Trans Pride marches have grown as a response to the commercialisation of Pride and the marginalisation of trans people. Kelly Stubbs argues that every socialist and trade unionist should back the marches.
The current leadership contest within the Labour Party has recently been focused on issues of how to relate to the transgender community.
The sharp end of this has been centred on the way that a minority of those who see themselves as on the left oppose transgender rights, by falsely counterposing trans rights to cis-women’s rights.
This is a false opposition and the candidates who are arguing for support of all women’s rights — both trans and cis, must have our support.
However, beyond just the confines of the Labour Party leadership campaigns, there is a new growing movement of Trans Pride marches on the streets opposing transphobia.
Over the last couple of years a steadily growing number of these specifically Trans Prides have started springing up across the country. The very fact that they are Pride marches which are specifically for the transgender community shows how the trans community has felt a need to raise its own voice, independently from the established, wider LGBT+ Pride events.
There are a number of reasons for this, most obviously the dominance of commerciality over protest on many of these Pride events.
In Liverpool, our local Pride has renamed itself in corporate fashion as LCR Pride, complete with a CEO at its helm!
Related to this is the historical tendency to downplay or hide the trans community, in an effort to appeal to respectability. Although the modern LGBT+ movement started with trans activists at Compton’s Cafeteria and Stonewall riots, we have been swept steadily under the carpet since.
It is against this disenfranchisement from the wider LGBT+ movement that the trans community has started demanding Pride marches of our own.
As with any new development, there are conflicting ideas on how the movement goes forward. Again in Liverpool, we had sharp arguments in the run up to our inaugural march last year, about how to relate to the police; whether they should be invited or not, whether we could march safely without police protection, and so on.
The widespread marginalisation within the community means that the majority feel no affection for the status quo. Consequently, the police were not formally invited to the march.
Already in the build up to this, our second march, however, the old ideas of appealing to business are cropping up — one event is being built around the launch of a range of makeup!
These ideas can only take hold where socialists and trade unionists abdicate the ground to them. Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum and where we have not really put trans liberation onto the agenda of the labour and trade union movement, capital will attempt to reassert control of these fledgling Trans Prides.
For the current wave of Trans Prides to flourish and really challenge the transphobia of Trump and his Tory cronies on this side of the Atlantic, we need to bring the trans community within the labour movement. This means doing those mundane tasks of arguing with our siblings, passing union motions and bringing union banners in support of our local Trans Pride.
The initial motivation for Liverpool’s Trans Pride was as a response to transphobic stickers which had been plastered over the sculptures on a local beach one night.
Where one or two transphobes had gone out under the cover of darkness, we responded with a mass beach clear up, putting rubbish — whether transphobic or not! — into bins.
From the activists who met that day, we organised our first Trans Pride, which attracted well over 200 jubilant marchers. Without a police escort, we marched past the Wetherspoons in the centre of town and for our trouble received a cheer and round of applause from the drinkers.
For many of those involved, it was the first time they had not just walked, but strutted through the centre of Liverpool, without fear.
In the year that has passed since that first march, the local transphobic group has gone quiet. There are not even those mysterious transphobic leaflets turning up at local galleries or museums as there had been before.
The only real public profile they had was once again a stunt undertaken by a single person, where a tee shirt was put on a statue of a local Tory.
It is a strategy of getting people out on the street, as part of the organised working class, opposing the oppression of all women, whether trans or cis, which will outflank those who are trying to divide us. We must show solidarity on the streets for our transgender siblings.
Some Trans Prides are listed here. Look out for more in your area:
Trans Together, Leamington Spa, Saturday 7 March, Bedford Street, 2pm
Trans Pride Liverpool, Sunday 29 March, Derby Square, 12.30pm
Trans Pride Leeds, Friday 3 to Sunday 5 April, www.transprideleeds.org
Trans Pride Northern Ireland, Saturday 6 to Sunday 7 June, Belfast
Brighton Trans Pride, Saturday 18 to Sunday 19 July
London Trans+ Pride, Saturday 12 September, 12 noon