I believe strongly in transgender rights. I recently posted a Twitter poll in response to Jeremy Corbyn rightfully saying that transgender women should be included in all-women shortlists. The poll has received more than 8,200 votes and 64% agree with Jeremy Corbyn:
I strongly believe in transgender rights and agree with Jeremy Corbyn that transgender women should be allowed on all-women shortlists – but what are your views?
Should transgender women be allowed on all-women shortlists?
Please retweet after casting your vote. Thank you
— Socialist Voice #GTTO (@SocialistVoice) January 28, 2018
Shortly after posting the poll, I began to receive abusive responses from people who were tweeting transphobic comments and attacking me for interfering with women’s rights. I was told, more than once, that as a man I have no right to comment on women’s rights. But what really horrified me was when I discovered that many of the offensive, bigoted and transphobic comments were coming coming from the LGBT+ community, and it has certainly been an eye-opener.
Every year the LGBT+ community comes together at Pride events, giving the impression that the community is strong and united. This could not be further from the truth.
My Twitter poll had responses from members of the LGBT+ community saying that the ‘T’ should be dropped from LGBT because transgender people are mentally ill; other people said transgender women are basically men who women’s clothes. Other comments included claims that transgender people are more likely to be sex offenders which is why transgender women should not be allowed to use women’s toilets or changing rooms because they pose a risk to women. And I even had lesbians who hijacked my Twitter poll and turned the entire discussion into lesbianism and attacked transgender women.
Some of the responses were very aggressive, and I even had transgender men and women attack me for posting the poll. They did not appreciate me talking about transgender issues, nor did they appreciate me standing up for my transgender friends. Transgender men also complained that they are being discriminated against because they cannot join shortlists.
I suggested a compromise: LGBT+ shortlists, inclusive of transgender women instead of them joining all-women shortlists. Some people liked my suggestion, others condemned it. LGBT and BAME shortlists would enable more people from minority groups to get involved with politics, something that I would really like to see. The purpose of all-women shortlists was to put an end to male-dominated politics. For far too long politics was dominated by white men from privileged backgrounds and many of them were completely out of touch. We still have some of these old relics in politics, but thankfully they are gradually disappearing.
As a gay man I am horrified by the hate, division and transphobia in the LGBT+ community. We are brothers and sisters, we should love, respect and protect one another. Our community faces prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis and the only way we can counteract this is by uniting. Transgender people have just as much right to be part of the LGBT+ community as lesbians, gays and bisexuals; we should not be endorsing the same divisive rhetoric as the far-right.
A transgender woman is a woman. A transgender man is a man. And like the rest of us they are human beings with feelings. And they have human rights.
Campaigners have risked their lives fighting for LGBT rights; some have died. We owe it to them to come together as a community and unite. Unity is strength.