There was a point when I started university in 2000 as a bright eyes 18 year old where the world felt boundless. My parents were green activists in the 1980s, standing for the Green Party when it was not hip, eschewing things like TVs and cars as we grew up. All of this armed me with a clarity of purpose, to fight injustice and stand up for moral causes. That I ended up being an ardent trans activist when trans folk had no legal standing in the UK was a biproduct of this, to the point that I got deeply involved in student politics to get the university to change. Once I left university my activism diminished as I settled into work and life, at ease with myself and the world. The, around 2020 things began to emerge on social media that I could no longer ignore. Issues that I thought long settled have called me back to activism, almost as if the wheel kept on turning.
There are not many widely known biographies of trans folk from the late 1990s and 2000s, with most of the high profile trans folk either of the generation that fought through the courts or post-2012 trans tipping point kids who have made their presence felt online. My generation was activist when we needed to be, hence why the law was eventually changed, but for the most part we lived in a country where rights were more or less respected. After 2018, when Donald Trump’s allies started the trans hate train to distract from wider political malfeasance, it was younger voices cut out of healthcare, benefits, and the trans dolce vida that took up the cause. I still find myself couching much of what I do online in niceties, where as the younger folk are much more visceral.
Twitter, the great blue bird that is fast become a black turkey, is the scene daily of entrenched battles between exclusionary feminists lobbing hand grenades on the one side, and trans activists sallying out to repost. There are those that state trans activism is rewriting history, a male colonialising force camping on the shorts of womanhood; yet the reality is that it is the right-wing ideologues who misread history and confect an exclusionary vapour out of old hate.
Prior to 2004 in the UK, when the Gender Recognition Act was passed, British trans folk were regularly treated as second class citizens, their legal rights the whims of publicans, bus drivers, restaurant owners, and…