A debate was recently started when I was arranging a Transgender Day of Remembrance service in my home town. It was planned as the culmination of Transgender Awareness Week where transgender people reach out into the wider community to make all people more aware of the issues which transgender people face every day of our lives and to this end our TDoR event was planned to be open to everybody in the hope that by being inclusive we could show people the tragic and horrific end results of unbridled transphobia.
Invitations were sent out to various groups like Samaritans, Torbay Healthwatch, Torbay Community Development Trust, Torbay and South Devon Healthcare Trust, Devon and Cornwall Police and local politicians of all parties – for these are the people who can make a difference to the lives of transgender people in a positive way. All have responded and willingly accepted our invitations. The Devon and Cornwall Police even offered to help support our event by donating some funding to allow us to provide food and refreshments for everybody attending and the local Healthcare Trust kindly donated their conference facilities for the evening at no charge.
One local politician, who incidentally is fully supportive of LGB and, in this case, perhaps more importantly, T rights (and who also walked out of a council meeting because he was refused leave by the Chair of the Council, to ask questions about violence against women and children in the Torbay area) accepted the invitation.
A furore of condemnation from certain people erupted because of this.
Purely because he represents UKIP as a local councillor. Many of the remarks said that he should be excluded (despite his previous support for LGBT rights). That he had no right to even be in the room. One person remarked that she could not even sit in the same room as somebody who represented UKIP.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I disagree with the policies of UKIP vehmently and many in that party are transphobic, homophobic and racist individuals. However, don’t these remarks sound very similar to those from the anti-trans cabal activists or to the many people who would exclude us from any public space – the politics of hatred, the politics of denying us our right to be who we are? Is it not better to have somebody inside that party arguing for support for us against the people who wish to deny us of our human rights? Surely we as a community are better than that? We decry people who refuse to listen to our voices and reject our arguments for inclusion for being bigots – if we start doing the same and excluding people (in spite of them being supportive of our demand for equality) does this not make us just as bigoted as they are?
To enable positive change we have to engage with people outside our community and this includes politicians (of all parties) and if people want to learn and then act to help us achieve better healthcare, better housing, safe and secure employment then I, personally, welcome this – as I would hope that most fair minded people would.
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