Socialist Worker

Trans people’s fight needs solidarity—not exclusion

Transgender people face prejudice and violence. Laura Miles takes issue with those who fail to support their struggle

Issue No. 2480

Protest for Tara Hudson outside the Ministry of Justice

Protest for Tara Hudson outside the Ministry of Justice (Pic: Guy Smallman )

Transgender people and their supporters will commemorate this week the many trans people who have been murdered during the last year (see box).

Violence against transgender people remains appallingly high, despite advances such as same sex marriage and the 2004 UK Gender Recognition Act.

Institutional transphobia remains a major issue.

It took a big public campaign recently to ensure that Tara Hudson was sent to a female rather than all male prison in Bristol.

In the US transphobia, racism and poverty means nearly half of all black trans women will go to prison.

Institutional transphobia and medical prejudice were major factors in the death of US trans activist and revolutionary socialist Leslie Feinberg who died last November from late-diagnosed Lyme disease.

The impact of cuts and austerity in Britain is another important trans issue.

Resources for LGBT help lines and support groups have been drastically cut.

Trans people seeking referral and help from the NHS have been badly hit by cuts. This is at a time when rapidly rising numbers of trans people, especially children, are seeking referral.

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust in London which runs the only clinic for young transgender people has seen referrals increase by 500 percent in five years.

Many transgender people wait years for appointments without clinical or psychological help, trying to cope with the risks of suicide, depression and self-harm.

Access to health care is a major issue for trans people. Young trans people are particularly vulnerable to transphobia at school but they also face medical policies based on inadequate legislation.


The Gender Recognition Act does not cover those under 18, for example, or allow married trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

Transgender issues in the mass media and especially online, plus greater visibility of role models and more liberal social attitudes, have encouraged more trans people to come out in recent years. But funding is not keeping pace with the increasing and often desperate need for help.

The unity needed to most effectively campaign is made harder by the attitudes of some “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists” such as Germaine Greer.

Sadly, some feminists still oppose trans women’s involvement in women’s groups and reproductive rights campaigns claiming that “they are not real women”.

Greer recently faced protests from students when invited to speak at Cardiff University because of her derogatory comments on trans women and was forced to withdraw.

Though seeking to no-platform her was not the best tactic it is right to oppose her views.

The argument about who constitutes a “real woman” is important. It was infamously articulated in Janice Raymond’s 1979 book The Transsexual Empire, The Making of the She-Male.

The argument is rooted in backward notions of the “essential” qualities of women. These ignore the fact that trans women suffer both everyday sexism as well as transphobia if perceived as transsexual.

Such trans exclusionary views are rooted in identity politics, rather than looking at how oppression is shaped by capitalist society. They divide rather than unite women and transgender people and hinder the fight against oppression and for liberation.

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