London’s trans community and their allies turned up in their droves for Trans+ Pride this Saturday, with more than three times as many protesters attending compared to last year’s inaugural event.
A 5,000-strong crowd gathered for the socially distanced occasion, marching from Wellington Arch through central London to protest the continued marginalisation of trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming people in the UK, before congregating at Parliament Square to demand answers and action from the government.
While London’s mainstream Pride events might be more parties than protests these days, those at Trans+ Pride had plenty to say. Top of the agenda was progressive reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), after the government missed its own deadline for responding to 2018’s GRA public consultation. Meanwhile, the rights of transgender youth to access healthcare and surgery are increasingly under threat, with Equalities Minister Liz Truss commenting in April that under-18s should be “protected from decisions… that are irreversible in the future”.
With the Black Lives Matter movement gathering pace over the summer, and transgender hate crimes on the rise in the UK, Trans+ Pride’s organisers also demanded an end to violence against Black trans women. Speakers paid emotional tributes to their friend Elie Che, a trans model and community leader who had recently moved from London to New York, and was found dead in the Bronx last month at the age of 23.
Organisers made sure that the event followed COVID guidelines throughout, dispensing masks and hand sanitiser to the crowd, but police soon threatened those on stage with a £10,000 fine for organising a gathering of more than 30 people, forcing it to end earlier than planned.
At such a pivotal time for trans rights in the UK, London’s second Trans+ Pride had a sense of urgency. A few attendees shared why they thought it was important to show up.
‘One of the only ways to get what we need is to show up and protest’
“I’m here because transgender and non-binary people still don’t have the rights we deserve. It might seem like things are changing for the better for us, but while there might be a bit more visibility and a few more gender neutral restrooms in certain places, I feel like where it counts, in politics, things are getting worse – and I think they’ll probably continue to get worse before they get better.
“We need to be protected in law, and it shouldn’t be so difficult to have your gender on documents. So that’s why I’m here. I think one of the only ways to really get what we need is to show up and protest.” – Atrix
‘Transphobia has been allowed to run rampant in society’
“I came down today because the landscape for trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary people around the world is totally unacceptable. Just this year we’ve seen the GRA plans scrapped, so many Black trans people have been murdered in the US, Hungary has passed a bill that means trans people can't even self-identify as their real gender anymore, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” – Prishita
‘The last year has been really confusing for trans people’
“The last year has been really confusing for trans people. We've been waiting for answers from the government after the GRA consultation, and we didn't get the answers that we should have got. We all put our voices out there and wanted to be listened to, and I don't think we have been, so that’s why we’re here, to try and get them to listen to us.
“I’ve got a big queer family that I want to be here to represent, and I thought it was important to be here today, to be together, to stand up for our rights, and to be with all my trans siblings.” – Paddy
‘We’re here, we matter and we’re fabulous, incredible beings’
“I thought it was important to show up today because trans people need to be visible. We need to show that we’re a strong community and stand up for ourselves. I believe we need to be loud and vocal, so our needs are taken note of, as well as just being more inclusive with each other, because there’s strength in numbers, and the common thing we share is our trans experience.
“I think a lot of people fear transness, so they like to put us down or shun us so that we don’t have a voice. We need to show that we’re here, we matter and we’re fabulous, incredible beings. Embrace us, because there’s a lot you can learn from us.” – Conn
‘They’re hurting future generations by not allowing us freedom’
From left to right: Theo and Rex
“I’ve been showing up for every Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives protest, but the reason I’m here today is that the government was supposed to reform the GRA and they haven’t – and the prospects for trans rights in the future now seem definitely worse. Recently, they were talking about removing access to support for trans youth up to the age of 18, so I’m here to make sure that the younger generation don’t get fucked over.” – Rex.
“It’s about protecting trans kids. If I had known I was trans from an earlier age, I would have saved myself so many years of being miserable and not knowing why. Telling kids that they're wrong, and that what they're feeling isn't right because they're too young to feel it, is bullshit. They’re hurting future generations by not allowing them that freedom.” – Theo.
‘We need to stand against transphobic legislation’
“It's important to have Trans Pride not only to celebrate and show that we're here for each other and that we love each other, but to stand against transphobic legislation and to send a message to the government that we’re here to fight back and we won’t take it lying down.
“Things are getting significantly worse for trans people here in the UK. For a start, the average waiting time to get your first appointment at the Gender Identity Clinic is something like three-and-a-half years now, compared to the 18-week average for the NHS overall, so even getting basic healthcare is so hard.
“Meanwhile, the rhetoric that JK Rowling and all of her followers are putting forward is that they're dishing out hormones left, right and centre – and it's just not the case. The whole Gender Clinic system needs to be better funded and actually run by queer or trans people, so that trans people get the support we need, rather than being made to feel like there’s something wrong with us.” – Xoey
‘In reality, we’re the most compassionate and loving community there is’
“I think we need Trans Pride to highlight that our community needs solidarity and compassion. This year there's been a lot of active and aggressive oppression from our government.
“We've had the threat of our under-18s being stopped from having access to medical help or surgeries, and we've also had unfortunately the communication that we will not be able to self identify our gender [one of the aims of GRA reform]. The Tory government is hiding behind the guise that they are here for our rights, that they're here to support our youth, when in actual fact they’re leaving so many questions unanswered.
“We were promised in 2018 that we would see reform of the GRA, but Liz Truss made it very clear back in April that she wouldn’t be here for trans views. There’s a hatred of our community, and it’s fuelled by fear and scapegoating. We’re seen as predators, or as psychopaths, when in reality we’re the most compassionate and loving community there is.” – Alexis.
‘The Gender Recognition Act should have been amended years ago’
“I'm here to show support and solidarity to our trans siblings. There are so many things from the past that are holding trans people back, and a lot needs to change. The Gender Recognition Act should have been amended years ago, and I think that’s the first thing that needs to happen urgently. I think there are elements of society that are becoming more understanding, but in general we really need more inclusivity. And we need more Gender Clinics. I’m from Manchester, and there’s a high population of trans people there, so realistically we need one set up there. I want everyone to know that we’re not just here for ourselves, we’re here for the queer community because we need to win this fight.” – Jess.
‘There’s such hysteria that trans people are predators’
From left to right: Lewis and Lucia
“Trans Pride is really important, because we have an Equalities Minister who doesn’t care about trans people and our equality. We need a progressive reform of the GRA, we need to fight for an end to violence against trans people, especially Black trans women, and we need to see an end to mutilation of intersex children at birth and to give non-binary people the right to legally identify themselves.
“From the outside it might look like things are getting better because we have more visibility within the media, but actually we’re suffering just as hard. There’s such hysteria that trans people are predators. It’s a fantasy and a fairytale, and people who think that have probably never actually met a trans person.” – Lewis.