Details continue to emerge around the far-right’s violence at Honour Oak pub in Lewisham, where fascists protested a Drag Queen Story Hour event and inflicted attacks against a counterdemo. Writing for Trans Safety Network, Jess O’Thomson gives the perspective of an attendee journalist, while Chantelle Billson reporting for PinkNews notes that the police’s actions, and their version of events, look increasingly suspect—as the Met themselves have all but conceded. As O’Thomson wrote:
[…]a number of police officers suddenly pushed forward into the group of counter-protesters, and myself, who had been surrounded by the TSG following their earlier attempts to separate the group. I immediately flattened myself against the wall with my hands in the air as the police moved in. Ada, at the time, was sat on the ground performing first aid on someone next to the target for the arrest. When the police surged in, they hit her across the face, reopening her previous wounds and further injuring her cheek and eye.
The police cannot be trusted to protect the lives of trans people and allies. Indeed, they are arm-in-arm with those who would do us physical harm. A police that inflicts violence alongside fascists must be treated as fascist, and we should defend ourselves against such an institution. As we shall see, the unreliability of institutions is a common thread for queer lives and, right now, especially for trans people.
Labour’s Institutional Transphobia
Attacks on queer humanity are part of a broader attack on humanity per se (a point excellently made by Jerame Davis, writing for LGBTQNation). Given this fact, nobody claiming to be on the left should be taken seriously when they do not also firmly oppose the rising hatred of queer people. Unfortunately, on this, Labour are showing themselves to be distinctly unimpressive. Indeed, the best to be said for them is that they are not the Tories, a barrel-scraping claim!
Significantly, not all Labour MPs fail to align with trans humanity, as Sophie Perry documents for PinkNews. In an impassioned speech against a hate-filled Bill proposed by the Reclaim Party’s only member of parliament (albeit not elected under that affiliation), Andrew Bridgen, Labour’s Ben Bradshaw spoke eloquently. Bradshaw opposed proposals including outing trans school children to potentially transphobic parents. But while Bridgen is an easy figure of ridicule, one whose status as an MP is only cynically retained, it is hard not to wonder how Bradshaw feels when his own leader expresses support for outing trans school children.
Less persuasive an ally than Bradshaw, Wes Streeting has also recently spoken in defence of trans people in parliament—reported by Kate Devlin for the Independent. The shadow health secretary took the Tories to task for their anti-trans culture war. Streeting is on safe ground making this charge against his adversaries, but it is easy to understand the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg expressing surprise at Streeting’s sudden passion for the subject, given his previous, craven willingness to himself engage in vile and ugly transphobia about genitalia. In short, as with Starmer’s historic posturing at Pride events, many Labour MPs are willing to speak in two voices about trans existence: diplomatic, tepid support, and hateful rabble-raising.
But Labour’s hypocrisy on this issue goes further. Rosie Duffield, their MP for Canterbury, is in the news (again) for promoting anti-trans hatred. Harriet Williamson, for PinkNews, and Owen Jones, for the Guardian, have taken up the story and the wider problem with Labour. Previously, Duffield has compared sensitivity for trans people to the dystopian Gilead regime in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, deliberately misgendered trans people, engaged in slurs about trans women being ‘male-bodied’, and spoke at a meeting of the hate group LGBAlliance. Now she has set a Twitter mob against a trans mother for having the “gall” to discuss soaring water bills.
No action is ever taken against Duffield. Nothing from Streeting about how his own colleague is using trans lives “as a punchline or a way to score cheap headlines.” Nothing from the leader Keir Starmer, in-line with his usual failures of solidarity. But if no action is taken, a question must be asked: given her choices do not constitute intolerable transphobia for a party ostensibly of the left, what would? This grim situation is as likely due to grubby calculations as genuine malevolence, but for trans people and our allies, if this is all Labour offers, we should offer them nothing in turn.
While professional politicians treat transgender peoples’ wellbeing as—at best!—a media game, it is nothing of the kind for trans people ourselves. Whether the trans woman mass-abused online after Duffield’s transphobic comments; the trans people harassed and mistreated at work as documented in a report by the TUC; or every trans victim of the 156% four-year increase in hate crimes against us, this is about living with the most basic levels of dignity.
Our fear is worsened given that the wave of hate set against us is apparent worldwide to varying degrees of intensity; for example, in Spain currently, where the growing ascendancy of the far right threatens all queer people there, as Guy Hedgecoe reports for The Irish Times. In this climate, there can be no tolerance for anyone on the left to do otherwise than stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their trans sisters, siblings, and brothers. Presently, the Labour Party stands happier behind us, wielding a dagger.
An Anti*Capitalist Resistance and Trans*Mission comrade attended a second trans struggle event hosted and organised by revolutionary socialism in the 21st century (rs21) last week. There, discussions were had about the necessity of the trans fightback in various arenas—education, work, housing, etc.—and how this could all be best strategised. The event was an excellent example of engaging with a marginalised struggle from within, as it was focused on listening, absorbing different experiences, and encouraging participation in the emancipatory movement.
Out of the previous rs21 meeting, Trans Workers Solidarity has emerged, which includes people who are not members of rs21 and engages in protests with striking healthcare workers to build better connections between the trans community and those so many of us rely on to secure vital, frequently gatekept transition-related healthcare. The initiative is bold, inspiring and deserves the support of socialists from any organisation. It starkly contrasts with the Labour Party’s floundering on trans humanity and showcases how solidarity should work in action.
Want to participate in the fightback? Join Anti*Capitalist Resistance and become a member of our Trans*Mission group!
Also, if you know a story you want to appear in next week’s roundup, please email it to us.
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