Trans Rights are Human Rights

In this article I use the term trans to refer to all people who identify with a gender other than that assigned at birth, including nonbinary people, though I note that not all nonbinary people identify as trans.

It is very simple.

Trans women are women.

Trans men are men.

Nonbinary people are nonbinary.

Respect and accept our siblings.

The public discourse around the lives and rights of trans people in the UK has been dominated by a deliberate, and coordinated, narrative – pushed in the mainstream press and by a vocal minority on social media – that (much delayed) reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004 pose an immediate and existential threat to women and girls. By effectively monstering trans people, through their reliance on misinformation and blunt stereotypes of sex and gender, these narratives aim to close down conversations and much-needed public education that would undoubtedly lead us closer to trans acceptance.

As a cis woman, I stand with our trans siblings, and will fight for their right to live openly, free from harassment, and for their rights to be upheld, in our union, across post-16 education, and in wider society. As a Women Members Standing Committee Member, I support trans equality.

I’ve seen many Twitter exchanges – including from UCU members – which segue from discussion of sexual violence to self-identification for trans people. This is entirely inappropriate. These are both important and pressing issues, but it does trans people and survivors of sexual violence (there is an overlap here) a huge disservice to conflate them. 

The LGBT Foundation has produced a guide for trans people affected by sexual violence, which includes information on where to get support. For more information, see the reports from Stonewall, resources from Trans Scotland, and Violence Against Women (US) pages on violence against trans and nonbinary people.

What is the GRA (2004) and why does it need reform?

The GRA came into effect in 2005, with the intention of providing a legal framework that affirmed the identities of trans people, and protected them from discrimination, involuntary outing, and protected their right to a private life. In 2010, the Equality Act enshrined gender reassignment as a protected characteristic in law. Despite these legislative changes, the system remains flawed, overly medicalised, complicated, and expensive.

For more detailed information of the GRA, read this article from the brilliant trans-led charity, Gendered Intelligence.

In 2018, the Government began consulting on reforms to the GRA, with many organisations and activists calling for UK law to be brought in line with international best practice. In August 2020, the Tories continue to delay these much-needed reforms. Even more worryingly, a leaked document reported in the Sunday Times, showed that despite 70% of respondents to the consultation supporting self-identification for trans people, the government plans to scrap these reforms. Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equalities, has also made comments which suggest trans people will continue to be marginalised, discriminated against, and excluded. It is simply unacceptable for the government to shelve these reforms which would benefit one of the most marginalised groups in society, just because the responses to their consultations did not support the view they wanted. UNISON have produced an excellent fact sheet (attached) which discusses the need for these reforms to the GRA in detail.

The current system has a lengthy process which pathologises trans people, requiring a medical diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ from two specialists, submitted in writing (usually at a cost). As well as framing transness as an illness – rather than recognising trans people as existing within the vast galaxy of human gender and lived experience – it also takes away their autonomy and agency. The WHO has removed the categorisation of transgender identity as a mental illness – so to continue to medicalise this process and require a diagnosis of gender dysphoria is cruel and unnecessary.

Current UK law also only recognises binary trans identities (i.e. man / woman), meaning there is no legal recognition – or protection – of nonbinary people. This is completely exclusionary. Nonbinary people deserve to recognised in line with their identities outside, between, or beyond the restrictive binary of man/woman. 

Expanding our understanding of gender, from binary, via ‘spectrum’, to a whole universe, can only be a good thing. Acknowledging, accepting and respecting our siblings of every gender – be they binary trans identified, nonbinary, genderqueer, a-gender, or otherwise gender nonconforming – helps us understand and erode harmful expectations and stereotypes that constrict the lives of trans and cis people alike.

My Pledge to Trans Members

If I am elected as VP  promise to work to ensure trans voices are heard in our union, and our workplaces, and that they are safe spaces for trans members by:

  1. Supporting a rule change at Congress to call for trans specific seats on the LGBT+ Standing Members Committee, and on the NEC / HEC & FEC. 
  2. Committing to work with trans led charities, organisations, and members, to support trans members, educate all members and help support our trans students, and to develop resources and training.
  3. To use this work to develop better guidance on negotiating on trans rights for branches, and across the union.
  4. To ensure UCU continues its advocacy and support for Self-ID for trans and nonbinary people, and lobbies at all levels for the GRA reforms which are so clearly needed.

Useful Resources

https://vawnet.org/sc/serving-trans-and-non-binary-survivors-domestic-and-sexual-violence/violence-against-trans-and

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/boris-johnson-scraps-plan-to-make-gender-change-easier-zs6lqfls0

http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/gra/background

https://www.scottishtrans.org/trans-rights/practice/sexual-violence-abuse/

https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2020/07/Reform-of-the-Gender-Recognition-Act-June-2020-3.docx

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