Our LGBTQIA Liberation Officer, Lollie, speaks to Young Greens about issues facing trans youth in the Green Party and beyond. Opinions expressed are those of the interviewees.
I interviewed Ash Routh, an experienced and longstanding party member, for their thoughts on Trans Day of Remembrance
Okay, thanks for joining me. Maybe let’s just start by hearing a bit about you and your involvement with the party.
Yeah, sure. I’m the co-chair of LGBTIQA+ Greens, joined back in 2010 – just before becoming a Councillor, before the general election that year, I was working rurally, mostly around housing, and that was my gateway into politics. The Green Party was always the obvious fit for me. And I’ve never looked back.
In 2014, I moved to Lancaster, and In 2017 I became a target candidate up there.
In Lancaster no one cared that I was trans; it was a total non-issue. The most heated debates were with friends about nuclear power or trains. I felt like we were all on the same side. And then I moved to Sheffield and suddenly I couldn’t move for being asked about being trans. I was in a hustings to be a City Councillor and I was being asked about the ‘trans debate’, as if that was relevant.
I’d never really been this interested in having these debates. So I joined LGBTIQA+ Greens because I thought if I was going to be forced into these debates, then I might as well meet them head on. That’s what I had to do, I can’t move politically without being asked about being trans so I might as well participate in the conversation because I certainly can’t opt out of it.
What’s most important to you right now in terms of trans rights?
Waiting lists are ridiculous – I’ve been on a waiting list for a Gender ID clinic since 2018. I still don’t have a 1st appointment which means my first appointment is always at least 6 months away so functionally I will have been waiting 4 years.
We’re at a point now when some of our clinics are so overwhelmed that the waiting list is effectively infinite, at the current rate of treatment if you join now you won’t get seen for 20, 30 years.
We need more clinics and to change the model. Right now being trans is treated like a symptom – so treatment is a last resort.
There’s this systemic built-in delay – as if we can’t address multiple problems side by side. And it also creates a situation where some people can’t ever access the care that they need. We need to move to an informed consent model. Everything else in healthcare is based on this model so we just need to extend that to trans healthcare.
This also just needs to be talked about. People are dying on waiting lists. And no one is talking about it.
How safe do you feel right now as a trans person?
That’s an interesting question. Safe is a choice of words, I don’t feel unsafe in the sense of thinking I’m going to be attacked if I turn a corner but I do feel that this is a party where the experiences of LGBTIQA+ people are side-lined, and it’s important to note that this is a problem a lot of political parties and organizations have. But we are the Green Party, we need to do better. We can’t fail the same way everyone else is failing.
This is really common in the political sphere. I’ve spoken to my equivalents from other parties, and it’s basically across the board. The LGBT Conservatives couldn’t even get in a room with Liz Truss, she just wasn’t returning their emails or showing any interest in supporting them. And she’s the Minister for Equalities.
What can be done about this? How can we address these issues?
We can firmly establish a culture where the right of reply is upheld. So that liberation groups are consulted where things would substantially affect them. That group doesn’t have to agree with what’s being proposed but they should be consulted.
If we did that we’d be in a much better place. Our policy would be better for a start and we would create a better culture – nothing about us without us!
It’s important to understand where people are coming from. We have to recognise that there is on…I don’t like to say ‘both sides’ because that implies that this is a flat debate where everyone sits at two points of total agreement but in the generalized debate about women’s rights and trans rights it’s important to recognise that there is a big problem where on both sides people are being turned into caricatures.
It’s common for trans women to be compared with individual trans women who have done terrible things and be unfairly held accountable for those things. And there’s a problem with people assuming that all gender critical people are all acting in bad faith, certainly it is a movement that’s been co-opted by bad faith actors who then go on to use Trans women as a wedge issue.
But equally there are lots of people who have genuine worries, who may have been misled and we have to be sympathetic and reach out – it doesn’t benefit us to write off this huge chunk of the population and say they’re all bad people.
The Green Party is all about fixing the mistakes of the past. We’re about debate and dialogue and sincerity – of course not every Trans person has to debate their existence all the time but we do have to let those conversations take place and trust that there are people who will come round if they are presented with the facts.
How do we get back to that healthy debate and dialogue?
We need to relearn what we learned years ago, that we are a party, we are a democracy and sometimes things don’t go our way. Like, take HS2 for example; I am against HS2, I have many friends who are for HS2. We disagree, we debate, then we re-focus – and if Green Party policy changes to be explicitly pro HS2, I won’t quit the party. I won’t claim that everyone who didn’t turn up to Conference actually agrees with me and it’s just a vocal minority dominating the conversation. I won’t keep presenting motions to undermine the decision, or dog-whistle my dislike of HS2. I will just accept that the party has a stance and see the bigger picture.
I think we have forgotten that it’s okay to just disagree with party policy on some things. To just be in a party and not have it be a perfect fit is fine and to be expected.
To sum up; what does Trans Day of Remembrance mean to you? What would you like us to hold
the day as when we’re observing it?
Trans Day Of Remembrance is about remembering people who have been killed, but also about recognising privilege and extending a hand of solidarity. We’re pro migrant as a party and it’s important to look at how harsh life can be around the world and remind ourselves why we welcome people from all around the world and build a country that can be a sanctuary.
And we have a responsibility to do that – be a community that lifts each other up. We should all rally around trans people around the world and ensure that where we do fail to protect them we remember them and use that as a driving force to change the world for the better.
Sometimes we have to look at our failures to remind us why we do the work we do.
This interview was held to mark Trans Day of Remembrance 2021.