I had being doing well to avoid the unrelenting onslaught of anti-trans hatred in UK newspapers.
Then something especially nasty caught my eye on social media. A group of socialist Labour Party feminists set up a campaign to exclude trans women from all-women shortlists.
Why? They say trans women are not ‘women’! To date, they have raised over £22,000.
Initially, I was furious. My own experience of becoming the man I am has drawn heavily on the insights and struggles of trans people. But also my friends who cannot or do not fit the gender binary.
To me, this fundraiser feels out-of-date and hateful.
In the name of feminism and socialism – movements close to my heart – these activists are collecting money to further disenfranchise a group who simply wish to be respected for the gender they are. The campaign’s timing is also terrible. Rabid, right-wing commentators have been delighted to see a left-wing version of their own anti-trans bigotry.
This fundraiser is the moral equivalent of kicking someone when they are down. It’s a group of women, speaking on the basis of a distorted outdated view of feminism. So why are they joining the attacks on an already traumatized group of people – including vulnerable young people?
Trans children and young people are under attack
As it is, we are in the midst of a national child protection crisis for our youngest trans people. According to Stonewall, nearly half of trans youth attempt to kill themselves whilst 84% have self-harmed.
Our society and political class are failing to support the families and communities that allow these children and young people to settle into who they are and flourish. Yet, despite daunting barriers, young people are identifying as trans at a younger age and in greater numbers.
But with progressive change and hope comes renewed fear. We are in the midst of a violent backlash against trans people. It mirrors the moral panic about gay men and lesbians thirty years ago. Whilst there is room for optimism, in times of hatred, we must also take action.
This is why prompted by these transphobes’ fundraiser, I have set up a competitive funding campaign that will benefit three brilliant organizations working with trans youth. I want to challenge anti-trans hatred and ignorance with love, understanding and some good, old-fashioned cash!
Why this is important for accepting my own identity
My own relationship to and within the trans community, comes mainly from being an active trans-advocate for over twenty years. Setting up Mosaic LGBT Youth Centre in London gave me the experience of working with gender-fluid and trans youth. As LGBT Advisor to the first two Mayors of London I advocated for trans rights and now I am working as a trainee psychotherapist in an LGBT project.
Personally, I have learned a great deal by allowing myself to explore my gender identity. While I am comfortable in my particular, sensitive form of masculinity, sometimes I identify as non-binary and trans. Whilst this may change again, by putting aside all the dos and don’ts of binary stereotypes I have come to my own unique balance of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ that feels right for me as a gay man.
Gender is so much more than ‘Me Tarzan, you Jane’
The very existence of trans identification is helping to explode the cruel, binary myth that men and women are merely a collection of roles and behaviors decided by biology and genitals.
Trans feelings and thoughts permit each of us to explore our uniqueness as gendered beings. They balance out the ‘male’ and ‘female’ within ourselves, often in ways that encourage passion and realness, wherever we may sit on the gender spectrum.
Trans men and women have to fight to be themselves against people who project shame about their own identities onto them. In this case, it is feminist women who have experienced misogyny seeking to scapegoat or take revenge on trans women who are not responsible for these difficult feelings.
I suspect that if as a society we were genuinely comfortable with binary gender labels and roles then trans individuals and communities would be revered. Historically this has been true, with many cultures seeing trans and non-binary people as holders of unique knowledge about gender that can enrich us all.
But by disproportionately focusing on the phallus and the biology of ‘manhood’ – an old-fashioned, ‘male’- centered, reductive notion of who anyone is and can be – the feminist fundraisers are ignoring, and denying, the potential for transformation and authentic living that trans people offer us all.
Now, more than ever – and especially in the face of attack from activists using their education and privilege to fan the flames of hatred – I stand with my trans brothers and sisters and offer love for space they create for all of us to be better, more authentic human beings.
Please donate and show your support for trans youth with my ‘Love vs. Hate’ fundraising page competing against the transphobic crowdfunder.