By Morgan Shanless
For more developed analysis of this issue see this article by our sister organisiation in Scotland, England & Wales.
Last December, the Scottish parliament passed much needed reforms to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, affording trans people a small yet significant step forward on their path to basic legislative dignity. The main reforms to the Act include lowering the minimum age of applicants to 16 instead of 18, removing the requirement of a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and lowering the requirement from two years as living “in-line” with your gender to three months, with an additional three month waiting period.
In effect, these make legally changing documents such as birth certs, marriage certs and death certs far easier and allow trans people to live, marry and die with dignity — as their true gender.
The rotten role of Westminster
The fact that such modest reforms were just passed, after almost 20 years of grassroots activism, shows the inefficiency of relying on the Scottish parliament in the fight for trans liberation.
Much worse, unfortunately, is relying on Westminster, particularly when dominated by the Tories, to grant trans rights. In response to the reforms being passed in Scotland, Section 35 was enabled for the first time to block the reforms. Section 35 was originally passed in 1998, giving Westminster the power to block any law Scotland passes which it feels will have an “adverse effect” on the rest of the UK.
The idea of trans people in Scotland having ever so slightly more legislative dignity having in any way an ‘adverse’ effect is ridiculous. However, the reasons the Tory government gave to justify this attack on both trans people and Scottish peoples’ democratic rights, are somehow even more ridiculous — with one such reason being that IT systems currently don’t allow one to change their gender!
While the enabling of Section 35 was spearheaded by Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party, Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has said he is “not opposed” to the blocking of these reforms, and only 11 Labour MPs voted against blocking it. This shows the vacuous and hollow nature of Starmer’s pseudo-progressive rhetoric and the inability of capitalist politicians to defend democratic rights.
They can’t be allowed to divide and conquer
As the reasons for the blocking of the Bill are so transparently absurd, trans activist groups in the UK expect them to be easily shot down in the courts, allowing the reforms to pass.
Right-wing Tory ideologues, ranting and raving about the “wokerati” and scaremongering about mythical “gender ideology” would be funny, if it wasn’t so serious. Stirring up transphobia endangers trans lives, and that’s what the Tories are doing, with barely a peep from Starmer’s Labour Party.
Capitalism in Britain is in a period of deep crisis. The working class in Scotland, England and Wales is facing a housing crisis, a cost of living crisis, a chronic underfunding of the NHS, and a reactionary Tory party which aims to undermine the labour movement while scapegoating vulnerable communities such as refugees and trans people.
Millions of workers have begun to fight back in recent times through strike action, however the Tories are determined to continue with their policies of prioritising the profits of a few over the needs of the many. As a result, class tensions are at their most intense in decades, with many more months of strikes and industrial battles on the cards if the political situation continues to deteriorate.
The whole Labour movement must take a stand for trans rights, and reject Tory “divide and conquer”.
This technique was also employed by Thatcher with the introduction of Section 28 in 1988, which was also a period of high class antagonism due to the cut throat neoliberal policies enforced by her government.
A rotten system
To counter this cynical attempt by the Tories to divide and rule, we need to unite as a working class and fight the real enemy: those who profit from our exploitation and benefit from our oppression. A united, multi-ethnic, multi-gendered working class has the power to defeat this government and overturn all their right-wing policies.
More than this, it has the power to change society to end exploitation and oppression once and for all, by taking the power out of the hands of the 1% and into the democratic control of workers and communities. Only then can we build a system that prioritises the needs of the many over the profits of the few, and only then can queer, trans and women’s liberation be achieved.