UCU Commons Statement on the Labour Party, Transphobia, and LGBTQ+ Solidarity

The Progress Pride Flag by Daniel Quasar

Content warning: some transphobic language is quoted in this statement.

UCU Commons writes today to stand in solidarity with all our trans, non-binary and gender diverse colleagues, comrades and students. We vehemently oppose all forms of transphobia and queerphobia, and we recognise that biphobia, homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia all amount to the same thing: bigotry that incites violence against any and all expressions of gender and/or sexuality. We note that the same arguments – that trans women are a danger to cis, straight women – have been previously and homophobically used against lesbian and bisexual women. This is not to mention the hostility experienced by trans men, non-binary, genderqueer and agender people, who are often overlooked. 

It feels important to reiterate how appalling we find attacks on the LGBTQ+ community to be, particularly in light of recent comments made by elected members of the Labour Party, as well as by numerous columnists, media commentators, academics, and others who foment an atmosphere of hostility towards trans people in the UK. As a collective of LGBTQ+ people and allies, our fates are indivisible. We stand together or we are nothing. An attack on one part of our community is an attack on the whole. The Labour Party’s apparent tolerance of trans- and biphobic views from a sitting MP prompts us to ask whether we, other groups, charities, or organisations, or indeed trade unions, can currently support or canvas for the Labour Party while it platforms harmful narratives and hostility towards trans and bi people. How can the party that passed the Equality Act look people in the eye and still ask for their trust today on issues such as gender identity, access to healthcare for LGBTQ+ people, or hate speech, when that same party refuses to disown such hateful and bigoted views? With up to 50% of trans people in the UK scared to use a public bathroom, and violence against trans people on the rise, how can the Labour Party stand idly by, or worse, defend comments labelling trans women as ‘male-bodied biological men’, or social media activity that likens trans people to ‘cosplayers’? 

We further reject any suggestion that any form of trans- or queerphobic hate speech are acceptable expressions of ‘free speech’ or ‘academic freedom’. We celebrate the recent decision to comprehensively overturn Bell vs. Tavistock, and we note how important the ‘Gillick competence’ test of informed and reasoned consent was to the court’s decision to allow people under the age of 16 to make this important healthcare decision. We note that trans people have long been at the forefront of the struggle for bodily autonomy, and that any constraints on this right threaten to jeopardise it for all. 

We want to end by stating plainly that LGBTQ+ people have the right to public space, to be in bathrooms, education, pools, gyms, theatres, everywhere. LGBTQ+ people have the same rights to dignity, respect and bodily autonomy as any other members of society – not simply tolerance. This has long been the case, these are settled rights in UK law. By artificially, and incorrectly, framing trans women/people as a threat to women or other LGBTQ+ people, certain individuals now attempt to undermine and remove these settled, hard-fought-for, rights. We will not allow it and we stand in solidarity with others who oppose it. 

This statement was written on 21st September 2021 by LGBTQ+ members of UCU Commons, and allies.

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