trans equality has not gone from progress to standing still. Under this parliament, and the watch of our current so-called equality ministers, the UK has lurched from progress to a measurable loss of rights for trans people, both young and old.
If our allies in government and media do not become more vigilant and proactive as a matter of emergency, trans people – friends, colleagues, classmates, siblings, children and parents – will be legislated out of public existence without the majority even noticing.
As in America, the Christian Right is currently targeting trans people at every level. The goal is really simple: it’s to make it impossible for trans people to live normally in society.
They start with the schools, demanding trans lives be excluded from relationship and sex education and that trans kids be forced to use facilities according to their birth sex, not their lived gender. They demand trans kids be excluded from anti-bullying and anti-discrimination protections.
For trans teenagers, they have already removed access to crucial healthcare. They want to go further and remove it for under-25s.
For trans adults, they want to criminalise private sourcing of HRT while on current trends, the waiting list for a first NHS appointment may now be 26 years for someone joining the waiting list today.
Also for trans adults they want to remove anti-discrimination protections in work, in employment and in public. They just spent £100,000 to try and stop the census counting how many trans people there are. They have demanded gender-neutral language in legislation be changed specifically to exclude trans men.
The strategy itself appears to look like this: target laws and policies that accidentally or potentially protect trans people, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. In other words, death by a thousand cuts. The goal is to adjust our political and legal systems such that they operate as if a) trans people do not exist, b) trans people are not to be taken seriously, c) trans people are a threat, or d) all of the above.
This dogged work is not headline grabbing stuff, but then groups like Woman’s Place UK, LGB Alliance and Transgender Trend have had their fill of that. After months or even years of uncritical news coverage, they might have realised fawning journalists can only get them so far. If a campaign’s goal is, in effect, the eradication of a protected class of people, the work itself cannot be all OBEs and Newsnight specials. The architects of anti-gay and anti-abortion campaigns in the US, who UK groups may or may not communicate with online*, could tell them that.
The strategy is very simple: it’s to go after trans and non-binary people in every conceivable way, no matter how obscure. Who cares about the wording of a law that won’t affect most people, or the guidance in the census? But the mistake is to view these things in isolation, to see them as single events rather than an extremely well-funded and well-resourced war on a vulnerable minority that’s being waged not by feminists, but by the Christian Right and right-wing politicians.