Marxism, feminism and transgender politics Issue


Tom Neuwirth better known by his drag stage persona Conchita PHOTO/Pinterest

In August 2017 Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people1 were no longer welcome in the military because they are a “burden” due to “tremendous medical costs and disruption”.2 This was the latest in a series of attacks on transgender people which include attempts to overturn legislation that allows people to use the toilet for their preferred gender.

Transgender people face the threat of violent attack; 2017 is on course to see the highest recorded number of killings of transgender people in the United States.3 In the UK transphobic hate crime has tripled in the last five years, while prosecution rates have dropped and transgender people report lack of trust in the police. More than a third of transgender employees say they had to leave their job due to discrimination in 2016.4 A survey released by Stonewall reports that eight out of ten trans school and college pupils had self-harmed and 45 percent had tried to take their own lives.5

At the same time there has been a significant rise in the visibility of trans people in popular culture such as the singer Miley Cyrus who identifies as gender neutral. The recent British Social Attitudes survey reveals a high level of acceptance of transgender people, although that level dropped when respondents were asked if it would be acceptable for them to be teachers or police officers.6 In this context increasing numbers of people are asserting their right to live as their chosen gender, sometimes by starting the process of transitioning from male to female or vice-versa or by adopting non-binary or gender neutral pronouns.

The fight for trans rights has been called “America’s next civil rights frontier” by Time magazine. In the UK the fight has focused around the bureaucratic and medicalised process that people have to go through in order to have their gender officially recognised. The government is conducting a consultation on changing the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) to allow trans people to self-define and thus make it easier for them to change their birth certificate. Jeremy Corbyn announced his support for the change, but some people have derided it. Echoing some early arguments against lesbian and gay rights, they mock “trangenderism” and dismiss it as a lifestyle choice. Brendan O’Neill, writing in Spiked magazine, says: “So any bloke could self-identify as a woman, apply for the legal right to be recognised as a woman, and—boom—he’s a woman. Sorry, she’s a woman.” He goes on to helpfully inform us that “womanhood is not a pose one strikes in front of the mirror”.7

International Socialism for more

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