Today we went out to a rally to remember Leelah Alcorn, the young trans woman who recently took her life after her parents attempted to put her through conversion therapy. In her suicide note Leelah had called for laws to be introduced to end this torture of trans youth, and that was the initial focus for the day.
The event had been called by the city’s queer students, acting autonomously to hold an event for their community. It was widely reported that both the council and the police had done everything they could to try hinder the event, from lying about legal requirements to demonstrate, making up the need for insurance and a list of named wardens, right through to forcing changes in the date and location. Despite this the folks organising the day powered through and the attendance was strong. The newly formed Glasgow Food Not Bombs came down with scran and donations were taken for local LGBT Youth projects.
We were also involved in chasing off some SWP scumbags who claimed they were attending in solidarity. They did this in front of one trans women they had attacked on George Square and one of our members who they had attempted to drag off while threatening to knock their teeth out, both times for calling out their members involvement covering up rape by Martin Smith (the specifics of the case are linked from here, here, and here). They bold-face denied their part in rape apologism, and at the same time were trying to say they were there as individuals while handing out fliers for an SWP front group! They really are a shameless cult that have no concept of solidarity except as a word employed to further their party.
Our group was offered a spot to give a short talk and while it went off script a couple of times (due to nerves, emotions, and the freezing cold weather), here is what was being read from at the time:
“My name is Tanya and I am part of the Anarchist Federation of Britain.
Many of the signs brought here today call for human rights and legal protections to be put in place by the institutions that target us with their violence today. Leelah Alcorn’s own final message asks specifically for laws to prevent the torture that is conversion therapy. These calls are understandable and I am glad when things are made easier for us.
However I want put forward a warning: that setting our sights on changes in the law will only benefit a privileged few. We already have laws against murder and yet trans women are killed at an alarming rate. We have laws against child abuse, but our young siblings are still driven to suicide due to neglect.
Laws should not, and can not, be our goal. Anything that can be granted – rights, laws, or charity – can be eroded or turned against us. We can see this with marriage equality, and again with the push for acceptance in the military. Laws are compromises made by a government trying to break up a strong movement.
We need to go beyond the law.
Our goal has to be for liberation from gendered oppression, and nothing less.
This is a struggle that can only be won by finding others who we share an interest with, and organising collectively, first to understand the causes of our oppression, and then in taking action directly at their roots, to remove them for ourselves.
However, at the same time we must recognise that this is a fight that will involve many different groups facing different problems, and it is vital to our struggle to build solidarity across the working class as a whole.
We can see this in our shared history:
The huge waves of self-organisation and militant direct action used to face down the AIDS epidemic and Section 28. The solidarity between inner city queers and the miners that had a real chance of victory against all the state’s institutions. And going all the way back to when black and latina trans women fought back during police instigated riots (most famously at the Stonewall Inn). Remember that these same women would go on to form organisations like STAR – the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries – organisations that would lay the groundwork for the gains that trans and queer people have made today.
My final thought then is to take a look into my own experience and those of my friends, and look at the physical manifestations of gendered oppression. Our problems come from social isolation, medical gate-keeping, and crippling poverty. We’re estranged from family, constantly forced into dangerous situations, and denied well-being in our lives that leaves us in a precarious position both physically and mentally.
We need to make the space for one another to breath. We need to make the space to understand the causes of our problems. And we need to make the space to find freedom in our lives.