31 March 2018 marks Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) worldwide. Since 2010 TDoV has become an annual event to show support for the trans community. It brings attention to the remarkable accomplishments of trans people around the world – not least, for example, ex-US Army soldier, activist and inspiration Chelsea Manning while challenging transphobia by spreading accurate knowledge of the trans community.
This year’s TDoV theme is “surviving, thriving” a theme that celebrates the number of major transgender achievements in the past 12 months. The trans community are not only surviving in an increasingly transphobic political climate, but they are making strides to transform how people think about gender around the world.
This struggle is constant and hard-fought, with still almost half of trans school pupils in the UK having attempted suicide, one in nine pupils having received death threats and eight out of 10 young trans people having self-harmed.
Speaking out, taking direct action and educating others is critical to our trans comrades’ safety and well-being. This recognises that while visibility is important, we must all take action against transphobia.
I recently spoke with Cat Burton from Trans Media Watch – a group who helps people in the media to understand these issues and produce clear, accurate, respectful material and also empowers trans and intersex people who are interacting with the media to the get fair results they are comfortable with. They want to see an end to the prejudice, bigotry and hate routinely directed at trans people and they want the media to play its role – no longer fueling these things. Cat identified the web, printed media and television as areas that can be exploited by a small number of people to drive an unrepresentative transphobic agenda.
We must, as workers and trade union members, provide another space for trans people to be visible and safe in the knowledge that they are not alone. The announcement by the government of the consultation on Gender Recognition Act (2004) reform is wholeheartedly welcomed by the LGBT+ community as a step away from a highly medicalised, bureaucratic and degrading process to acquire gender recognition. With this public consultation announcement, a spike in transphobia has been apparent.
Trade unions must show solidarity in the face of transphobia, for as per the famous Martin Niemöller quotation: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out ... then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” No minority will be left behind as we stand shoulder to shoulder with the T+ as well as the LGB in LGBT+, by calling out transphobia when we see it and by celebrating the trans community globally – because solidarity and equality is at the heart of our trade unions.