I know this is going to be controversial.
Its going to be controversial because some folk don’t much distinguish between writing ABOUT something and taking a stance on the issue. And OK: i guess i do have views on some of the issues i am planning to raise.
But equally, the point of these posts is not so much to argue one or other side as to highlight the fact that an issue exists and to look for ways of tapping a political consensus around it.
Because (whisper it low) i’m a practical sort of girl: and i am as much – more – interested in making a series of incremental gains as holding out for utopia.
The trans issue
There is a quote – i’m sure i’ve got this not quite right – allegedly attributed to Gandhi, which goes roughly like this: “First they ignore: then they mock; then they attack; and finally, we win”.
(Winning, in that sense, is more than just “getting one’s way”: it is really about reaching that point where some spin, some questions are beyond respectable expression…like slavery, or the idea that women belong in the home).
Give or take a few stages, that feels not bad as analysis of how change comes about.
For a long time, trans hovered between the first two of those categories: either studiously ignored, or simply the butt of lewd and crude humour.
Over the last decade, that’s changed. We’re in the news Far more than ever before. There’s a fair bit of crudity still around. But equally there is the beginning of realisation, in some quarters, that that humour is no longer acceptable.
So a moment of choice has been reached: and some papers are now beginning to exhibit a grudging respect – while others are taking refuge in an ever more strident trans hatefest. Oh: never explicit: but spinning, questioning, positioning so that trans folk look to be receiving special treatment.
What do we do when the haters have a point?
A major problem in this respect turns up when there is a genuine question to be asked about some claim or gain. Not every challenge to a presumed legal or political advance is motivated by outright bigotry. Indeed, where this finds an echo in the general public, it is essential that minority groups engage with the debate – and not simply dismiss it as enmity.
For that reason (and i do this with some trepidation) i want to enumerate some of the difficult issues: not to resolve them; but to spark debate within the trans community and to get some sense of whether it is possible to find common ground with critics.
Extra sentences for trans crime?
For openers, i’ll toss in the recent announcement of additional sentencing for trans hate crime.
From the local playground, where i chat often to mums and therefore get to take the temperature of one segment of society on topical issues, i can report that this does not, immediately, do the trans community much good.
There is a definite sense of special treatment and, while most mums buy into the idea that trans folk suffer appalling abuse and violence, they still don’t see why there should be different treatment in law.
The press release that sets this trail in motion states explicitly that there should be no tolerance for hate crime: and then, by implication, allows different tariffs for different sorts of hate crimes.
I have argued elsewhere that anti-discrimination laws based on specific protected characteristics are a bad idea: divisive and discriminatory, as opposed to hepful.
In this instance, there is a danger that the approach could create he very antagonism it seeks to end. Is there an alternative?
In the scheme of things, how inmportant is different sentencing for perpetrators of trans hate crimes.
Over to you.