Saturday, September 12th saw the second official Trans+ Pride take place in London, with demonstrators marching from Wellington Arch to Parliament Square. They were encouraged to wear and bring flowers while wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. With fear of arrests and police presence in mind, organizers confirmed that legal observers were present, as well as bust cards handed out. Trans+ Pride took place with the aim to demand many crucial rights for trans and non-binary people. These included legal recognition for non-binary people, the continuation of gender identity being a protected characteristic in terms of discrimination, and ending non-consensual intersex surgeries. It also stood as an opportunity to honour 23-year-old Black trans-femme Elie Che, a prominent figure in London’s queer community, who had recently died in New York.
Those attending Trans+ Pride were marching to assert the rights of trans people, addressing the fact that a third of transgender people report being discriminated against, found through a survey by Stonewall in 2018. Lucia Blayke, organizer of Trans+ Pride, stated that they had hopes that “Trans Pride will start conversations on health care, public safety, our suicide rates – which are through the roof – out mental health rates…” These sentiments were also central to the vigil held for Elie Che in Hampstead Heath earlier this month: “we will fight to make this world have the kindness and respect for Black trans women that it should’ve had for you.” Elie Che had expressed the pain surrounding the lack of health care available for trans people, and had previously addressed the fact that Black trans women have an average lifespan of 35 years.
The motivations of Trans+ Pride this year was a response to recent reports that the government is planning to abandon recent reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, which would have enabled trans people to self-identify, as reported by Attitude. Not only this, but many trans people had reported feeling unwelcome and often unsafe at LGBTQ+ Pride. In 2018, a group of trans exclusionary radical feminists stated that “transactivism erases lesbians,” as reported by the New Statesman. The hostility towards trans people at Pride not only makes the trans community feel unsafe, but it directly dishonours the memory of the trans people who led the formation of Pride back in 1969. When people could be arrested for doing drag, and police brutality towards LGBTQ+ people existed more outwardly, trans women and femmes of colour were integral in the resistance. Two key examples or resistance being Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.
In a time when influential public figures are actively discrediting trans identities and attacking their rights, Trans+ Pride needs to be celebrated and honoured in a meaningful way, allowing trans people to embrace their identities in a safe space. Not only this, but we cannot deny the political impact that Pride has had throughout history. This has been continued by Trans Pride, which on its first year, successfully influenced Wagamama to introduce gender-neutral toilets to 50 of their U.K. branches. Much like any collective display of protest and/or celebration of identity, Trans Pride has the potential to create meaningful change, and directly impact the lives of trans people within the U.K. In honour of Elie Che’s memory, we owe it to the trans community to embrace meaningful conversations regarding health care and public safety for trans people. We must provide them with the commitment that they have consistently shown towards progressive societal change, evidenced by the Stonewall riots, back in the 60s.
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