OPINION: The transgender community deserves Jewish solidarity

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OPINION: The transgender community deserves Jewish solidarity

'Many transphobic arguments follow the template of dehumanisation that feels sickeningly familiar to me as a Jewish woman,' says TV and radio comedy writer Sara Gibbs

Members and sympathizers of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) community participate in the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, Israel, 06 June 2019.  . Photo by: JINIPIX
Members and sympathizers of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) community participate in the annual Gay Pride parade in Jerusalem, Israel, 06 June 2019. . Photo by: JINIPIX

The transgender community is under attack. They need and deserve Jewish solidarity. In 2021 in the UK alone, anti-trans hate crimes increased by 16% compared to the previous year.

This comes as no surprise to me. Anti-trans rhetoric is everywhere.

I have watched on in horror as countless columnists, colleagues, friends and family members, have begun to regurgitate transphobic talking points, seemingly with little or no understanding of trans issues.

I have felt helpless as hysteria, hyperbole and, often, outright lies about the fight for trans rights have been splashed across front pages, gleefully retweeted and have been left unchallenged by apparently otherwise right-thinking people.

I have looked on in dread as so-called ‘reasonable concerns’ become radicalisation, as transgender friends are labelled ‘groomers’, ‘perverts’ and ‘child mutilators’.

Jewish people know how this feels.

Sara Gibbs (pic credit Juliet McKee Photography)

After millennia of persecution, we know the template. We’ve been on the receiving end of it time and again. The ancient blood libel, accusations of harming children.

The inherent mistrust simply by virtue of our Jewish identities.

And when we speak up about the discrimination we face, being told we are inventing it all.

The truth is that many transphobic arguments follow the template of dehumanisation and disinformation that feels sickeningly familiar to me as a Jewish woman.

In fact, transphobia itself relies upon age-old antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes, with white nationalists accusing Jews of committing “white genocide” by targeting vulnerable children.

It’s the same old hatred in a different hat.

Many transphobic arguments follow the template of dehumanisation and disinformation that feels sickeningly familiar to me as a Jewish woman.

At a recent gender-critical rally, one speaker quoted Mein Kampf, calling trans identities “the big lie”. This should send a chill through the soul of anyone with a passing knowledge of history.

The sad irony is that the lies are not coming from transgender people.

Most of the transphobic arguments I encounter are debating an imaginary scenario that does not exist.

The examples are too numerous and complicated to outline here, but one particularly fact-free facet of the debate pertains to the GRR Act.

The government recently took the unprecedented step of blocking legislation passed by the Scottish parliament to make it easier for transgender people to obtain a gender recognition certificate.

Its detractors claim that they’re afraid of what self-ID would mean for women’s safety and spaces.

Rarely heard is the fact that transgender people may already use gender-appropriate spaces by self-ID under the Equality Act of 2010, that reasonable exemptions are already allowed, that transgender people can already apply for other forms of ID, such as passports and that none of this has resulted in malign cisgender men pretending to be transgender in order to access women’s spaces.

The most ludicrous of all the anti-GRR arguments is that public toilets will become unsafe – as if an abuser would update their paperwork to show to the nonexistent toilet guard in order to attack women, instead of just walking through the door.

The reality is that the GRR Act is so benign that the noise around it would be laughable, were it not so dangerous.

It simply grants transgender people the right to more easily obtain paperwork that allows them to update their birth certificates, get married, pay taxes and be buried with dignity. That’s it.

Transphobia and antisemtism are so deeply enmeshed that, even for those who cannot muster the empathy to support transgender people simply because they are human beings who deserve our solidarity, it is imperative to oppose it.

Bigots will not stop at the transgender community, and we should be standing side by side with our trans siblings, transgender Jews and anyone facing the marginalisation we would not want turned on ourselves.

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