UK: Transphobia is the latest weapon in a raging culture war

Roz Kaveney is a British writer, critic, and poet, best known for her critical works about pop culture and for being a core member of the Midnight Rose collective. 

Over the last two months, the press has run rather more stories on the trans community than happens in a normal year – most of these negative and many of them actively malicious. There has also been a staggering amount of unpleasantness on social media directed at both at the community and at individual trans people both from the right and, more depressingly, from people who regard themselves as left-wing and as feminists.

We trans people stand accused of being the narcissistic consequence of gender theory and post-modernism, of being violent sexual abusers merely by existing, of being ugly or of having had too much plastic surgery, ‘mad, stupid or evil’. We have too much power and influence; we are a fanatical lobby of activists; we are funded by big pharmaceutical companies, the sex trade and rich consumers of pornography whom we are using our IT skills to blackmail. We are a danger to women and young girls simply by using toilets and gender-neutral changing rooms – we don’t have to do anything wrong there, but are a threat simply by existing. We are a cult, trying to draw in young recruits through peer pressure. subversive children’s picture books and the presence of androgynous characters in computer games and Japanese anime. We are trying to destroy reality itself by undermining the concept of truth.

We are obviously all really busy, all of the time.

This is, of course, nonsense. Most trans people are too busy surviving for any of this – dealing with discrimination in employment, housing and education, trying to access trans-specific medical care in a time of NHS cuts and general austerity, surviving a disproportionately high rate of being victims of rape and more general assault. Trans people use toilets and changing rooms for the standard reasons, not to make a political point – it’s perhaps significant that the non-binary person featured in much of the coverage of the changing rooms – on the 4th December in the Sun for example – is black as well as trans. If we had any institutional power, we would be using it in all of these areas to protect ourselves, and make our lives easier.

The pretext for this wave of hate is, ironically, a suggested piece of legislation, unlikely to be passed any time soon, which we welcome but which was not high on our shopping list. The Conservative government is discussing an updating of the process of formal ‘Gender Recognition’ – established in the 2004 act as a intrusive. cumbersome and expensive procedure – in line with the best practice of other countries like Eire where making it a simple civil declaration has, contrary to all the scare stories and hypothetical scenarios, had no serious negative consequences whatever. It’s a vaguely liberal gesture which the May government favours partly because it doesn’t cost anything. Read more via Red Pepper