This month, we have a historic opportunity to improve trans rights. The government is currently consulting the public on whether it should make it easier for trans people to have their gender legally recognised through the Gender Recognition Act.
On Tuesday evening, VICE UK and Stonewall headed to Platform Bar at Central Saint Martins UAL in Kings Cross, to kick off our run of Recognise Me signing events. What does that mean? Well, that we're calling on anybody who cares about LGBTQ rights to respond to the government consultation on trans rights in favour of reforming the law. And all that really entails is filling out a quick form online.
VICE UK and Stonewall reps ran a drop-in session with laptop stands to guide people through the questions, To My Trans Sisters author Charlie Craggs brought her touring Nail Transphobia pop-up salon to the bar with free nails for guests, and photographer Myah Jeffers manned a photo stand for guests to get their pictures taken to share on social media as part of the Recognise Me campaign. We also gave out vinyl stickers, T-shirts and business cards for people to hand out or use themselves to spread awareness of the campaign. This is an important time, that we may well look back on in the history of how this country humanises the trans experience, and gives trans people equality.
We spoke to some of the people there, to find out why reforming the Gender Recognition Act (mostly, to make it less complicated, expensive and bureaucratic) matters to them.
Jia, London College of Fashion student
“I just feel that I had to show support for them, I know that trans people have a hard life. It’s 2018 now, I think society is changing and I can help that. I don’t know many trans people but it’s important to place yourself in their shoes. Gender Recognition is very serious and society has its rules and we have to follow them, so I think they should be simple and practical and not so annoying. Human beings should not have to prove that they’re human beings.”
Lily, Central Saint Martins animation student
“I’m non-binary, and one of the things about the GRA is that it also asks to say that gender non-binary people are valid and you can have forms and passports and stuff that recognise that. That’s something I run up against all the time. I want to support my trans pals too – to make our lives easier. I don’t want to have to explain that my gender exists. I know this won’t change anything tonight but it’s a start. Going through secondary school in the wrong gender is bullshit and no kids should have to do that. It’d be cool if we were given the rights to be experts in our own identities, and no one has a right to decide that for us.”
Katayoun, University of the Arts, London student union welfare officer
“I’m trying to get a new passport at the moment, and I’m dreading it because I don’t want to pay all that money and then get a gender I don’t identify with on it. I want my gender as a non-binary person to be recognised. It’s recognition of intersectionality and the fact that often things are complicated. I feel like it’s also important because there is a lot of transphobia from within the LGBT community. A lot of TERF activists are lesbians and are awful towards trans people. If this becomes a government issue this may be less of a problem. At the moment people say non-binary people are deluded and making it up. It’s like when women wanted the right to vote and were told they’re not competent enough to do it. There’s this idea that in the UK we’re more progressive but it’s just not true. This is a really important moment in time.”
Charlie Craggs, founder of Nail Transphobia pop-up nail salon
“Reforming the GRA would make life easier for trans people in such a basic way. It’s just going to make accessing things that are hard now easier for us – the same for us as for cis people. If you’re able to self-identify via documents and things like that, it means you don’t have to prove yourself. I think cis people should care about responding to the GRA consultation because it’s not about trans people, it’s just about people. We’re all people. It’s not about the fact that we’re trans, it’s about the fact that we’re human too. You don’t have to be part of a community to care about human rights.”
Shane, UAL student
“It’s important that cis people support trans people because it makes our lives easier, by understanding and recognising our identities. As trans people, it’s more than welcome to see people engaging with this topic."
Bo, web developer
“As a gay woman myself I just feel that it’s important to support to support my non-binary and transgender siblings. Gaining more of an understanding of the Gender Recognition Act, I can see why it does need to have a change, just to bring it into modern times. Some of the things that exist in the [current] Act shouldn’t really apply in today’s modern times.”
Gregory, UAL student
“I think it’s important for people to stand up for trans rights because of the fact that transgender and non-binary people in general represent a minority that's often overlooked by society. So standing up for trans rights is acknowledging a section of the population that is often seen in an alien light. It’s important to normalise transgender and non-binary people.”
Photos by Myah Jeffers.