The shameful treatment of Alexander Bramham at a Pride event in Manchester on Saturday ought to have been a wake-up call to everyone. Bramham – a gay man – had to be escorted by police away from a baying mob.
But their robotic chanting should ring alarm bells among transsexuals. “Trans rights matter”, or “trans lives matter”? It was not easy to tell behind the venom and contempt being hurled at Bramham. Either way, intolerant, mindless activists are using us as a shield to unleash homophobia with impunity.
If ever there was an example of bigotry at pride, it was surely on Saturday. But Bramham is not the bigot, bigotry is defined as the “obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices.” The crowd displayed plenty of that. Bramham had been singled out for abuse and intimidation because he was wearing an LGB Alliance T-Shirt; he had a different opinion to the majority.
The footage circulating on social media reminded me of a crowd of football hooligans who had spotted someone in the opposing team’s colours. It wasn’t banter; it was raw and unadulterated hate, and it was in the heart of Pride.
Trans rights and trans lives do matter. They matter very much to those of us who live them, who transition and then go back to play our part in society, building relationships, raising families, and getting on with our work.
In the UK at least, we live in a society that is largely accepting and happy to accommodate gender transition. That said, we would be naïve to imagine that prejudice, and even hostility, had been overcome. It makes sense therefore to find common purpose with lesbian, gay and bisexual people who face similar prejudice and hostility, often from the same quarters.
However, while some interests overlap, others do not. Gay men, for example, campaigned to equalise the age of consent, and we pushed for the right to transition at work. It’s therefore reasonable to also organise separately. But while the existence of transgender-focussed support groups is hardly controversial, the LGB Alliance provoked fury when they did not include the T.
The anger that spilled out on the streets of Manchester was palpable. Bramham said that, “they would have torn me apart, it was terrifying.”
But behind the mindless rhetoric is a campaign that should terrify us all. Our campaigns for equality have been hijacked by a quasi-religious crusade to impose gender identity on society and supplant biological sex as the means to distinguish men from women. “Transwomen are women”, the same groups chant.
That is disastrous for women keen to hold on to their sex-based rights, not that the organisers in Manchester seemed to care when they Tweeted, “Terfs get blocked; Trans rights are human rights.”
The impact on children is arguably worse, especially for those whose natural development is being damaged – maybe irreversibly – by puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones.
But the third group to suffer are transsexuals. Our name and our lives are being used to drive this campaign. At stake is our credibility, and our acceptance in society. While some trans people are true believers, others seem to be keeping their heads down, perhaps hoping it will all go away. The goal may have been to transition and then re-integrate into society without causing a fuss, but the mob in Manchester was making an almighty fuss. By staying quiet, we risk our rights and our credibility being usurped by that noisy rabble.
Transsexuals need to make it clear that angry mobs – on the streets or on social media – do not act in our name. But to do that we have to speak up. We need not say much, but we must be clear. What happened in Manchester was despicable, and we condemn it absolutely.
Debbie Hayton is a transgender teacher and journalist.
* This piece was first published by Lesbian and Gay News on 30 August 2021: Debbie Hayton: “Transsexuals need to make it clear that angry mobs – on the streets or on social media – do not act in our name. What happened in Manchester was despicable, and we condemn it absolutely.”
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