Programme and class to fight trans oppression — a reply

Rowan Fortune and Twilight O’Hara of Anti*Capitalist Resistance wrote an open letter to all socialists, "A Trans* Guide to Cis Solidarity: Beyond Oppression". Here, Workers' Liberty supporter Zack Muddle replies.


Source > Workers’ Liberty

Dear comrades Rowan Fortune and Twilight O’Hara,

Your open letter valuably highlights many attacks on trans people and trans rights. At a time where the governmentmediahard– and far-right — and even parts of the ostensible left and the labour movement — are rallying behind transphobia, such beating of the drum for trans rights is very much needed. So, too, are efforts to increase dialogue — and hopefully collaboration — between those on the left which do champion trans rights, those of us who do stand against this central plank of a reactionary culture war.

A universal humanist lens that opposes all oppression, that stands in solidarity with those fighting for liberation against oppression and marginalisation, is an important starting point. We must recognise the severe oppressions of trans, nonbinary, intersex, and genderqueer people. We oppose and fight these oppressions, as well as the wider context of a restrictive and oppressive gender system which hurts us all, and exploitative class society.

Marxist principles and our commitment to liberation are important. But so too is a Marxist analysis, which offers insights into how society works and how it came to be this way. This helps us to understand the world around us, the roots of oppression and exploitation — and how to cut these roots and transform society from bottom to top. Class exploitation lies at the foundation of our society, and a class analysis and a class-struggle approach to fighting transphobia are indispensable tools. A “guide to… solidarity” in the fight for trans liberation, even a concise one, should centre class, and the working class as an agent.

You are right, comrades, that we do not need “a list of mechanical tasks, but… an evolving project”. But we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We do need a list of tasks. A guide to solidarity with trans people should at least sketch some practical steps, and priorities, for activists convinced to throw themselves into this fight.

We need demands, aims, a programme. We need to build movements — mass, working-class movements — to win victories. We seek to not just be reactive, fending off this or that attack, but to go on the offensive for trans liberation, and for our class. We need demands and concrete ideas to organise for, aims and slogans to wage our struggle under. This can describe campaigning priorities at a given time, make clearer the vision and direction of a given project, and act as a yard-stick by which we measure and hold people and movements to account. It should be debated and developed, and refined and adapted as the situation changes: as we build on our victories, or take stock of our defeats.

For example, a list(icle) of tasks might include winning:

  • An expansion of holistic gender identity support and healthcare, as part of an NHS under public ownership and democratic control, with increased funding
  • A ban on anti-trans as well as anti-gay conversion therapy, for all ages, not just under-18s
  • For self-identification of gender, including non-binary identities: through amending the GRA; through schools and other institutions implementing self-ID; through defending self-ID as the existing norm in the labour movement, and in changing rooms, toilets, and the like. Lay sport, and sport in schools — if gender segregated — should be on the basis of self-ID. Any restrictive screening and segregation in elite sports — such as hormone level requirements — should be inclusive for trans, intersex, and non-binary people.
  • A reduction of gender segregation and categorisation: expansion of gender neutral toilets, changing rooms, and other spaces; reduction of gender or title as a mandatory category on forms and for sorting people
  • Children and young people should be able to change their names and pronouns at their sole discretion. A decision to undergo medical treatment should also be theirs alone, subject to the discretion of supportive medical professionals. They should be allowed confidentiality in all such matters, including from their parents or guardians. Good, holistic, and secular LGBTIQ and asexual-inclusive sex and relationship education, and PSHE, should be mandatory.
  • Open the borders — solidarity with LGBTIQ migrants!
  • Increase funding for domestic abuse shelters
  • Release most prisoners, transform the remaining institutions beyond recognition. Seriously reduce police powers, hold police to account.
  • Expand the welfare state, reduce the working week, level up pay — cutting at the roots of restrictive and oppressive gender in the social reproduction of society

These could be improved and added to — and perhaps some are wrong, or relatively unimportant? A programme or set of demands has value not as words on a page, but a weapon in struggle. But discussing, debating and refining our demands, clarifying where we agree and disagree, would be an important step towards collaborating in the urgent struggle for trans rights. One practical immediate task for comrades might be to take some of these demands to our union or Labour Party branches, to get these branches to endorse and campaign for those demands.


Zack Muddle

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Rowan Fortune authored Writing Nowhere; edited the anthology of utopian short fiction Citizens of Nowhere; and contributed to the collaborative book System Crash. It writes on utopian imagination, revolutionary theory and trans* liberation.

Twilight O’Hara is a psychology student and revolutionary socialist in the United States. She is at work on a book reconstructing Marxism based on philosophical idealism.

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