When I told friends that I was considering wading into this discussion, they told me to stay away. Countless careless public figures have had their careers decimated, as they saunter through the minefield that constitutes transgender discussion. But that is precisely why I felt compelled to write this. Without a doubt, the majority of the university community will feel the same as I do, acknowledging in private their concerns. However, their thoughts will remain consigned to their kitchens and the quiet of empty buses. If you do not cast your ideas into the public sphere, you will cease to think them.
This article does not support the idea that there are only two genders. Indeed, I believe that non-binary genders exist. Trans people deserve the rights that many of us take for granted, and the state should do far more to support them through the daily struggles they encounter. It is crucial that the world comes to understand that the transgender community are not infringing upon the liberty of others, and should be provided protections from the government that enable them to live emancipatory lives. What I hope to convey to readers already in agreement with me is the idea that discussion underpins a progressive society, and that the only way that members of any community can understand one another is by walking through contentious issues. This is the only path to true liberation.
Warwick SU’s recent statement has been the inspiration for this piece. Their Facebook post stemmed from a poll conducted by Warwick PPL Society, which questioned non-binary genders. I don’t think that the SU were necessarily wrong to ask the society to remove the poll. They should ensure that trans people, as a marginalised group, are recognised as legitimate members of society. What worries me is the SU’s claim that trans issues are ‘not up for debate’. Whilst I would love this to be the case, such as in the way that homosexuality and race related matters are handled, society has not yet reached this consensus. This narrow minded attitude will rather be detrimental to the oppressed groups that the SU wish to help.
What worries me is the SU’s claim that trans issues are ‘not up for discussion’
Whether the SU like it or not, there is a massive grey area in society when it comes to trans issues. A 2016 poll from The Fawcett Society, a woman’s equality party, showed that a worrying 56% of Brits thought that there were only two genders. Despite this, I believe that the majority of those people are not ‘Apache helicopter’ trolls, but individuals willing to be persuaded. They include our mothers and fathers, who have grown up embracing changes in attitude towards sexuality. I commend the SU for fighting for the trans community, but establishing what they see as an unquestionable truth whilst the majority of society do not agree will only seek to alienate people.
The SU does a valuable service in providing further education through trans awareness sessions, however this is wasted on students as many parts of the SU have created a toxic ‘group think’ atmosphere that puts off students from engaging with these issues. Rather than realising that it will take time for people to arrive at the right conclusion, an ‘us vs them’ morality is imbued, with those that have understandable questions surrounding how this ‘all works in practice’ being seen as impure in some way.
Furthermore, those of us who are already supporters of trans rights will be affected by this ridiculous ‘no debate’ notion. The majority of the student community want to see trans people integrated into society effectively as equals, but there is no definitively correct way to do that. There is no consensus on the Gender Recognition Act. Indeed, the rights of trans people when it comes to all medical insurance, female short lists, prisons and female only loans (to name a few) constitute huge grey areas within public and social spheres.
If you want to discuss a contentious issue (which any progressive society would) with a large population, you are bound to offend someone. My thoughts and speech are far from perfect, and I stumble around with my ignorant utterances. Luckily we live in a society where I can be corrected, and refine my ideas, fortifying my premise. My thoughts can be rebutted with facts and arguments which leave my position philosophically inconsistent. The SU needs to facilitate an environment in which questions can be asked.
Many parts of the SU have created a toxic ‘group think’ atmosphere that puts off many people from engaging with these issues
No doubt some perspectives on these questions will be offensive. But the road to progression is paved with this. Trans people deserve to integrate into our legal and economic system as much as anyone else, but the right kind of transition will only come about as a result of active discussion. Most of the cisgender community, myself included, are understandably confused around how our legal and political systems should treat trans people. We live in a society where traditional gender roles play a massive part in underpinning our society, and embracing new understanding around gender identity isn’t going to happen overnight.
Nobody is gaining clarity from accusations of transphobia when they ask these questions. Deep down, everybody knows that it is legitimate to wonder how we order a society that has always functioned with these traditionalised perspectives to accommodate an oppressed community. But the silent majority don’t make the decisions. The loud minority turn out at SU elections, and set this agenda. Their tribal nature only strengthens, as they hurl insults across the cracks that have divided our society. I know that this piece by no means solves any issues for anyone thinking about trans rights. However, I think it is vital that trans allies such as myself who do not know all the answers come forward and ask questions around issues that they don’t understand. That is the only way we will cultivate an inclusive community.
As I check my Facebook, I have received yet more messages saying that this is not my finest idea. I do not claim to speak for the trans community; I speak my thoughts only for myself. It is time for everybody else to do the same.