Thursday, 22 January 2015

What is happening to the Greens?!

Waking up this morning to the news that the Green Party candidate for Cambridge is rehashing the tired old transphobe meme about 'cis' being an inappropriate word for people who are not trans has been a shock.

A shock because the Green Party has long claimed to be a trans inclusive party. As a trans member of the Labour Party who has fought to bring the Labour Party's trans inclusion and anti-discrimination policies up to the level of the Greens at least, I find this troubling. If transphobia takes hold in one party it can spread and affect others too.

The problem centres around a Green Party candidate's use of the transphobic meme that the term "cis" (short for "cisgender") is forcing an identity on to people who are not trans. The old lie that "cis" is an identity.

The idea that "cis" can be an identity, that 95%+ of humanity can have the same identity because they are all cis is, of course ridiculous, it is like saying the word "human" represents an identity. "Cis" is not, and never has been an identity, it is a descriptor for people who are not trans. It means that trans people are not Othered, that we are not the "problem", that we are not opposite to "normal". Without using the word "cis" the descriptor for non-trans people will end up being just that, "normal". Using the word "cis" is therefore a leveller, to ensure that we are taking about trans people and cis people rather than trans people and "normal" people.

The TERFs (a group of trans-haters who use feminism as a cover for bigotry) have consistently peddled this misinterpretation of "cis", this is what makes the Green Party candidate's adoption of this position very significant; he is adopting what is essentially TERF disinformation and propaganda. This is the propaganda of people who, for their own bigoted ends, would like the opposite of "trans" to be "normal" (and some of them would like to see people like me dead).

I hope the Green Party sorts this out, and quickly. The Green Party has, in the past, played on its trans-inclusive policies to attract the votes of trans people, fair enough, but that is what makes this incident significant, it suggests that support for these policies is not as widely accepted in the party as might have otherwise been assumed. This is compounded by the initial defence, by Green Party officials, was that this is an isolated individual. This turns out not to be the case since the Cambridge Young Greens appear to be supporting him. This is starting to look like a party that is deeply split on trans equality.

However for Green Party members to accuse me and others of playing "party politics" by bringing this up is facile. A party that has used trans equality as part of its pitch to voters cannot simply dismiss these concerns as being party political. This smacks of desperation by some people in the Green Party, so I hope they are able to put their house in order rather than lashing out at others. Looks like at least one Green Party member; Lee Williscroft-Ferris has decided to do just that. I wish him a fair wind.This is an issue that affects trans people, and as such it is a legitimate concern for me as a trans woman whose interests are harmed by this, Already one Green Party official has tried to play the "offence" card, putting words into my mouth.

So for the record, I am not "offended" by this, I am concerned that it is harmful. It is harmful for the reasons I have given above. I am offended by the bedroom tax, I am offended by the poverty pay and substandard housing the Tories are forcing on people, I am offended by further erosions of civil liberties by the Tory government, I am offended by tax reductions for the super-rich,  I am offended by the privatisation and fragmentation of the education system, I am offended by the wanton destruction of the NHS, I offended by £9000 a year in university fees for students. In comparison the Green Party candidate's remarks are not as offensive, but they are potentially harmful because of the way they deny trans people the language with which to express our situations and the right to be treated as equals to cis people.

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