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LABOUR’S EMILY BROTHERS MARKS TRANSGENDER MEMORIAL DAY

FRIDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2015


Speaking last night at Wadham College Oxford on the eve of Transgender Memorial Day, Labour’s Emily Brothers spoke about the fear and hatred many people experience when transitioning and going on to live in their aligned gender.
It was a Wadham College student, Rowan Davis, who launched a petition calling for Rod Liddle and The Sun to apologise for ridiculing Ms Brothers when she ‘came out’ as Labour’s first openly transgender Parliamentary Candidate last year. The petition received 28,293 supporters.
Emily Brothers, recently selected by Labour as a London-wide Assembly Candidate, called on Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists like Germaine Greer to ‘stop their malevolent tone’ and ‘embrace the diversity of womanhood’.
In a keynote speech at Wadham College as part of it’s ‘queer Week”, Ms Brothers said:
“My experience of transitioning several years ago and living in my aligned gender has been positive. That’s not so for many people with gender identity issues – lots encountering abuse and harassment. On the eve of the 17th Transgender Memorial Day, we honour and respect the 271 people killed around the world in the last year.
“Monitoring shows that 1,933 people with a transgender background have been murdered in 64 countries since January 2008. Reports show that 1,507 have occurred in Central and South America, which account for 78 % of the globally reported murders of transgender people since January 2008. This isn’t necessarily because hatred towards transgender people happens to be particularly malevolent in that region, but indicates stronger levels of advocacy and monitoring than other parts of the world.
“Applying comparative figures isn’t sufficient, as countries with smaller populations often have a higher ratio of transgender murders. For example: Brazil has a rate of 3.84 per million, whereas Ghana has a rate of 5.5 per million.
“Since January 2008, 104 killings of trans people have been reported in Europe in 15 countries. The UK is relatively free from such extreme violence. However, in the last year hate crimes involving transgender people have gone up by 9% to 605 incidents.
“It is the fear of society’s rejection and the impact on families that trouble so many people tussling with their gender identity. Depression can take us to a darker place than blindness. Too many people take their own lives. Families facture, friendships are challenged and transitioning puts our professional reputation at risk.
We fear ridicule and mockery from the media. Whilst prejudice thrives amongst the tabloids, they aren’t representative of a kinder and more tolerant Britain. That’s why we need protection with Levison compliant press regulation.
“Just days after my triple heart bypass surgery, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO ruled in favour of Trans Media Watch who took forward my case. It was a landmark decision, as this was the first representative case that IPSO have upheld. However, IPSO failed to address subsequent victimisation when Mr Liddle indicated that he had looked into my background and then went on to distort a Monty Python sketch by using my former name.
“Neither Mr Liddle or The Sun have apologised and the adjudication was published without a headline or with due prominence. Nonetheless, this was a clear victory for decency and respect, with a signal to stop the ridicule and mockery.
“It would have been simple to have ignored The Sun’s original piece. However, political leadership involves standing up for the wider public benefit. It wasn’t some kind of selfless act on my part, but a sense of dismay at The Sun’s temerity in arguing they didn’t have editorial responsibility for columnists, saying they had unfetted freedom of expression. Rights come with responsibility, not the power to ridicule or mock people because they are different.
“In the same way, Germaine Greer and the like, take cover from the smokescreen known as freedom of speech, as they seek to undermine women with a transsexual history. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists don’t believe that transphobia exist and those women with a transgender history will never be women. Whilst people are entitled to hold such views, it is the malevolent tone that most concerns me. That’s why universities need to be careful not to legitimise intolerance. It has the potential for spreading hatred and violence.
“It isn’t for a politician like me to constrain freedom of speech. However, in seeking to foster good relations across society, I do want to safeguard people who feel under threat by powerful journalists and academics. Students calling for non-platforming should be listened to when raising concern about their institution’s role. That means universities involving students and applying standards of good conduct.
“It is hardly surprising that a much maligned transgender community reacts so robustly to prejudice, pejorative language and a denial of our very existence. That was the case for many civil rights groups as they emerged.
“Sure, some of my experience is different from most women, but there is much more diversity amongst women that could just as easily divide or strengthen us. For my part, the alliance between modern feminists and feminists with a transgender experience has strengthened our shared interests and ambitions. That’s why opponents of people who have a transsexual history need to stop their malevolent tone and embrace the diversity of womanhood.
“I’ve always been visually impaired, but that doesn’t make somebody losing their sight in later life less of a disabled person. Yes, our journeys haven’t been the same and our experiences are different, but we are still both blind. That’s why I say to Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists - our journey and experience may be different, we are still women – there is no league table for blind people or women.
“We have shared interests in empowering women, spreading wealth and opportunity. For me and other Labour women that means providing an alternative to austerity; defending public services, not least our NHS; delivering quality childcare and education; creating safer communities; protecting human rights and being at the heart of the European Union. In that way, we can be ambitious for all women – some of whom will be straight, lesbian/gay, transgender or have a disability – a rich diversity on the side of fraternity, not exclusion.”

Data on the murder of transgender people can be found here:

http://transrespect.org/en/transgender-day-of-remembrance-15-tmmupdate/

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