[Content note: this post deals with issues around gender, transphobia and gender policing. Stay safe.]
In utter defiance of the Prime Minister’s insistence that the left doesn’t want to have a policy debate, Labour has continued to release policies, and yesterday’s was rainbow-coloured.
But first, let me tell you a story.
A friend of mine is non-binary – they don’t fit into society’s strict categories of “man” or “woman”. (They gave me permission to talk about them in this post but I will not be naming them for reasons that should be obvious after Dirty Politics.)
They deal with a lot of anxiety just in day-to-day life. Every time they meet a new person, they have to have the conversation about their name and the pronouns they use (“they” and “their”, if it weren’t obvious yet), knowing that with most people, at best they’ll get a weird look. A step back from that they’ll get ignored and misgendered, because a total stranger feels entitled to make that decision for them. Or they’ll be abused – verbally, or physically.
My friend is going to be travelling internationally soon, and their only option is to travel on a passport which labels them as an M or an F – the gender they were assigned as a baby. Not a gender which necessarily “matches” the assumptions people make about them based on their name, how they look, how they dress, or what their voice sounds like. And my friend is, in their words, terrified by the very real possibilities of harassment, insult, or violence they might face at every step of the journey where someone in a position of power looks at their passport or pats down their body.
To me, it’s just bizarre to make a person go through all that hassle and anxiety and potential threat just because our paperwork only gives them two tick-boxes to choose between (and generally binds them to a “choice” made long before they had any say in the matter).
And that’s why Labour’s Rainbow Policy is so important. Although it covers a range of strategies to support GLBTI people – increased health funding, reforming our adoption system, addressing youth mental health and strengthening our human rights legislation – of course it’s the “three gender options on a passport” policy which gets all the media coverage.
That may seem minor to people who never have to deal with this kind of structural, ubiquitous prejudice, and undoubtedly it will be slammed as a “distraction” from the “real issues that matter to people” (but let’s consider who we’re defining as “people” when we say that).
But in a way, it is minor. It’s a tick-box on a form. And yet by making a tiny tweak to a bit of paperwork we can take a bit of stress out of people’s lives. We can make it clear that their lives have values, we can reaffirm that all people deserve to live with dignity and respect, we can stand tall as a country which doesn’t keep harming people when the fix is so little trouble to us.
Why would we not do that?
(PS. The Greens also have an impressive sexual identity and orientation policy.)
[Moderation note: any comments which question, challenge or insult any individual’s gender, gender identity, pronoun preference or right to exist will not be published and repeat offenders will be banned for a week.]