation of surgeon James Bellringer.

Meanwhile, the impact of the Coalition government’s austerity agenda is being felt particularly keenly by less privileged trans people. With many continuing to face aforementioned mental health problem and discrimination from employers, benefit cuts and the increasing precariousness of employment and public demonisation of the unemployed are hitting hard amongst my contacts (some discussion of this in a wider LGBT context can be found here). Cuts to public services are also felt strongly by groups such as the disproportionate number of trans people who face domestic abuse.

Then there’s what we don’t know. For instance, research in the United States shows that young trans people are particularly likely to be homeless, and that trans women are considerably more liable to contract HIV than the general population. Both anecdotal evidence and extrapolation from international statistics and small local studies pointing to similar problems existing in the UK, but this is not enough evidence to properly address these serious issues.


Activism

I believe that trans people need a campaigning organisation that is up to the task of tackling the above problems. A campaigning organisation with the funding, resources and knowledge to lobby government, conduct research and push for social change.

Currently we rely on the energies of unpaid activists and ad-hoc organisations that are lucky to attract any kind of funding. The importance and achievements of organisations such as Press For Change and Trans Media Watch should not be underestimated, but this is not enough. Whilst Stonewall attracts millions of pounds in funding and wields an impressive range of resources, trans groups staffed largely by enthusiastic volunteers are lucky to land a few hundred pounds in donations, or a temporary project grant. You can probably count the number of trans activists employed to push for change in this country on your fingers.

Under such circumstances, stress and burnout are common amongst trans activists, even expected. Personality clashes are capable of sinking an organisation. The individuals most able to work long hours for free are typically the most privileged, meaning that there is poor representation in terms of race, disability and class.

We have to do better. We need to do better.


Solution 1: a new trans organisation

There will be those who wish to pursue the creation of a new trans organisation entirely separate from Stonewall. From this perspective, a dialogue with Stonewall offers the opportunity to discuss instances where the charity might have overstepped the mark in speaking out in relation to trans issues without this being within their remit. Beyond that, there will probably be a desire to ‘go it alone’.

For some, this will be because of Stonewall’s non-democratic structure (it is not intended to be a membership organisation), corporate links, and past disappointments such as the organisation’s initial refusal to campaign for same-sex marriage.

For others, this will be because of the view that the ‘T’ should remain independent of ‘LGB’. This position can be based upon the argument that the interests and needs of trans people differ to those of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and/or a recognition that the trans liberation project is significantly less advanced than the LGB equivalent. From this also comes the idea that cis gay activists might not be able to properly campaign on trans issues.

There have been numerous attempts to create such an organisation over the last decade (one of which I was involved in, through Gender Spectrum UK) but none have been successful. I propose that one of the most serious barriers here is that of funding: there is so much work to be done and so many problems that individual activists are likely to face in their personal lives, that it has been extremely difficult for unpaid activists to put in the work necessary to launch such a body.

 

Solution 2: adding the ‘T’ to Stonewall

It has long been suggested that Stonewall should follow other LGBT organisations in becoming trans-inclusive. The arguments frequently centre upon an appeal to history, and the similarities of LGBT experiences.

The Pride movement emerged out of alliances forged between sexual minorities and gender variant people; this happened in part because homophobic and transphobic attitudes tend to stem from the same bigotry. Trans people have always been present in the struggle for gay and bisexual rights. Pretty much all LGBT people can talk about ‘coming out’, usually to family as well as friends, peers and/or colleagues. LGBT people often have to tackle internalised shame at some point in their lives, an inevitable outcome of growing up in a homophobic/transphobic world.

Moreover, with a great deal of organisations turning to Stonewall for LGBT equality advice and training, it has been argued that it only makes sense to explicitly incorporate trans issues, lest trans people get left behind. For instance, Stonewall does a lot of work on homophobic bullying in schools – surely it would make sense to also address transphobic bullying, particularly as the two tend to have a similar root cause?


Solution 3: a hybrid organisation

An idea I’ve heard bounced around a little ahead of August’s meeting is a kind of compromise between the two above positions. A trans charity that is linked to Stonewall in terms of sharing resources, information and funding, but remains semi-autonomous with its own leadership and trustees.

This is currently my favoured option. I feel that trans people would benefit greatly from effectively sharing some of Stonewall’s power. We’d certainly benefit from working more consistently together, instead of occasionally against one another. But we have different needs, different priorities. We might want to run our own organisation in a different way, and make somewhat different political decisions.


My priorities
in the dialogue with Stonewall

1) Representation

I was actually a little bit uncomfortable to be invited to the meeting in August. Sure, I’ve been involved in plenty of both high-profile, national campaigns, as well bits of activism in my local area and place of work. Plus, a lot of people read this blog. But ultimately, I received an invitation because I have the right connections. So many didn’t get that chance. I also strongly suspect that the majority of people present at the meeting will be white and middle-class, and that there will not be many genderqueer people present (I’m less sure about disability, because there are a lot of disabled trans people).

I’m hoping that any future meetings will be more open. If it turns out that my suspicions are correct regarding the overrepresentation of privileged groups, I hope that we can take steps to ensure that any future meetings are more representative. It’s the only way we’re going to find a way to create consensus and work on the behalf of all trans people in the long term.

If you’re not going to be at the meeting, I strongly encourage you to respond to Stonewall’s survey so your voice is heard. Also, since I’ll be there in person, I’d really like to know what you think.

2) The creation of a new trans organisation

I’ve pretty much made the argument for this already. We need national representation that can genuinely address the many problems faced by trans people today. A democratically accountable body that reflects diversity of trans lives and experiences.

I hope this is something we can work towards by working with Stonewall. Yes, there will be political differences – certainly I have ideological objections to some of the approaches taken by Stonewall – but I feel the situation is too severe and the opportunity too important to reject an offer of help.

That isn’t to say that a new organisation should overrule the work of existing organisations. I would hope that any new body works alongside existing campaign groups such as Trans Media Watch, Gendered Intelligence and Action For Trans Health without seeking to duplicate their work.

3) Starting with the essentials

I believe that the initial basis for any new trans organisation – or trans campaigns within Stonewall – should be addressing the absolute, basic needs that are not currently being met for many trans people. Housing. Health. Employment. We should be looking out for the most vulnerable, as well as addressing universal needs. This is pretty much a moral duty.

 

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

 

So you think women and men are equal…?

21/06/2012

[click for larger image]

I originally created this for my band’s zine. Feel free to distribute as you will: the information is not mine, and needs to be out there.

Save the NHS: Block the bridge, block the bill

26/09/2011

UK Uncut are planning an unprecedented act of civil disobedience at 1pm on Sunday 9th October in protest against the government’s NHS reforms. Over one thousand people have already announced their intention to participate in the action, which aims to demonstrate the level of public opposition to the Bill and put pressure on sympathetic peers in the House of Lords by occupying Westminster Bridge.

The activist group are also encouraging people to contact peers and ask them to block the bill.

Full details of the demonstration can be found on the UK Uncut website.

There is also a Facebook event page.

Is our government fundamentally opposed to political freedoms?

01/08/2011

When the current coalition came to power, we were promised a “liberal” government by David Cameron as well as Nick Clegg. The Liberal Democrats and Tory “left” seemed to be offering an almost classical liberal approach entailing individual autonomy in the realms of public, private and economic life.

This philosophy is being used to defend the privatisation of public services, massive public sector cuts and the scrapping of regulations originally designed to protect workers and service users alike. Still, at least this is a government prepared back individual freedoms and roll back the authoritarianism* of the Labour years…right…?

If we look at the recent actions of police forces around the country – and the Metropolitan Police in particular – it appears that our current political climate is at least as authoritarian as it was under Labour. Most of the oppressive “anti-terror” legislation passed by the previous government is still in place in spite of Lib Dem promises, and the police are shamelessly using it to crack down upon political dissent.

Most recently, the Met issued a pamphlet that called upon individuals and businesses to “report” anyone who happens to subscribe to a particular political ideology.

“Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local police.”

The justification for this?

“Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy.”

Well, yes…but that doesn’t mean that every anarchist is about to run around breaking the law nilly-willy. In fact, this is probably a good moment to come out as an anarchist sympathiser. I feel that anarchism – whilst imperfect – offers some great ideas about freedom, equality and consensual decision-making. I have good anarchist friends, who sometimes hang around with other anarchists and talk about anarchism. If I lived in London, would you report me? I’m pretty dangerous after all. I write about my political beliefs on the internet, and occasionally I turn up at street protests and wave a placard around.

Whilst we’re on the subject of street protests, it’s worth noting that this is the same police force that “pre-emptively” arrested individuals on suspicion of potential street theatre, allegedly enabled the sexual assault of two trans people and may have worked with Facebook to remove over 50 “extremist” pages (most of which belonged to anti-cuts groups, UK Uncut chapters and small socialist parties)…all on the day of the Royal Wedding.

You may also recall that the Met deliberately misled protesters involved in the peaceful occupation of Fortnum & Mason during mass demonstrations on 26 March, and appears to be working with the Crown Prosecution Service to crack down upon non-violent direct action. Meanwhile, children and adults alike were unnecessarily kettled for hours in the freezing cold during last year’s student protests.

These are, of course, the actions of one police force, and it can be politically difficult for MPs to criticise police practice. You do have to wonder why our supposedly “liberal” government appears to have nothing to say about the gradual erosion of personal freedoms however, particularly as a number of Labour MPs and and parliament’s one Green MP have been quite willing to condemn police malpractice.

My response to this situation would be that the government is primarily interested in defending personal liberty for the wealthy and powerful. This is why members of the Conservative party are pushing for the removal of the 50p tax rate at a time of supposed austerity. It’s why the government is holding a consultation on squatting that pre-supposes squatters are necessarily a “problem” even as thousands of homes lie empty in spite of growing homelessness. It’s also the reason why NewsCorp and News International executives were frequently wined and dined prior to the recent explosion of media interest in the phone-hacking case(s).

Of course, we can as always work to reclaim our freedoms. Write a letter to your MP, sign (or even better, launch) a petition, take part in demonstrations, join a group involved in non-violent direct action against state oppression; do whatever you think works for you.

And failing that, you could always report ANY information relating to anarchism to the police.

EDIT: the “anti-terror” pamphlets were apparently issued by the Met under the auspices of Project Griffin. Why not see if your friendly local force is also a participant? If so, you could always give them a call and ask for their position on anarchism.

 

*with Labour we are, of course, talking about the party that ended the freedom to protest within Westminster, enabled the “extraordinary rendition” and torture of suspected terrorists, backed police crackdowns on activism, attempted to institute a national DNA database and compulsory ID cards and firmly established the UK as the site of one-fifth of the world’s CCTV cameras…

(Guest Post) Our unjust arrests on the royal wedding day

01/05/2011

The following was written by fanoffury, who was arrested during the royal wedding on Friday. It is cross-posted with permission from this livejournal entry.


#NOTE#

PLEASE DO NOT TAKE ANY ACTION WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING ME.

So, regarding the conduct of the met police towards me and my trans friend on the 29th of april 2011, this is my account of the events that took place. Starting with arriving in soho.

To begin, me and my friend arrived in london a little before 10am, to attend a zombie flash mob picnic in the park to raise awareness against the cuts taking place in our country, focusing mainly on the cuts to the NHS, Education and our other public services, organised by Queer Resistance. This was an entirely peaceful protest that was really truly just a bunch of awesome peaceful people sitting around in Soho sq London having tea and dressing as zombies, shame I never got to attend.

At 10am we were in Soho sq looking for the group, seeing none of them around and a few people in bandana’s and hoodies playing up for the camera, we smelled trouble and decided to go elsewhere and try to find everyone else. I know I stick out like a sore thumb and am every coppers wet dream of an easy looking arrest on such a day as the royal wedding.

At around 10.30am we made our way out of the of the sq smelling trouble coming and not wanting any, as we walked out onto one of the a joining roads out of the area heading south we pulled our bandanas up as some paparazzi took our pictures, neither of us wanted our pictures used as part of some media stunt. As we moved further up the road we pulled our bandanas down as to not be concealing our faces, as we knew this would single us out, fat luck really because we had already been spotted by a group of 6 police officers, consisting of five male and 1 female officer who then proceeded to pull us over and use Section 60 to stop and search us.

We were perfectly compliant and didn’t kick up any kind of fuss, in fact were friendly and courteous to them, they searched through our belongings finding between us some zombie makeup, fake blood and a flyer for the zombie flash mob.

But this is not all, when searching my person the female police officer said to me “Okay, I’m going to feel under your bra now” To which I replied “That’s not a bra” At this point her hands were still on my chest “What is it then?!”  ”A binder”  ”Whats a binder?” (At this point, may I point out her hands were STILL on my chest) To this I said “I’m Transgendered”

In this time she was feeling my chest way more than she needed to, this entire conversation took place while her hands were going over and around my chest while she held the same quizzical curious expression on her face, whilst she stared at my chest. I can say I was more than uncomfortable. She then after doing this, and being told I was Transgendered continued to misgender me, as did the rest of the police present. I tried to put their numbers in my phone but they told me to put it away or it would be confiscated and then they took it anyway when they put us in the van.

May I mention at this point, that I am a fully trained security guard? So I know how to do a pat down, that was not a pat down that was a grope and a violation of my privacy, and may I add that when searching a female bodied person you are not allowed to touch their chest, at all with an exception of a running of the backs of the hands down the front, once and nothing more unless you feel something and then you have to ask them to remove it.

She then went to check my waist and lifted my t-shirt a few inches to get a look at my binder, like I wouldn’t notice/it didn’t matter as I would most likely never say anything about it.

They went to talk to their commanding officers to run our details, make sure we had nothing outstanding and then we should be free to go, right?

Wrong, the police officer came back to inform us that we would be being taken to the police station, because if he let us go we would “Disrupt Will and Kate’s big day” and that they needed to get us off the streets, that we would be arrested and charged with a breach of the peace.

“For what?! Possession of a leaflet?!” Me and my friend exclaimed. Their only reply being we can’t take any chances and that the decision had been made and that there was no arguing with them, the officer who told us this did so very aggressively and with a lot of anger considering we had done nothing that was against any law.

May I add that I’m pretty sure he was the same officer talking to the protesters in the sq, see video = “Royalists would be offended: You’ll be arrested” Cannot be 100% sure until I have has a chance to ask my friend if it was the same man, I will get back to you all on that.

Chances of what, us dressing up as zombies, over a kilometer away from the wedding ceremony? Really, is this what this country has come to?

I am entirely convinced that the reason we got arrested was because of the fact that we were both trans and both punks, they weren’t stopping other people for more than a minute or so, one of which who they didn’t even stop, was a man who looked far more suspicious then us, how come we were stopped and he was allowed to walk on by?

We were then left standing on the pavement waiting for arresting officers to come and take us in the van to the police station for well over 20mins, them then getting bored with watching us, stuck us in the back of the police van, where they left us for a further half hour or so before someone came to collect us to take us to arrest us, I said jokingly “Whats the hold up, I can’t wait to sample the famous police hospitality! I truly can not wait to get to my lovely comfortable cell!!”

During all of this I was not once called a male pronoun even though I had told them my gender status, and among the misgendering one of the officers kept calling my friend a “Lad”.

Eventually we went off to the police station, merrily singing “I fought the law and the law won”

When we arrived at the police station we were processed like anyone else I assume, I have never been arrested before, although our arresting officers did not read us our rights.

The “Evidence” Which consisted of a leaflet and a bottle of fake blood was confiscated, they were both put under my name even though one item had been found on each of us, I didn’t see the point in mentioning it to them, after all it’s not my job to do theirs.

I was patted down, luckily this woman did not take any interest in my binder, or even go near my chest for that matter, now as I am not sure if it was the same officer or not as we were now separated, but the female officer who searched my friend cupped her crotch, not just once but three times, as she told me later that day.

I’m pretty sure it was the same officer but I can’t be 100% sure. My crotch remained completely untouched, which seems odd to me considering if there was a possibility of either of us concealing something it would have been me as I was packing and had very baggy trousers on, she on the other hand was wearing tight trousers with a rip up the leg, it would have been incredibly easy to see if she has anything concealed, so I can only assume it was to “Make sure” I will not be saying her identity as she wishes to remain unnamed.

We were then told we were going to be held until the royal wedding was over, so that we couldn’t “Cause trouble” Even though the officers before had told us we were going to be arrested and charged with a breach of the peace, which I can only assume was an in an attempt to intimidate us.

After this our photos were taken, and we were placed in cells, my cell stank of urine and was rather revolting. Whilst in my cell I had to use the toilet which is clearly visible through the camera which made me very uncomfortable as it was, what made it worse was a male police officer looking in at me as I was using said toilet…

After a good 2 1/2, 3 hours of staring at the crime stoppers number on the ceiling, I was getting incredibly frustrated and I knocked on the door to ask them when I and my friend could leave, and he came back to tell me the royal wedding was over and that we would be able to leave… Yea thanks for telling us!

Some people may wonder why I did not disclose the information about the police officers conduct towards me yesterday in the interview with Ruth Pearce, the writer of Lesbilicious when I spoke with her yesterday.

It was quite simply because I wanted to think carefully as it would be putting myself out there as trans, this was something I had to think through. This and the fact that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take action for the trans stuff aswel as the false arrest. I am not yet sure what my action should be as I am currently seeking advice from various organisations and people, I will be updating here what happens with this.

I’d also like to extend my solidarity to all who were there and all who got arrested.

And thank you to Ruth Pearce and everyone else who has been so helpful and understanding, you people are amazing :)

Feel free to contact me regarding anything to do with my arrest and the protest.

Logan.

Royal wedding accompanied by political crackdown, arrests and transphobia

29/04/2011

I wasn’t really bothered by the royal wedding one way or another until this afternoon. I’m not exactly a royalist, but I feel there’s some value in having a non-elected, ceremonial head of state, at least within our current political system. I was unimpressed that such an extravagant event was occurring at a time of recession and cuts, but didn’t feel that protesting against the event was particularly value.

I have, however, watched the crackdown on dissent unfold today with increasing dismay and disgust.

Firstly, police undertook “pre-emptive” arrests across the country. Then suspected protesters were arrested during the ceremony in a pretty questionable manner.

Then a number of Facebook groups started to disappear. Numerous anti-cuts, socialist and student occupation groups were removed without warning during the day. Rather bizarrely, the Rochdale Law Centre was also targeted. No-one seems to know exactly what sparked this, but it’s pretty darn coincidental that it happened on the day of the royal wedding.

Then it emerged this afternoon that members of Queer Resistance and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence had been prevented from holding a “zombie flashmob” in Soho Square, a full kilometre from the nearest point on the wedding procession route. Both Lesbilicious and the Guardian report upon zombie arrests.

At least two of those arrested were trans. I happen to know both of the individuals mentioned in the Lesbilicious article: from what they’ve told me, the situation wasn’t as bad as it could have been but their treatment was pretty damn inappropriate (and arguably in violation of the law).

Why is it that the police need to establish a trans person’s genital status before assigning an officer to perform a search? Whatever happened to the training that Met officers supposedly receive on sensitivity and suchforth, which should ensure that they accept the preferred pronouns declared by those they’re arresting?

Trans-friendly legislation and the hard work of police liasons have got us so far, but the contemptuous attitude of numerous police forces towards protesters is only going to result in more of this. As long as children are being kettled for hours in the freezing cold and peaceful protesters are arrested after being told they’re free to go, trans people are always going to be particularly at risk of mistreatment.

Be the change that you want to see

11/03/2011

I’ve written a lot about recently about Why The Government Is Bad. I’ve said less stuff about what we can actually do about it.

There’s not a lot specifically going on in the trans world right now that I’m aware of (although there is some useful information being added to TranzWiki.net, particularly that relating to the government’s Trans Action Plan). However, we can fight indirectly for trans rights by supporting the anti-cuts movement.

Trans people are disproportionately likely to be unemployed, underemployed or poorly paid. Many of us require specialist medical treatment, which we can usually only access on the NHS There are reasons to also believe that a disproportionate number of us are also disabled (the existing evidence on this is somewhat contradictory, however). As a result of this, trans people are particularly likely to suffer because of the government’s ideological obsession with cuts.

So, what can you do about it? Well, there’s plenty of local groups organising against the cuts. It’s worth looking for them on social media: if you use Facebook for instance, just try searching for the name of your area along with “cuts” and you’re likely to find something.

There are also local chapters of national groups. UK Uncut are particularly brilliant because it’s very easy to take part in their actions against tax-dodging shops and banks. They have a comprehensive, regularly updated list of actions, meaning that you can easily see what’s going along and join in if you’re free. Alternatively, you can organise your own event and add details to the site. The group also provide a fair amount of useful information on their blog and in press releases.

There will also be a massive march in London on Saturday 26th March. The March For the Alternative is being organised by the Trade Unions Congress and will also be backed by student groups and numerous anti-cuts organisations. The bigger the march is, the more we can worry the government. Don’t be fooled by the relatively low rate of attendance pledges on the official website: there are over 16,000 participants confirmed on Facebook and this number is constantly growing

Meanwhile, over 2000 people are planning to occupy Hyde Park following the march. Activists are planning to camp in the park, and use it as a base of operation from which to launch protests around central London. Again, there’s a Facebook event page here.

Obviously, radical protests aren’t for everyone, but there’s always something, bombard your elected representatives with letters, share information with others. There’s plenty we can do to resist government attacks on our public services.

The Lib Dems: A Cautionary Tale

04/03/2011

“This is supposed to be the discrimination bill to end all discrimination bills, and yet it will contain quite blatant prejudice. Only protecting people who are considering or have undergone gender reassignment surgery will leave huge swathes of the transgender population vulnerable to what, in effect, will be legalised discrimination. I will do my best to make sure the final legislation offers real protection for people who define their gender differently.”

– Lynne Featherstone (Lib Dem) criticises the Equality Bill in 2008

I feel that I’ve learned a lot from the Liberal Democrats.

In many ways, I’ve always been a natural Liberal Democrat voter. Labour were running the country during my teenage years, and I grew increasingly disgusted with them during their time in power. The UK became increasingly authoritarian as the government made clear that civil rights were not a priority. We became involved in a number of utterly pointless, wasteful wars. Granted, the situation for LGBT people improved immeasurably, but this was down more to shifting social attitudes and a number of important victories in the European courts than anything else.

I understood the way that Labour regarded people like me. I was a socialist but accepted social democracy as a necessary reality, I was a trans person with an increasing number of equal rights. I imagine that, to them, I was a natural Labour voter. I wasn’t, and I’m still not. I won’t forget the ID card proposals, the introduction of tuition fees,  the wars and the arrogance. I won’t forget the way in which Labour representatives claimed time and time again that they’d done all these things for trans rights when pretty much every piece of trans-positive legislation they passed happened because the European courts told them to do it.

In opposition, we had the Conservative party (booo! hiss, etc.) and the Liberal Democrats. Oh, and the Greens, but they never stood the chance of getting anywhere, and I certainly wasn’t interested in the far-fight fringe parties.

The Liberal Democrats appealed to me. I lived in a constituency with a Lib Dem MP who’d done a lot of good, hard work for the area. The Liberal Democrats believed in greater social freedoms and less legal restrictions. The Liberal Democrats opposed war, and spending on weapons. The Liberal Democrats (supposedly) believed in social justice, and stood up for the poor. On that front they were a little too…y’know, liberal, but they seemed to have their hearts in the right place, and it had to be better than the situation under the hypocritical Labour party, right?

The Liberal Democrats not only spoke about LGBT rights, but seemed to know what they were talking about. Labour talked about civil partnership, and the Lib Dems talked about equal marriage. They actually got the issues, and they understood that bi people exist, and they understood that trans people exist, and – shockingly – they even understood that the trans spectrum encompasses more than just recreational cross-dressers and “primary” transsexuals.

I was a natural Liberal Democrat voter. I voted for them in two general elections and one local election. I voted Green once in a European election, but I was feeling terribly radical that day.

I now, of course, realise that my trust was utterly misplaced. The Lib Dem betrayal has been almost absolute.

I mean, they – like Labour before them – are still talking the talk. The Government Equality Office is pushing some kind of trans action plan that probably will actually make a difference in some areas, and hence genuinely help people (you can contribute to it here, if you manage to get your head around the bizarre contribution process). But, on the whole, the Lib Dems are obeying their senior coalition partners in a way that’s going to cause a lot of people a whole lot of harm.

The tuition fees sell-out was arguably the most high-profile instance of Lib Dem duplicity, but you just need to look at, well, everything that’s wrong with the current government attitude to see where the party is letting down the minority groups that they claim to speak for.

The cuts are hitting the poor, the young, the elderly and the disabled hardest. A disproportionate amount of trans people tend to be poor and disabled (funny how massive amounts of discrimination can do that, huh?)  Support services are failing left, right and centre as funding dries up. Trans charities such as Gender Matters, which struggled to find funding at the best of times, are going under. The restructuring of the NHS is already hurting trans people in areas that are withdrawing funding for treatment: I suspect this will only get worse if the proposed new system is implemented.

There’s no point in having all these wonderful new proposed laws in place to help trans people if there are no real support structures in place any more because the government has destroyed them all. The Liberal Democrats are totally complicit in this disaster, and it’s only going to get worse.

This is why I have absolutely no sympathy for the Lib Dems’ plight in the wake of yesterday’s dramatic Barnsley by-election result. The party’s candidate came sixth in the polls, behind UKIP, the BNP and an independent as well as the Labour and Conservative candidates. Quite frankly, it serves them right. I genuinely hope that this the beginning of a process in which the party will destroy itself, or at least totally undergo a thorough re-invention process. I’m not sure what will have to happen before I can trust them again though.

I used to think that the old adage, “never trust a politician”, was an unhelpful cliché. I now feel that to make any kind of meaningful change, we need to take power into our own hands. We can’t rely on some well-spoken, well-meaning, well-groomed young thing with a brightly coloured rosette to do the work for us.

We must unite behind the student movement

03/12/2010

You may have noticed that UK students are pretty damn angry right now.  Protests over rising tuition fees and massive cuts to education budgets for both further and higher education have taken place across the country during the past few weeks.  Thousands of school children, college students, university students, teachers and lecturers are taking to the streets.

The student protests demonstrate the vast power held by ordinary people.  It shows that we have the power to set a media agenda, to shut down the streets of a major city, to pressure our elected representatives, to outwit brutal police set on violence, and to cancel a conference before it even takes place.  The education cuts are just the tip of the iceberg, but the student protests show that we can fight back against ideologically-driven attacks upon our public services.

As trans people, we are very much at risk from the cuts.  We cannot possibly organise on a scale comparable to the student movement: we are too few, too scattered, too divided.  But what we can do is unite with the student movement and other anti-cut alliances.  We can call upon our elected representatives on a local level and our trade unions to take action.  We can petition, we can write letters, we can attend meetings and protests.

Mostly importantly, we can be a part of the student movement.  I’m involved as a student myself, but I’d contribute even if I wasn’t currently studying.  The movement welcomes all support from those who wish to protest in solidarity; in return, it offers the possibility of defeating the government itself.  This is an unlikely outcome, but one which is becoming increasingly possible as the Liberal Democrats buckle under pressure.

If you want to safeguard treatment for transsexed people on the NHS, defend police attempts to actually enagage minority groups rather than treat us like dirt and beat us up, support public sector measures to ensure equality and express solidarity with other minority groups who will be disproportionately impacted by the cuts, support the student movement.  A victory for the students is a victory for us all.


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