After Rosedale

Something has changed. Maybe things have always been changing – and it takes an event like Rosedale – the beating, and the expression of solidarity that followed – to bring that change into focus.

Some things are not the same. I keep a finger on the pulse. Language shifts, glides. The same things are said, but differently, in a stronger more assertive voice.

History and High Politics

Let me start with the US, aided and abetted by input from one prominent trans activist over there. According to them, the story starts back in 2007. On an almost yearly basis, since 1994, Congress had attempted to introduce an Employment non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that would prohibit discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In 2007, provisions regarding Gender Identity and Expression (GI&E) were dropped from ENDA: the Bill passed the House, and died in the Senate. Trans activists who had been successfully passing state bills, from 2001-07, continued the state level activity. Around a dozen states – including California – now have GI&E provisions in law.

At the same time, the religious right began the fightback, focusing on the flip side to ENDA – rights in “public accommodations” – as being a “bathroom bill”. Dishonest, of course: “public accommodation” goes way beyond toileting issues and is really about what we in the UK would recognize as rights in respect of provision of goods and services.

Still, it appears to play to a peculiarly US obsession with the gender binary in toilets that goes way beyond anything that most Europeans would endorse: no doubt there are explanations to be found in the American culture and psyche.

The fracturing of the LGBT alliance around ENDA continued apace: marriage has been one issue, with much of the organizational muscle being placed behind what is, for the average trans person, mere window-dressing. Then, since 2010, there’s been a focus on over-turning the US military policy of “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” (DADT).

It has been a time of major frustrations. Trans, in one form or another, makes up around 15% of the LGBT community. There is a perception that trans activism cannot (yet) stand alone: that it needs the resource and clout that goes with existing LGBT organizations.

But patience is wearing thin.

In Maryland, where the Rosedale incident took place, the main LGBT rights organization, Equality Maryland (EQMD) never had a trans group, other than transequalitymaryland, which was created as a subgroup. The three trans boards members in EqMD’s history had all resigned over the past seven months.

Activists will now be working to putting together a coalition of trans groups to work with whatever is left of EqMD when their crisis is resolved.

Low Tactics

So much for high politics. The message coming through loud and clear is that the bigots will do all in their power to block trans rights. Their hate ad, repeated below in case you didn’t get it first time round, is evidence of the sheer nastiness they bring to their cause.

Gay rights activists are not reliable allies in trans causes. Why should they be? They have their own causes to fight and if there is a perception abroad that Trans and Gay issues are interchangeable, then it is inevitable that politicians will force the two communities to face off against one another, “prioritizing”, where the very idea of priority is offensive.

Tactically, that argues for greater separation.

The Rosedale effect

Meanwhile, the joker in the pack is Rosedale. For two reasons. First, because it places, finally, into the public sphere the dire consequences of religious hate. If people insist on denying trans people basic human rights – caricaturing us as paedos and pervs when we just want to take a pee – a repetition of Rosedale is sooner or later inevitable, with possibly worse consequences.

It provides momentum, which we shouldn’t be afraid to use.

Second, which takes me back to the beginning, it feels like there is a new tougher mood in the air, even here, in the UK. We’re growing in number: we’re more organized; we’re beyond asking, timidly, for the mere right to exist. We’ve arrived – and we don’t see why we should be at the back of the queue when rights get handed out.

There is no more reason for politicians to be deciding whether trans rights or gay rights take priority than to be questioning whether race or gender are more important issues to be taken into consideration.

I don’t expect any sudden break-up of the LGBT alliance: we have too much in common. Still, where that closeness works against the trans community, expect, from hereon in, a much harder, much more independent and yes, militant trans voice to be heard.


Relevant links:

A sense of change in Maryland

Guardian article

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules
Of someone else’s game

Lyrics from Defying Gravity


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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4 Responses to After Rosedale

  1. Helen Wilson says:

    You know I thought things would of changed after the 2009 London Pride toilet fiasco, but I still see reports on the forums of denial of use of toilets and changing facilities. Its gotten worse since the Equality act 2010 removed the absolute right to pee in gender appropriate toilets. I’m lucky being a TS I still have the right, but our TG sisters are left playing Russian roulette when it comes to access to basic facilities.

    • Helen Wilson says:

      I like the idea of that Russian roulette comparison.

      It has the potential to make a good campaign.

      • janefae says:

        Wot? A sort of “Dirty Harriet” Protest?

        Now you may be asking yourself: has this girl emptied her bladder in the last half hour. Or does she need to go, real bad?

        Do you feel lucky punk?

        Then pee on the restaurant floor!


  2. Megan says:

    I’m confused here, I always thought that legally here in the U.K. we are allowed to use the toilet that corresponds to the gender we identify as. There may be sticky grounds for cross-dressers or T.V.’s (please do not take that as a derogatory comment) but for trans-women and trans-men there should be no question at all, if there is what do we use for evidence?

    All my documents, drivers license, passport has been changed to ‘F’ and I identify as female but I have yet to apply for my GRC which is a few years off yet.
    So do we get whatever GIC is “treating” us to give us a little card to say we are under official treatment?

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