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Race, religion and sexual orientation have been the various fights that people have had to get involved with to make sure they get equal rights, but Time magazine, with the release of their next cover page on Facebook, have announced the next one is for gender variance. The time has come for trans people to have their fight for equal rights.
For the last thirty years, LGB people have had to fight tooth and claw for everything that we now have – right to life, official recognition as a legitimate social group, right to marry and be open about who we are, and be free from harm as a result. The assumption has always been that this fight has included trans people, and largely it hasn’t. When people were discussing the ‘equal’ marriage bill last year, they assumed that trans people were going to have their issues with marriage sorted as well, and there was an attempt made to table discussions about spousal veto, but it was knocked back at committee. Trans people have largely been left behind, and Christine Burns explained in The Sunday Telegraph’s LGBT History Month 2014 Magazine why the divergence occurred:
‘There’s nothing new to divisions within the diverse group we label “LGBT”. Lesbians have had to fight for an equal voice alongside gay men. Both tend to discriminate against bisexuals. And gay men, lesbians and bisexuals have all played a part in shunning trans people over the last forty or so years.
‘These fractures have mostly been healed over time. Gay men and lesbians aren’t typically at each other’s throats these days, and bisexuals are ignored and forgotten more than shunned. But genuine unity with trans people still has a way to go, in spite of significant recent advances.
‘It is a pointless and damaging divide because it ignores what trans and LGB people have in common — the same fundamental experience of discrimination. Street violence directed at LGB folk doesn’t originate from a passer-by knowing who you fancy going to bed with. It comes from the perception that you are breaking society’s strict rules about how women and men may behave.
‘It is the same discrimination visited on trans people. Why then would LGB and trans people pretend to themselves that they aren’t on the same side in that battle?’
So all LGBT* people should be fighting for equality, but why has it taken so long for trans people to get the same rights brought forward? One answer could be because there are no huge organisations standing up for trans people, other than groups like Trans Media Watch, in the UK, as Paris Lees decried in the same article:
‘I met the director general of the BBC a year or so ago and told him about the work I do to try and improve the way transgender people are portrayed on television,’ she said. ‘His response? “Ah yes, very good – we’ve been doing some work with Stonewall recently”.
‘Like many people, he didn’t seem to understand that Stonewall, in England, has nothing to do with trans people. The gay charity, as it calls itself, takes its name from the Stonewall riots, a fightback against injustice by gay and transgender people.
‘Gender variant people, whether transgender or simply butch women or feminine men, have always faced the harshest discrimination in society and many gender non-conforming people have been at the forefront of the fight for equality. Sadly, despite this, we are still seeing transgender people experiencing abuse at gay events like London Pride.
‘I’d like to see the organisers do more to protect transgender people and I’d like to see Stonewall do more to protect gender variant children from being bullied – they already do great work to combat homophobic bullying.
‘If you think life is tough for gay children, what do you think it must be like for transgender kids? I remember and it was awful.’
So now the fight is on, with Laverne Cox in the USA proving to be a visible icon. Maybe she should run for President next election cycle?