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Liberals Must Fight For Trans Rights

November 16, 2020 12:00 PM

2020 has been a tumultuous year - and particularly so for members of the trans community. As the Liberal Democrats commemorate Trans Visibility Week and the Trans Day of Remembrance, we reflect on the challenges faced this year - and call on all liberals to recommit to the fight for justice and dignity for all.

Started in 1988, this week is for amplifying the voices of trans people, and for advocating an end to the discrimination and prejudice that trans people still face today. The week ends with Trans Day of Remembrance, on 20 November, which honours the memory of the lives of trans people whose lives were lost to violence and bigotry that year.

The coronavirus, which has hung over us all this year, has impacted minorities disproportionately. As LGBT+ LD highlighted back in March, this has been especially true for trans people.

An overwhelmed NHS has cancelled many, many appointments to deal with COVID-19: access to hormones, therapy and surgery for trans people have all been impacted. In a system where waiting lists can be years-long even without a pandemic, for many trans people COVID-19 has only added to the sense of a life on-hold awaiting treatment.

And then there has been the bitterly disappointing scrapping of Gender Recognition Act reform. Despite three years of promises and consultations from successive Conservative governments - which in turn whipped up a storm of anti-trans hatred and misinformation - the Government in September gutted its plans to reform the GRA.

The vast majority of respondents to consultations called for self-ID, the removal of the spousal veto, and allowing non-binary people to gain legal recognition. Instead, all we got was a suggestion to take the process online and to offer a slight discount.

The government's changes do little to protect trans people or their dignity. Gendered Intelligence at the time summed the reforms up well: "reforming a piece of legislation which is fundamentally broken cannot mean slapping a discount sticker on it and expecting great results".

These two huge policy areas have dominated much of 2020 for LGBT+ activists - but there are many other areas of concern for trans people. For example, recent studies have highlighted how trans people are at once more likely to be highly educated than the average person, but also significantly more likely to be unemployed or live in poverty.

Our leadership contenders this year were united in their defence of trans rights, which have been embedded in our manifestos for years. We have adopted a formal definition of transphobia, and at Conference this year we passed a motion to make trans and nonbinary members more able to participate in our party. However, the debate at the conference shone a light on the transphobia that still exists in our party. Our party may be at the forefront of the fight for trans rights - but we cannot be complacent with ourselves.

That's why we are calling on Liberal Democrats up and down the country to join us in standing up for the rights and dignity of all trans people.

Trans rights are human rights. Non-binary people are non-binary, trans men are men, and trans women are women. These sentences are not contentious in our party.

In spite of the challenges the trans community are facing there is hope.

The recent United States elections-which saw more and more LGB people get elected to congress-also saw LGBT+ rights campaigner and the National Press Secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, Sarah McBride, become the first State Senator-elect in US history who is openly trans.

Progress and justice are not inevitable - but they are possible. It is our job, and the job of all liberals, to make it so.