The Gender Recognition Act consultation is now closed, thank God. In the short months since it began it’s been used by conservatives to mount a shockingly vicious campaign against trans people. Some 53,000 responses had been received by Friday. That isn’t a consultation. It’s a pile-on.
It’s yet more evidence that human rights shouldn’t be subject to referendums. 75% of Americans were against civil rights for black people. 75% of people in the UK thought homosexuality was an aberration just before Section 28 made gay people’s lives hell. I have no doubt that a similar proportion of GRA responses were anti-trans. In recent years, every single referendum on equality has been poisoned by money and activists from the religious right.
As in the US, the campaign used the invented spectre of trans people as dangerous predators to argue against human rights for trans people. And as in the US, it was suspiciously well funded and clearly linked to US evangelical conservatives, with supposedly liberal voices joining the worst conservative columnists in parroting religious groups’ fact-free propaganda.
I kept waiting for left-wing, liberal commentators to look around and realise that they were thinking what Rod Liddle was thinking, what Melanie Phillips was thinking, what Richard Littlejohn was thinking. But they never did.
And when anybody had the temerity to criticise them, or even point towards some actual facts, they yelled just like the conservatives: I’m being silenced! They were silenced in the Mail, and the Times, and the Sunday Times, and the Guardian, and the New Statesman, and The Spectator, and in Private Eye, and in the Herald, and in the Scotsman, and in The National, and on Radio 4, and on Radio Scotland, and on BBC1, and on Channel 4, and in the Economist, and on social media.
Here’s how that ends.
Over the weekend, a leaked memo detailed the Trump administration’s plan to remove human rights from trans people. Trans people are not deserving of human rights, and should have those rights removed.
Human rights are universal, but here we have a government arguing quite simply that some people are less human than others.
The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.
We’re not the first. The Trump administration has targeted Latinx people and people of colour. Trans people are just next on the list, a convenient proxy for all of the people religious conservatives don’t like. Trans people, gay people, lesbian people, women who want birth control, women who have abortions.
I don’t like slippery slope arguments but this is an exception. As soon as you say that some humans are less human than others, you’re on the side of evil.
Here, we’re some way behind. But you can see the wheels turning. Groups that previously said they were against Gender Recognition Act reform now advocate repeal of the original 2004 Act, and of the 2010 Equality Act. They share anti-semitic memes and accept money from anti-abortionists. They’re finding approving ears in Parliament from the likes of David Davies, whose record on not just LGBT rights but women’s rights is shockingly poor.
The strategy is working. Over on Mumsnet, where much UK anti-trans activism is discussed, supposed radical left-wing feminists are praising Trump: a sexual abuser, a defender of rapists, a harasser of women, an enemy of women’s reproductive rights.
Writing in the NYT, Jenny Boylan is sickened and saddened.
I admit that I’m reluctant to react to this latest cruelty, which is obviously just one more cynical move clearly designed to stir the pot ahead of the election. Trans people are the latest conservative whipping girl, like African-Americans in the 1950s, or gay people in the 1990s and 2000s. Nothing is more dependable now than the passion the heartless display when trans people’s humanity is offered up for mockery.
The conservatives are on the wrong side of science, of medical knowledge and of history. As the National Center for Transgender Equality points out:
In the name of preempting some misinformation, let’s talk about what this proposed rule would not do. It would not eliminate the precedents set by dozens of federal courts over the last two decades affirming the full rights and identities of transgender people. It would not undo the consensus of the medical providers and scientists across the globe who see transgender people, know transgender people, and urge everyone to accept us for who we are. And no rule — no administration — can erase the experiences of transgender people and our families. While foolish, this proposed rule deflates itself in the face of the facts, and the facts don’t care how the Trump administration feels.
But like any act of vandalism, you can do a lot of damage in a very short time. And this could have a terrible effect on the lives of the estimated 1.4 million trans people in the USA.
The longer this continues, the worse it will get. If the religious right get the freedom to discriminate against us, they will want the freedom to discriminate to discriminate against gay people, lesbian people, women. The usual targets.
If you’re white, straight, middle-class, anti-abortion and cisgender, your rights are probably okay.
But if you aren’t all of those things, you should be very frightened of anything that enables bigots to decide that some groups of people are less deserving of human rights than others.
Because once they’re done with us, they’ll come for you.