By Thomas Carmichael
The Sunday Times recently revealed that the Tories are to scrap proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act which would have allowed trans people to have their gender recognised through self-identification. This will come as a blow to all trans and gender non-conforming people in the UK.
Instead of the proposed changes, “protections” will be brought in to “safeguard” female-only spaces, such as changing rooms and toilets, reflecting the bogus myth that the right for trans people, particularly trans women, to self-identify could be abused by cis male sex offenders to allow them to access these spaces. These claims are not backed up by evidence. In fact, research has shown that there is no difference in the levels of sexual assault in bathrooms and so on between localities that have trans inclusive laws and those that don’t.
A far more pertinent concern is that trans women will be the victims of sexual harassment or violence as a result of being forced into male changing rooms, bathrooms, prisons etc. In 2015, Vicky Thompson was found dead from suicide after being held in a male prison and subjected to transphobic abuse. In the UK, in 2018-19, there was a 37% increase in hate crimes against trans people, with as many 12% of trans workers reporting harassment or even physical violence in the workplace in the last 12 months.
The campaigns against the proposed changes were, sadly, not limited to the political right. A number of leading trade unionists have chimed in, and an appallingly transphobic cartoon on the issue appeared in the Communist Party-aligned newspaper The Morning Star, for which the publication later apologised. The reality, however, is that the discrimination faced day and daily by trans and gender non-conforming individuals is part and parcel of capitalism.
Capitalism relies on the oppression of women, a gendered division of labour, and the unpaid domestic labour, mainly of women, within the structure of the nuclear family. It therefore depends on an ideology of gender stereotypes and roles. Trans people, as well as other LGBTQ+ people, by their existence undermine this ideology and therefore face oppression in capitalist society. Socialists and the workers’ movement must consistently oppose all forms of oppression born out of this rotten system. This includes fighting for the right of trans people to have their gender recognised through self-identification.