As the May 2015 Westminster General Election approaches in the UK, civil rights activists are reaching out to all parliamentary candidates, asking them to pledge their support for the Trans Manifesto.
The proposal’s website was launched on March 30, the result of a collaboration between fifteen transgender rights groups in 2013. Transgender rights are lagging significantly behind LGB rights in the nation, but activists are hopeful that social acceptance will begin to translate into legal progress.
According to its page on the LGBT Consortium, the manifesto has three key aspects:
Respect trans people as equal citizens with equal rights
There is a feeling that trans peoples’ rights are sometimes subsidiary to those enjoyed by others. The passing of same-sex marriage legislation means that trans people who married in England, Scotland and Wales no longer need to end their marriage should they wish to seek gender recognition. However in England and Wales the process requires the written consent of the spouse—the so-called spousal veto. Married trans people in Northern Ireland still have to end their marriage prior to gender recognition. The Equality Act seemed to reverse some of the protections previously enjoyed by trans people, with some controversial exemptions specified.
Empower trans individuals to be authorities on all aspects of their own lives
Provision of healthcare to enable trans people to transition to their new gender has been enshrined in case law since 1997, but many see the NHS process, usually provided through Gender Identity Clinics, as demeaning. The process of gender recognition requires medical reports, meaning that many have no alternative to the NHS process. However recent statements from NHS leaders indicate an acceptance that people who live with long-term conditions, such as gender dysphoria, quickly become experts with knowledge that matches or even exceeds that of medics. The gender recognition process also indicates that the state owns your gender, with trans people having to convince the state to change it. Those who don’t see themselves as male or female (non-binary people) are also becoming more visible, but those two genders remain the only ones recognised in law and in government statistics and documents.
Develop diverse, representative, realistic and positive portrayals of trans individuals
Trans people feel that media coverage has often been exploitative and sensational, rather than reflecting their real lives or issues that they face. Representations of trans women dominate, leading to the relative invisibility of trans men and non-binary people. Government could take a lead in de-exoticising trans people by including images of and stories from trans people in publications that don’t necessarily have any trans focus.
Conspicuously absent from the list is healthcare. LGBT Consortium trustee Helen Belcher told the New Statesman that improving transgender medical care remains vital, but the Department of Health said “they have no budgetary power” to make policy decisions for the National Health Service.
The site provides voters with a central location in which to look up which candidates have announced their support, which have declined, and which have yet to be contacted. Out of 3,675 candidates logged, as of this writing only 131 candidates have been contacted regarding the manifesto, and only 18 have given their support—but that’s where the public comes in.
Another page on the manifesto’s website encourages UK residents to contact their local candidates, asking them to pledge their support. Contact details for each candidate are provided, as well as an example email and tweet.
LGBT Consortium CEO Paul Roberts said that the proposal “shows that trans rights are increasing in importance. We’d urge everyone to contact candidates in their constituency and ask them for their support of the three principles.”