a reflection on the last month in trans news – and its terrifying impact
if you are trans and live in the uk, you will no doubt be feeling the collective fear that shadows us all. our existence isn’t just being debated, it is being morally and politically mandated out of the public eye. following transgender day of visibility 2022, a swathe of events unleashed themselves upon us with a forcefulness and hatred that means we need to act now before it is too late.
on the 30th of march 2022 conservative mp jamie wallis forcefully “came out” -while visibility discourse is often centred around the need for more trans and marginalised people entering the arenas of politics and healthcare, the potential consequences of this action might prove otherwise. there is an imminent danger that wallis might become something of the “token trans” for the continuation of increasingly transphobic legislations and practices.
i want to make it clear that this piece is not an attack on wallis himself. i encourage everyone to live their lives authentically and in their truth – so i’m happy he’s now able to be open about his identity.
he is, however, complicit in a political regime that is proactively killing us, and his transness cannot negate that. the right are hellbent on using our existence and resistance as a decoy for deeper actions of transphobia.
this case is revealing the ways in which conservative ideology is steeped in strategic performativity and untenable hypocrisy.
boris johnson was quick to extend his solidarity to wallis, ostensibly suggesting the “house stands with [him]”, and they will provide all the necessary “support” for him to “live freely”. this is laughable – trans people can realistically never live freely as long as we are stuck on terf island. another disturbing evidence of this hypocrisy is secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs liz truss, who has repeatedly been at the forefront of transphobic statements, hastily shared her support for wallis on twitter, lauding him for his “bravery”.
only two days after wallis’ coming out, the government announced a ban on conversion therapy will, thankfully, go ahead – but willfully omit trans people.
the failure of the government to illegalise conversion therapy for trans people while specifically protecting lgb people is justified through the idea that gender is too “complicated” and requires a more nuanced or “sensitive” treatment. in reality, this is nothing other than a smokescreen or coverup for a government that is telling us that queerness is only acceptable when it remains within the confines of cisnormative binaries. if anything, sexuality is just as multi-layered as gender. the difference is that it’s just been talked about for longer – and it is now less socially acceptable to be homophobic than it is to be transphobic.
privileging sexual minorities over trans and non-binary lives is just a way for a transphobic government to keep their authority in check while still discriminating within the bounds of what they think is acceptable.
empowerment on one level doesn’t grant us empowerment across the board: the specific legal protections that sexual minorities are being granted speak to the idea that we can only have rights if we conform to what those in power deem palatable and understandable.
if johnson or liz truss really meant a single word they said, why, then, have these “leaders” been even quicker to rescind trans rights. johnson can release all the statements he wants, and make all the speeches he likes, but it will always be tinged by the shadow of the transphobic ideology to which he not only subscribes but through which his legislations operate. what is painstakingly clear is that showing support means nothing when they are merely empty gestures camouflaging deeper and insidious ongoing inequalities.
living in the shadows of a political landscape like this is exhausting and terrifying.
we need to step up now more than ever. unless we make our resistance known, the infernal motors of the right-wing press and tory governance will continue to twist and push our lives into the depths of nonexistence.
what’s happening is borderline genocidal.
a 2007 study on trans inequality reported that 36.6% of trans people attempted suicide at least once – between longer medical waiting lists, and lack of provisions at large, this number is only set to increase. this is happening not because of something inherent within us, but because those in power are actively making our conditions unlivable.
but we will not be defeated – with community will come liberation.
the recent protest in london has demonstrated that when we all come together, hand in hand, we are a force to be reckoned with.
as of last week, the petition to ensure trans people are fully protected had scarcely reached 10,000 signatures. following the protest, in which we were urged to spread the word and get as many people to sign it as possible, we made history.
in the space of a day, we reached the threshold of 100,000 signatures – meaning parliament are obligated to, not only respond to but consider this for debate.
while it is neither hopeful nor ideal that our basic rights are being put up for debate by people who so clearly want us out of existence, this is part of what we must do if we want change.
however – there is the scary prospect that even if we were to be included in the conversion ban, we would still not find justice (transphobia runs much deeper than this is individual legislation) – and there’s the risk the tories will be applauded for being the party that gave us rights, similarly to them being responsible for the legalisation of gay marriage after decades of homophobic legislations.
it’s therefore important to remember that, even if this is granted, they took away our rights in the first place – this is what they and everyone who made the selfish decision to put and keep the conservatives in power for over a decade needs to be remembered for. indeed, the way over 100 organisations have boycotted the safe to be me conference is a hopeful move that demonstrates a nationwide lack of faith in the party’s moral integrity or ability to care about anyone who isn’t cis, white, and middle-class.
someday the revolution will come, and we will no longer have to worry about these kinds of autocratic rulings. but until then, all we can do is work together and stay strong. to my cis readers: it is important that you hold yourselves accountable for the power and privilege you have and that you use it for good. sign and share petitions, attend protests as allies (if you live near manchester there is one this saturday), and call out queerphobia and prejudice in all its forms! to my trans readers: do not let the current fuckery of terf island crush you. you are allowed to be as angry as you need for as long as you need. you don’t owe anyone any labour right now – and don’t let cis ignorance pressure you to be the activists or spokespeople for the entire community.
remember that liberation ultimately lies in harnessing our collective energy – be this anger, pride, or joy, and i know that someday, we can get there. someday, we will get there. our time is coming, and i truly believe that together, as one collective fuck you to the tories, we can get through this and emerge from the ashes stronger and more powerful than ever before.
email your MP opposing the conversion therapy ban here.
sign the petition to ensure trans are included in the ban here.