There is a massive storm hitting trans people around the world. Constructed as a global movement with the sole purpose of denying trans people’s right to exist, it disguises structural discrimination, systemic violence and institutional exclusion as ‘social justice’.
Although it may seem like a new issue, attacks against trans people have been perpetrated by Trans Exclusionary Radical ‘Feminists’ (or TERFs), otherwise known as anti-trans extremists, since the 1970’s. Today, these attacks are back with a renewed fury. They are disguised as ‘discussions’ hosted by universities, or fearmongering ‘campaigns’ financed by conservative donors and spread by mainstream and social media. The failure of cis-led human rights organizations to refute these tactics results in governments and policy makers implementing systems that deny or limit trans people’s right to exist. This deafening silence fails to call out attacks justified by ‘religion’ that target ‘gender ideology’, thus perpetuating hate crimes against trans people. This creates a perfect storm that places trans people’s lives at well-documented risk.
This storm is impacting regions all over the globe: the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, to name just a few. It manifests in different ways: denying access to legal gender recognition by limiting changes to birth certificates and national identity documents; threatening trans people’s access to gendered facilities in a variety of public institutions including schools, hospitals and shelters, which affects trans women and trans feminine people in particular; placing trans people’s lives at documented risk in detention facilities; re-pathologizing trans people by portraying diverse gender identities and expressions as symptoms of mental disorders. Campaigns are created to demonize trans people as ‘gender-pretenders’ or ‘puppets of the patriarchy’ in the name of ‘feminism’, while the media perpetrates false stories that depict trans people invading personal and political spaces. All of these are symptoms of the same problem that justifies socio-economic exclusion of, and social and institutional violence against, trans people.
Of particular concern is the misuse of international human rights language to ‘justify’ these actions. Twisting human rights language to uphold stigma, discrimination and violence undermines the access of all people to human rights mechanisms. It betrays the intended meaning and purpose of human rights, by attacking its core aims of universality and indivisibility. By restricting access to power structures within human rights mechanisms, it upholds discriminatory distribution of resources. Human rights and non-discrimination provisions exist precisely to prevent majority groups having voting power over minority rights – human rights are not a zero-sum game. There are not two sides to upholding human rights, only one: to protect everyone from stigma, discrimination and violence.
We want to express our wholehearted solidarity to all trans activists resisting this storm. We see you, we hear you, we support you. We know of your courage, of your exhaustion and of your need for solidarity from everywhere.
We call upon cis allies working for progressive movements to join our struggle against transphobia while respecting our leadership. We call upon donors to fund trans-led resistance. We call upon LGBT, human rights and feminist organizations to publicly renounce anti-trans extremist-propaganda and its consequences. We call upon governmental institutions to close their doors to fascism in all its manifestations, including attacks against trans people in the name of ‘feminism’ and ‘religion’.
We call upon trans people to join together and collectively organize against transphobia, to find strength in our shared vulnerability, and to resist and survive.
The GATE Team