By Harvey Joyce
“The price [of homosexuality] exacts in the form of childlessness, instability and now mortal danger from AIDS is not something that most 16-year-olds have the capacity to evaluate.”
This quote was from an article written in 1991 called ‘The sad fraud of gay equality’ by Janet Daley in which she argued against the legislation equalising the age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual people. Articles at this time, such as this, created false assertions and concerns regarding gay rights and their impact on wider society. Many dismissed the idea of LGBT children as being simply ‘shy’ or ‘confused’.
It’s clear to see how we’ve evolved past this rhetoric but Daley’s antiquated piece still seems relevant. When analysing the history of gay emancipation, we can see parallel rhetoric being used against today’s trans people. Even worse, it seems the oppressed are now becoming the oppressors.
Simon Callow is a well know gay actor and activist, best known for his role in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. He was heavily involved in the anti-government protests that led to the 1989 foundation of Stonewall, one of the biggest LGBTQ+ charities in the world. That is why it is distressing and disappointing to see him condemn the same charity over its views on self-identification for transgender people.
In a recent article in The Times, Callow has accused Stonewall of taking a “strange turn to the tyrannical” and that an “extraordinarily unproductive militancy” now surrounds the LGBTQ+ charity. Callow argues Stonewall’s views on self-identification for transgender people is dangerous and exploits young people’s confusion, and is often regretted:
“it may well be that they are just gay and they’re being somehow lured into thinking that they are obviously in the wrong gender, which is not the case […] Obviously we know there are a number of cases of people who have regretted it deeply. “
Callow also draws attention to the idea that trans self-identification allegedly impinges on women’s rights. These comments touch upon other common anti-trans rhetorical phrasing, the idea that transgender women diminish the accomplishments of cisgender women and thus they don’t belong in female-only areas for the ‘safety’ of other women.
It is saddening to see such a lack of awareness from Callow. His claims of tyranny and “militancy” from Stonewall draw stark comparisons with the rhetoric used by homophobic journalists in the 1980s/90s who used to described activists as “militant homosexuals” fighting for a “militant campaign”.
There is also a similar theme of ‘recruiting’ and ‘forcing’ the confused and vulnerable to change. As well as discrediting the trans existence as temporary and that they are “just gay”. This ‘de-transition’ narrative pushed by the media, the idea that a lot of trans people regret their change, is completely unfounded by evidence. Multiple studies have concluded the amount of transgender people who regret transitioning is between 0.47% to 0.6% thus showing this ‘concern’ is over-exaggerated. Regardless, the only medication available in the UK to under-16s experiencing gender dysphoria are puberty blockers, which are considered reversible according to legal and medical professionals.
Historically, there are also parallels on how gay and transgender people infringe on human and women’s rights respectively. For example, the idea of a “gay agenda” forcing legislation in education, civil rights and religion upon heterosexual people. Today, some radical feminists believe charities like Stonewall are pushing their own agenda of “trans self-identification” against cisgender women that will discredit the feminist experience.
In my opinion, feminism must be concerned with the interests of any group that is affected by misogyny. Where the struggle of women of colour or the lower class was ignored in the 1900s, trans women are now facing this ignorance when they face the exact same misogyny. In addition, countries that have streamlined the gender recognition process such as Argentina and Ireland show that trans women don’t dilute or diminish the feminist struggle and that they work together in solidarity.
It’s easy to see how misogyny, homophobia and transphobia share homogenous origins. That is why it is so devastating to see oppressed people now in the position of oppressing others. People need to re-evaluate how rhetoric and prejudice is used to harm all marginalised groups rather than thinking myopically. That is the only way to end the cycle of bigotry.
Illustration: Verity Laycock