The battle to improve trans rights is, at its heart, about self-autonomy.
Trans rights dominate the media – but not for the best of reasons. Documentaries, interviews, discussion panels are all obsessed with sensationalising trans lives. It puts a spotlight on the community, at a time when since Brexit, hate crimes against queer people have gone through the roof. Yet, while these discussions are dressed in faux-concern about children and society, what they actually show is a sinister attempt to suppress freedom.
Those who say ‘no-platforming’ transphobic speakers are wilfully missing the point. For one thing, those speakers almost always get offered columns or a slot of BBC Radio 4 to spout their views. Yet, it’s about more than that. Trans rights are the battle for freedom. They are, at their core, about allowing people the right to freedom of expression. Transphobia is oppressive. It is also suppressive of freedom.
The right to self-define and live freely are the very essence of trans rights. Trans rights are so often feminist rights. Trans women’s rights are women’s rights, after all. However, so much of feminism is about gender equality (and that includes all genders, and all women) through freedom and liberation. This has seen a focus on abortion rights, for example or for women to be able to go to work, or just go about their daily lives in any which way we can. Bodily autonomy is essential, but so is the right to choose what to do with it, whether that means exerting control over which medical practices are performed or granted or choosing to carry out certain life choices. Feminism, in short, is about the freedom of women. This is inextricable from trans rights.
“The right to self-define and live freely are the very essence of trans rights”
Trans rights aren’t about anything particularly controversial. People should be able to express themselves how they want (and it’s important to remember that cis people may not present in a way gender roles might expect). Gender presentation is a crucial element to the argument of free speech. We cannot support free speech without supporting freedom of self-expression. Seeking a medical transition too is about freedom. Healthcare should facilitate us all to be happy and healthy. Some experience a clear need to undergo alterations to their physical self – but this again is true of cis people, and supported by cis people such as when cis women undergo their own breast impacts, so why can’t trans women?
There is also the persistent threat of being fired, or of not being able to find employment at all if trans people either do or don’t disclose their status to employers. In 2016, it was found that roughly half of trans people were unemployed. There are fears about how to present and what exactly to reveal. Whether employers will be suspicious, bigoted and will force trans people out of their work spaces. This is a serious issue of worker’s rights and yet it barely ever gets attention, even though it’s a huge barrier trans people must face. The right to exist is being ignored and blocking people from trying to obtain employment.
Transphobia harms free speech. Transphobia is a threat to our democracy, and for the freedom of our society. It is only through empowering and supporting trans people that we can truly be free. The right to self-define and to self-determine our lives is intrinsic and universal, but still that is being overridden in the name of ideology. If you support free speech then support trans rights.