The right is targeting trans people—and it’s our job as socialists to stand with the oppressed. The Tory government ditched plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) last September despite the consultation showing overwhelming support for change. Reforms would have made it easier for trans people to self-identify, rather than forcing them to go through a lengthy and often distressing process.
And in May the Tories reaffirmed that they wouldn’t acknowledge “non binary” as a legally-recognised gender identity.
In the same month, then equalities minister Liz Truss pushed for Whitehall departments to withdraw from a Stonewall workplace programme. Her move came after the charity took a strong stance on trans rights, rightly stating, “Trans women are women.”
The new equalities minister, Kemi Badenoch, has mocked trans rights. “So now it’s not just about being free to marry who you want,” she complained in a leaked recording, “you now want to have men using women’s bathrooms.”
This state-sponsored bigotry fuels attacks against LGBT+ people. Homophobic hate crime reports trebled in Britain in the last six years—and transphobic hate crime reports quadrupled in the same period.
This is the background to the trans students’ protests against professor Kathleen Stock at the University of Sussex.
Students are rightly outraged about Stock’s views—for instance, saying, “Many trans women are still males with male genitalia.”
Trans women are women. There is no contradiction between women’s rights and trans rights, between fighting for women’s liberation and trans liberation.
Trans rights are not a threat to women’s rights. The threat comes from sexist institutions—such as the police—that uphold a deeply sexist system. They come from the right wing and bigots—whether it’s attacks on a woman’s right to choose in Texas and Poland or Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s defence of “the traditional family”.
The right’s attacks on women’s rights and trans rights go hand in hand.
We stand in solidarity with the trans students and workers at the University of Sussex (UoS) and we support their right to protest against transphobia.
Protests against Stock aren’t “censorship” or a threat to free speech. Free speech means nothing if it doesn’t come with the ability to exercise that right collectively—and that’s what Sussex students are doing.
Some students’ placards have raised the slogan, “Sack Stock.”
We believe calls for workers to be sacked should be reserved for those who pose an organised far right threat.
The UCU union branch at UoS has put out a strong statement in solidarity with trans students. It also makes clear “we do not endorse the call for any worker” to be sacked and “oppose all forms of bullying, harassment, and intimidation of staff and students”.
Yet the Sussex UCU branch is coming under attack for its statement. Why? Because some of those who hold up the Stock case as a battle over “free speech” and “academic freedom” are not primarily interested in defending either. They also want to defend the right to say transphobic things without challenge and consequence.
It tails a broader strategy by the Tories and right wing pundits who pose as free speech warriors when pushing bigotry.
There is a serious threat to free speech—and it come from the Tories and the state. It comes from the protest-smashing Police Bill and the Higher Education Bill, which seeks to defend the rights of bigots on campuses. It comes from the likes of Tory MP Jonathan Gullis, who demanded teachers that use the term “white privilege” be referred to the Prevent programme. The threats do not come from a “woke left” or trans activists on campus.
We stand with trans and non-binary people and send solidarity to our comrades in Sussex Student Union and Sussex UCU.
Signed by Socialist Workers Party (SWP) members on trade union national executive committees (NEC):
Pura Ariza, UCU NEC
Mark Abel, UCU NEC
Bee Hughes, UCU NEC
Richard McEwan, UCU NEC
Saira Weiner, UCU NEC
Sean Vernell, UCU NEC
Warren Chambers, NEU NEC
Chris Denson, NEU NEC
Jess Edwards, NEU NEC
Debs Gwynn, NEU NEC
Simon Murch, NEU NEC
Jon Reddiford, NEU NEC
Stefan Simms, NEU NEC
Sheena Wheatley, NEU NEC
Karen Reissmann, Unison NEC (pc)
Liz Wheatley, Unison NEC (pc)
Helen Davies, Unison NEC (pc)
Sandy Nicoll, Unison NEC (pc)
Caroline Johnson, Unison NEC (pc)
Julia Mwaluke, Unison NEC (pc)
Marianne Owens, PCS NEC
Paul Williams, PCS NEC