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The LGBT+ Lib Dems Guide to surviving a transphobic dogpile

October 16, 2018 3:14 PM

This page might be relevant to you if you, your organization, or someone connected with you has said something in support of trans (aka "transgender") people, and suddenly:

  • Lots of angry people are contacting you (by email, social media, etc).
  • They are pushing the following viewpoints:
    • Respecting trans people's rights somehow damages women's rights
    • Trans women are not women
    • Trans women are dangerous to cis (i.e. not trans) women

Things to know:

  1. The people contacting you are a reasonably small but committed group, often with multiple "sockpuppet" accounts on social media.
  2. This is a known tactic. They're trying to intimidate you, to make you panic, to make you feel guilty, to not give you time to think. You don't have to play along with that.
  3. It's likely that the people contacting you will have co-ordinated the contact; there are closed forums and Facebook groups devoted to this activity.
  4. The number of people contacting you doesn't reflect the level of public support for their ideas in the way you might think:
    • there are a small number of people who make a lot of noise
    • they amplify this noise by using multiple identities.
  5. Polls suggest that most women, in the UK and around the world, support equal rights for trans women.
  6. When Stonewall and the Scottish Government polled women's organizations dealing with domestic and sexual violence, they were all entirely relaxed about trans women's inclusion.
  7. Many of the supposedly-feminist transphobic groups (aka "trans-exclusive radical feminists" = "TERFs") in the UK are receiving funding from US-based religious fundamentalist organisations who are using trans rights as a "wedge" issue against equal rights as a whole.

Things to do:

  1. Take a deep breath. You don't need to rush to react right this moment.
  2. Look at some of the resources put out by the following organizations:
    Stonewall https://www.stonewall.org.uk/truth-about-trans
    Trans Media Watch http://www.transmediawatch.org/misunderstandings.html
    Mermaids (focus on trans children & young people) https://mermaidsuk.org.uk/resources-for-professionals.html
  3. You can block, mute, and report people if you want to and should not feel bad about doing so. However, if you want to push back, use the facts linked to in Things To Know, above.

It's OK if you're not an expert on these things. You don't owe people detailed policy answers to their "debating points". They are probably not asking questions in a genuine good faith attempt to learn more about the issues.

  1. Some useful stock responses are:
    "This organization is committed to equality for LGBT people, and this includes trans people"
    "We do not believe that there is a conflict between trans rights and women's rights"
    "Trans women are women; this is not up for debate."
    and, regrettably, sometimes "Please leave me/us alone".

  2. Some people you can contact are:
    1. Stonewall https://www.stonewall.org.uk/contact-us
    2. LGBT+ Lib Dems (who wrote this document) https://lgbt.libdems.org.uk/ info@plusld.org.uk
    3. Trans Media Watch (if you're working in or with the media) http://www.transmediawatch.org/contactTMW.html

Other points

  • At the time of writing (October 2018) there are a lot of myths being perpetrated relating to the Government consultation on the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). A guide to the facts is provided by the Government Equalities Office, but briefly: the GRA does not affect sex based rights in any way, these are covered by the Equalities Act.
  • If any of the people contacting you threaten violence, whether against you, your colleagues, or trans people, please report this to the police as soon as possible.
  • Consider whether you or your organization could benefit from training around dealing with trans-specific issues. Stonewall and Mermaids provide such training.
  • You'll note that this article does not talk very much about trans men. This is because most of the transphobes don't often talk about trans men when they dogpile people. However, rest assured that LGBT+LDs are as passionate about the rights of trans men, non-binary people, gender queer people and all the glorious gender permutations that exist as we are about the rights of trans women.