Transphobia is present in our society, insidious, and growing. Gay times reported that “2021 becomes the deadliest year on record for trans people”. This record shows we need systemic change to protect the lives of trans people. We cannot begin to flourish in any way like our peers if our existence is questioned, and our lives are threatened, at every turn. If we do not exist, it becomes that much easier to turn a blind eye when our rights, our dignity, and our very lives are taken from us.
This year in particular there has been more and more “academic” justification of blatant transphobia. This trend has seen academics and public figures alike denying that trans people exist and supporting discrimination, and dressing this up as “feminism”. This thinly and pathetically veiled prejudice is an insult to feminism, and the trans people who risked their lives campaigning for the liberation of all people. It also threatens our lives today. When our existence becomes a topic of “academic” debate, and transphobia becomes an “acceptable” point of view expressed in fancy academic terms, we become dehumanised. This in turn means it is easier to ignore us, attack us, and even kill us. Anyone who thinks this is far-fetched needs to look no further than the academic theories of racial purity which gave legitimacy to centuries of colonial oppression, and in living memory the systemic murder of 11 million people by the Nazis.
Dr Kathleen Stock, a former philosophy professor at Surrey University, is a prime example of someone who has used an academic background and terminology to spread transphobic ideas. She has also managed to brand herself a victim and gain widespread sympathy when the students at the university called her out for this. At best, Dr Stock and those like her spread misguided and archaic views. At worst, they will contribute to a culture of transphobia which ultimately costs trans lives.
Transphobia does not always take the form of violence or harassment, but even hidden behind “academic” movements, it can certainly lead there. Again, the history of many kinds of oppression proves this.
My hope is that we can expose these trans-exclusionary “academic” arguments for what they are, nothing more than transphobic bigotry dressed up with a doctorate and a bibliography. In the same way that we have exposed the racist, misogynistic, and ableist theories that should have no place in our society.
Trans lives are not theoretical, and should not be up for debate, even if someone can use long words to do it.
On this trans day of remembrance, I ask that you remember all the lives we have lost, and to honour them I ask that you do not accept transphobia, however well disguised it may be.
Alfie James is a SOAS student. You can find more information on this topic at Trans Lives Matter.