Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was a draconian measure introduced under Margaret Thatcher's leadership that illegalised 'promotion' of homosexuality in a positive light. Section 28 was repealed in 2003 under Labour. Campaigner Peter Tatchell had warned that gay Tory MPs who voted against repeal would be outed. From the early 1990's a number of MPs from all parties were outed either by the media or by themselves until it was suddenly not such a big deal for a sitting MP to be openly gay. LGB 'rights' advanced considerably. It is hard to fathom that 30 years ago an outing would inevitably end a political career and that some gay MPs feared disclosure to the extent that they lent support to institutional homophobia.
The LGB acronym expanded to LGBT. An alliance that recognised a shared experience of discrimination, oppression and persecution while accepting that trans* identity rather than their sexuality placed trans* people outside a preconceived conventional norm. LGB advancement was not extended to T. Trans* people continued to be stigmatised, refused employment, their fundamental rights were denied by government and their identities psychopathologised by the medical establishment.
In terms of progress, it is acknowledged that trans* people are 20 years behind LGB. In terms of visibility, only trans* women and, to a lesser extent, trans* men are visible. Current legislation affords no designated provision for non-gendered identity. The legislative system is bound within gendered terminology. The gendered societal structure erases non conformity from the cultural landscape. As a trans* person of non-gendered identity, I am socially invisible. If gendered T are currently 20 years behind LGB, then I'm not sure where that places me.
I was befriended by a group of trans* women after my disclosure because our experiences were shared. We had undertaken the same journey albeit with different beginning and end points. We had transitioned essentially to be the people we were meant to be. I mistakenly assumed that peer support was universal and got a very rude awakening.
Press for Change (PfC), the UK's first visible trans* campaign group, was formed in 1992 around the time of my disclosure although I first heard about them some years later. PfC took the campaign for trans* recognition to Parliament. I approached PfC because I believed non-gendered issues could have been progressed more effectively under its wing due to the expertise and political connections of its leadership. But I found the organisation's leadership were uninterested in the important issues I wanted to raise.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) polarised the trans* population as some sections were elevated while others saw no benefit. PfC campaigners received citizenship awards for services to trans* people while the shutters firmly slammed down and a dim light that blinkered for those left behind was snuffed out.
PfC's leadership chose to exclude diverse sections of the trans* population from its campaign. They were aware of non-gendered identity but not as a relevant issue to incorporate into its work. It was a disturbing realisation that I'd been rejected and casually abandoned by trans* campaigners who I had reasonably assumed would be on my side.
PfC today exists more as a shadow of its campaigning past. The shallowness of its original campaign for GRA now evident to trans* who saw no benefit.
What has this to do with Section 28 and LGB visibility? LGB equality suffered due to the cowardice of those who, despite being gay themselves, were complicit in oppression. LGB advancement came through visibility.
Trans* equality continues to be held back by individuals who are not merely complicit but instrumental in halting progress.
The a:gender organisation was formed in 2003. It claims to "embrace transsexual, transgender and intersex staff from across the whole Civil Service". Whereas PfC campaigned from a public platform, a:gender is internal and maintains a low profile. Its leadership includes civil service executives with unparalleled access to government. Its representatives are unaccountable to the wider trans* community whose lives are impacted by government policy.
The group's leadership is vehemently opposed to the suggestion that 'rights' should be extended to protect all trans* people, does not recognise non-gendered equality as a legitimate cause and regards provision such as 'X' Passports as a threat to their personal integrity. Their arguments are devoid of logic and founded upon bigotry and a sense of superiority and entitlement.
The previous coalition government had committed to improve trans* peoples' lives and yet the trans* equality action plan was abandoned. There has been an ongoing failure to address the situation of non-gendered people. One has to ask the question. Why?
As more MPs acknowledge the need for wider provision, a:gender's antagonism towards progressive change becomes increasingly vocal. Its leadership even cautioned a Select Committee against "people who identify as fluid" being accorded legal rights and protection. That such negativity is expressed in a public setting towards a section of the trans* population that has no enforceable rights, it is fair to question what is expressed in private during ministerial briefings.
The government is due to respond to the Women and Equalities Committee's 'Transgender Equality' report published in January and it is essential there is transparency in the decision making process.
There are dinosaurs stalking the corridors. They are faceless, unaccountable, they have far too much power and they are harming trans* people.
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