This was a speech made by Taliah Horner an activist who spoke at the trans solidarity rally on 5 June in Edinburgh.
Recently, there has been a gradual but unmistakable rise in the amount of transphobic sentiment in the UK, particularly within the media. Even in supposedly socially liberal outlets, such as the Guardian, it is not uncommon to read anti-trans and anti-non-binary articles, published in the name of feminism. Estranging and endangering the lives of trans and non-binary people under the guise of protecting themselves.
These articles are mostly filled with logical fallacies and arguments that are easily dismantled. The science is unequivocally on our side but, unfortunately, this appears to matter little. For some, no amount of evidence or carefully constructed argument will change their position. Make no mistake, brush away the veneer of polite discourse and you will find fear, hatred, and bigotry. The same bigotry that you would find poised against any aspect of progress. Simply by substituting a different minority into their talking points, you could travel through time. History will not be kind to them.
As a trans woman, to read these articles, to hear this speech, just to know that these people exist is deeply upsetting. These so-called “radical feminists” want to erase our identities, our experiences, our existence. Moreover, they are impossible to avoid, it seems that a new celebrity joins their cause to give them a platform all too often.
Even more upsetting is the hate crime that this discourse fuels. In the UK, two in five trans people experienced a hate crime within the 12 months prior to a 2017 Stonewall study and, if trends in LGBT hate crime are anything to go by, these statistics have likely increased. Perhaps you know of the anti-trans stickers that were put up a few months ago on walls near Nicholson Street Gardens, with razor blades behind them to cut those that took them down. The feelings of exclusion and isolation that result from all of this have far-reaching consequences in our lives. They severely impact our mental health and pervade our daily lives.
When I learnt that Edinburgh University was hosting an event called “Women’s sex-based education” (not even subtle transphobia there), during Pride month no less, with acclaimed transphobes such as Julie Bindel speaking, I wish that I could say that I was surprised. It appears, however, to be simply another notch on a list of disappointments.
Just last week, for example, I sent an email directly to the Principal complaining about a specific incident regarding trans rights at the university. After my five years studying here, I realised that this was perhaps the best way to ensure your concern is taken seriously which, in fairness, I believe that it was. Yet how am I to believe the assurances that I am a valued member of this community when hate speech and rhetoric against my very existence is being fostered on university grounds, with university approval. I do not feel valued, I feel like a potential PR nightmare, to be handled with care. It is not enough to sit on the fence and simply react to problems as they arise, waiting until someone brings it to your attention. If only that the university would take a more proactive approach, to ask what is wrong, to attempt to understand what they could do without being poked and prodded into action. The lives of so many students could be improved. So much trauma could be avoided. When there is such little existing space for us to feel truly comfortable, the university should be doing everything that it can to expand this for us but instead, they shuffle their feet and prove to be worse than another bystander. Aiding the erosion of our safety. How disappointing.
It’s often hard to know exactly who our enemies are. Sometimes you can’t even tell if the person you are talking to secretly hates your guts. At events like this, however, it’s easy to see who our friends are. These are the moments that remind me that we will never stand alone. Someone once told me that a lot of backlash could only mean that progress was being made. We can only work to prove them right!
Thank you so much for standing with us.
Image: Ted Eytan via flickr