I was a child when Margaret Thatcher delivered her notorious Conservative party annual conference speech in 1987, through which she declared her belief that being gay was a choice.
“Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values, are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay. All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life,” she said, devoid of emotion, utterly indiff erent to the millions of identities she was erasing with those two sentences.
Those words would lay the foundation for more than 15 years of upset for children and young people in schools across the country when Section 28 was introduced a year later.
My father was a Conservative voter, and as Thatcher’s words were echoed across the national news, the then prime minister was giving sanction to adults and parents around the nation to stand strong in their belief that being gay was a perversion and socially deviant. I felt a little less safe at home and in school, while British society suddenly became a place that I was no longer a part of.
I also recall endless newspaper articles and television programmes discussing the validity of gay and lesbian identities. It wasn’t uncommon to question whether gay people had a ‘right’ to properly participate in society, to have our jobs protected, or for our relationships to be given equal status. Our identity was up for debate. It took me years to fi nd the inner strength and confi dence to be ‘me’.
The reality is that gay and lesbian people have only in recent years begun to emerge from the shadows. You couldn’t imagine those debates happening now. Yet they do; they’re just not generally directed at gay and lesbian people. It seems intolerance and public discussion has moved from the rights of gay and lesbian people, to direct attacks on the trans community. Hate and fear perpetuate today in the abusive commentary that is directed at them.
Click-bait-hungry headlines feature opinion pieces that pick apart trans experiences. It’s game on and acceptable to ‘debate’ trans lives, and reduce their existence to their genitals or the ongoing and ultimately redundant argument about the use of bathroom spaces. Likening trans women to potential sexual predators waiting for the law to allow them to prey on cis-women in toilets is akin to the old debates likening gay men to paedophiles which once proliferated in the British media.
It’s disappointing that today we fight for the freedoms of the very people who were on the front lines of the Stonewall uprising on that infamous night in New York on 28 June, 1969. That decade was a time of great social upheaval. Women’s liberation was making great strides forward and the black civil rights movement was beginning to transform US society.
In 2020, in the face of a global pandemic and 50 years after the first Pride was held to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the power of protest inspired by the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement and the steadfastness of the Gay Liberation Front veterans has seen us taking to the streets to highlight the many challenges that trans people – and trans people of colour — face today.
As the government prepares to backtrack on its promises in regard to the Gender Recognition Act, and high-profile authors like JK Rowling continue to group trans women’s rights with empowering sexual predators, we still have a long way to go.
My trans friends have found themselves feeling relentlessly assaulted by TERFs and bigots on social media. These people find it acceptable to attack and erase the existence of a vulnerable minority.
The mental health toll this daily barrage takes on trans people is heavy. Their vulnerability has never been greater. We stand with every member of our incredible rainbow community. Solidarity!