“Labour stands for everyone, and everyone has the right to be who they are.” pic.twitter.com/3AvKBz0RpS
— Paul L. McGowan 🏳️🌈 (@PaulLMcGowan) September 25, 2019
If you’ve been to Labour Party Conference, you’ll know standing at the podium after 5 days of drinking and debate is the last thing you’d want to do. This year, though, I was acutely aware that many of my trans siblings were not comfortable at conference. Material was spread that denied their right to assert who they were, and a meeting was held by groups known for denying trans women are women – a threatening presence at conference to our trans comrades.
If racist or sexist material had been spread at conference, it would have been called out. It was, in the case of an antisemitic cartoon. However, apart from one solidarity speech from another delegate from Bristol, no one was speaking out for our trans siblings. As LGBT+ officer on Open Labour exec, I felt a duty to speak out. I was particularly rain-bedraggled that day, but I couldn’t let conference end without showing solidarity.
I felt terrified speaking in front of a room full of people (and the BBC), especially as I could not know their reaction. I was incredibly pleased to see people clapping and standing up in support.
My Twitter mentions have been a dark place for the last few days. I have repeatedly been called ‘stupid’, ‘handmaiden’, ‘liar’. My personal favourite is ‘did the men give you a cookie for being a good little girl’. I muted and refused to reply. To my horror, but not my surprise, my mentions were quickly filled with people attacking trans women thanking me for solidarity.
I will take the vitriol thrown at me because, while it makes me anxious, it does not attack my identity. For every spiteful tweet sent to me, my trans sisters get a moment’s respite. My mental health was impacted, but I am now all the more determined to stand in solidarity. I have only begun to appreciate what my sisters deal with on a daily basis because of who they are, and I invite all to do the same. We need to normalise speaking out for trans rights to make the world a safer place for all. Put your pronouns in your bio if you’re cis, call out transphobia when you see it, and make space for trans siblings to speak out. I thank publications like the Social Review that raise trans voices, and give space for allies to stand in solidarity. Labour must be for everyone, and everyone has a right to be who they are.
I’ve transcribed the full text of my speech below, for those who were not able to see it. To anyone attacking me: be aware I won’t be bullied into not standing with my comrades.
“I’d like to thank everyone who spoke on the motions this morning. I think for many people it has been a really emotional morning. A lot of the policies at this conference show that we are working on the radical principle that humans are humans and deserve to be treated as such, and I’m really pleased with all of the policies that have come through.
I am LBGT+ officer on the Open Labour exec so I’d like to thank those who drafted the motion that it focuses specifically on LBGT+ mental health. Those in the LBGT+ community use mental health services at a vastly higher rate than those people who are privileged to be cis or straight.
I particularly stand in solidarity with my trans siblings. I have been horrified by some of the hateful material that has been spread by Labour members at Labour conference which deny the right of our trans siblings to be who they are. There was a meeting held to discuss that our comrades are not who they say they are, and when people protested they had buckets of water thrown at them. That’s simply not good enough.
Labour stands for everyone, and everyone has a right to be who they are.
Thank you so much for including LGBT+ mental health in this motion specifically.
I hope we pass this motion unanimously so that we have a better mental health programme that works for all.”