In April 2022, two gay men, Aidan Moffitt and Michael Snee were murdered within 24 hours of each other in Sligo; murders motivated by homophobic hatred. These brutal killings brought home a reality – that just being LGBTQ+ can still put you at risk of potentially deadly violence. They took place in the context of an apparent rise in violence against LGBTQ+ people in the streets. The homophobic and transphobic hatred which drives this violence is on the increase.
Trans rights not up for debate
In fact, we are seeing a growing right-wing backlash against LGBTQ+ people across the world, and in particular against trans people. In the US, state governments are introducing ‘Don’t Say Gay Bills’ to censor teaching about sexuality and gender in schools, bills to ban young trans people from sport and defining young trans people transitioning as ‘child abuse’. The attacks on trans and LGBTQ+ children coincide with attacks on abortion rights – thwarting bodily autonomy for women, pregnant people, and trans children alike. There is a growing reactionary far-right and they pose a threat to the rights of all LGBTQ+ and oppressed people.
In recent months, we have seen clear attempts to introduce this anti-trans narrative in Ireland. RTÉ devoted three episodes of ‘Liveline’ to an attempt to manufacture a fake ‘debate’ over trans rights. When has equivalent coverage been given to the real issues facing the trans community, for example, the crisis in trans healthcare?
We have to take these attacks on LGBTQ+ rights seriously – but they can be beaten. In recent years, there have been significant positive changes won, including marriage equality and the gender recognition act, due to the campaigning of LGBTQ+ people and others. There has also been a sea change in public attitudes, especially amongst young people. But only by mobilising a new movement in defence of the rights of LGBTQ+ and all oppressed people can we defeat the right-wing backlash.
LGBTQ+ liberation, not rainbow capitalism
We won’t find reliable allies in this fight in the capitalist establishment. Right-wing politicians and corporations will try to portray themselves as progressive by associating themselves with Pride and claiming to support LGBTQ+ people. This inclusive rhetoric contrasts with the reality of their actions.
Despite the claims of recent governments to be ‘progressive’, it is still the case that the vast majority of schools are dominated by the Catholic Church and there is no guarantee of objective and LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education. Trans people face waits of up to ten years to access healthcare and public adolescent trans healthcare was ceased completely earlier this year. Those who do access the National Gender Service at Loughlinstown in Dublin will be faced with a completely outdated model of care based on the pathologisation of trans people.
Many corporations market themselves as LGBTQ+ friendly, but their only real interest is profit. Starbucks has long promoted itself as inclusive but has responded to the movement of Starbucks workers to get organised in a union by threatening to take away trans healthcare coverage from its workers if they unionise.
That’s the real face of capitalism – a system which puts profit first and feeds off division and discrimination. We can’t win liberation for LGBTQ+ people within the confines of a system which has inequality at its very core.
We need a movement based not on alliances with the capitalist establishment but on struggle and solidarity. We should return to the radical roots of the LGBTQ+ movement which faced a hostile state and media and organised alongside other oppressed people and the working class to force change. We need a movement that mobilises huge numbers in the struggle to demand our rights. Pride should be a real protest. The same forces attacking LGBTQ+ rights are also attacking women’s rights, immigrants and the working class as a whole. We should build a movement that is in solidarity with everyone fighting inequality and injustice.
Solidarity, struggle, socialism
Instead of welcoming the big corporations, we need a movement that takes on the system which is denying us equality. Capitalism offers us a future of low pay, high rent, climate catastrophe and is fostering the far-right forces who are targeting LGBTQ+ people. Socialist change would mean taking the wealth now controlled by a wealthy minority under democratic public ownership and working-class control and using it for the benefit of all. Such a society would be based on genuine equality and solidarity and would not need oppressive gender roles or backward prejudices to prop it up.
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