Lily Madigan is a Young Fabian and member of the contributing writer team. She tweets at @madigan_lily
100 years on since the first women got the vote, there are still inequalities in the feminist movement. Why are some feminists still failing transwomen?
The evidence is there if you look for it – Transphobic leaflets being given out in the safe zone at Labour annual conference; prominent party feminists suggesting violence against transwomen; someone being kicked out of a Labour Women’s Network party for harassing a teenage trans woman; fundraisers being started to try and legally challenge Labours trans-inclusive policies; transwomen being excluded from Labour run women’s events by a women’s officer. The list goes on.
Most state their actions aren’t transphobic at all, but they are merely seeking the protection of women’s spaces. Some go further, suggesting transwomen are men’s right activists working purposely to erode women’s hard won protects. They commonly misgender people like me as a means to belittle our experiences and score social media points. And so I think its fair we question how much authority they have as cis-women to decide whether they are being transphobic.
They claim they want debate, not hate, but once again their actions suggest differently, they just want to debate our right to exist. They propose motions and fundraisers seeking to de-legitimise our status as women in the party, all the while ignoring trans and LGBT groups in their ‘debate’. And of course when its pointed out that most women disagree with them, they claim those women are misguided, or protecting themselves.
Take for example the British Social Attitudes survey, 58% of women say prejudice against trans people is “always" wrong and 72% of women say they are “very” or “quite” comfortable with a transwoman using a female toilet. Clearly, women generally support their trans sisters.
I can talk from my experiences as a teenage transwoman. I’ve had no fewer than five transphobic articles from the Times about just me in a single week, with many more directly vicious articles from other news sites over the past year. A concerted anti-trans agenda if ever there was one. They regularly deadname me (meaning they use my old (dead) name maliciously,) and seek to present me in an unfair light, often pushing lies as fact and allowing me no comment - the real no-platforming. Alongside this, hundreds of messages of abuse. I’ve been scared for my safety because of people ‘looking to confront me’ at women’s events and this has inevitably damaged my confidence.
Studies suggest near half of transexual youth will attempt suicide, which is attributed largely to experiences of discrimination, including stigma, transphobia, and bullying. The majority experience harassment and assault is common. These are the people that stand to be hurt by transmisogyny in the Labour party. Meanwhile we can look to Ireland for an example of what would happen if a government passed policy allowing self-definition – nothing much. There was no spike in trans people wishing to change their gender, there are no cases of abuse, the sky isn’t falling. And the story is similar in many other countries – Argentina, Denmark, Malta, Canada; the list goes on.
And so we come to the crux, should Labour expel transphobic members? Wholeheartedly yes. They don’t stand for the fundamental value of socialism: equality for all. They seem actively determined to harm the Labour party just to hurt trans rights. They have nothing to lose from trans rights being furthered in line with other countries other than their cis-privilege. They would have to share spaces with trans women, which they have to do anyway.
It’s great so many people are joining up to Labour, attracting many people who previously wouldn’t have found a home in the party. However clearly this includes some people with transphobic views. Largely, complaints about these people seem to be being ignored. The question is whether this matters to the people in charge? I fundamentally believe it does but they need to show this. Trans people naturally look to Labour as our party, but I’ve seen many of my trans sisters reaching the conclusion they just don’t care for trans people enough.
They are losing but they are determined to do as much harm as they can before they do. It is imperative the Labour leadership speaks up against transphobic rhetoric; that we as a party amplify the voices of our trans sisters; that we root out transphobia and transmisogyny from the movement. We are the party of equality and it’s essential we remain so. Let 2018 be the year trans people get the representatives we deserve in politics – let’s have a trans-led resistance, educating our activists to dismantle transphobic arguments on the local level – let’s terf out the transphobes.