I wrote to the Guardian letters desk, based on a number of messages I received today. It’s the first time I’ve felt compelled to do so. I fully expect the letter to disappear in to the ether, so I’m also publishing it here.
This is a reply to this opinion piece in the Guardian.
Sonia Sodha argues that winning the argument involves building solidarity via compromise. Compromise involves both sides being able to make concessions to achieve a common goal. Sonia suffers from the same position I’ve seen from many commentators recently, which only view’s this debate from a very extreme viewpoint under the guise of moderation. Trans people wish to live equally and fairly on their own terms, nothing more. I’ve had messages today from upset friends calling this a war on their existence. The comparison to anti-semitism may look extreme, but when you’re scared for your life and your future, how else do you see it?
You can only compromise if you have something to compromise with. In the mid 1980s the media debate about homosexuality was as fervent as today’s media discussion on transsexuality, and led to the introduction of Section 28. Section 28 was another compromise; to quote Jill Knight, “The major point of it was to protect children in schools from having homosexuality thrust upon them.” The media created a frenzy, conservative politicians capitalised on it, and one of the most regressive pieces of modern legislation was introduced in this country and stayed on the statute books from 1988-2003 (England and Wales). Being part of the primary and secondary education system during this period, I and others around me were closeted, frustrated, sometimes abused, had almost no access to support, didn’t understand themselves, and were often led to believe they were monsters on society. For me, it took until beyond university to undo most of the damage done by the years of oppressive schooling.
We are running dangerously close to history repeating itself. As reported Liz Truss, the equalities minister is encouraging departments to quit Stonewall’s Diversity Champions program, the UK government has rolled back plans on self ID in contradiction of the report from the Women and Equalities Committee on the GRA, and the LGBT advisory panel has disbanded after three advisors quit accusing the government department of “vilifying trans people”. Combined with columns hosted in the media such as the above, which do not help to further any discussion, merely (ironically given the hero image) oppress and silence, we’re rapidly sliding right back into the crux of 1988.
If you’re in the trenches, taking fire day after day, it really does look like a war.