WHY I'M STANDING FOR YOUNG LABOUR LGBT+ OFFICER
by Paul L. McGowan
Proud to already be endorsed by great LGBT+ activists and MPs such as Dawn Butler and Nadia Whittome, I am standing for Young Labour National Committee LGBT+ Officer so am currently seeking nominations from CLPs and Young Labour Branches
I am currently co-chair of the Labour Party LGBT+ Network, co-chair of the United We Stand- Solidarity Network, the inaugural LGBT+ Officer for Liverpool Walton CLP since 2018, and was also the inaugural LGBT+ Officer for Liverpool Momentum from 2018 to 2021
Why I Joined Labour:
I joined both the Labour Party and Momentum in the summer of 2016, in response to reports of the PLP were about to launch a coup attempt in the summer to oust Jeremy Corbyn who in 2015 had grew the party membership from 198,000 to over 400,000 (with an extra 100,000 joining after the resignations). I became active and involved with the ensuing leadership campaign in Liverpool, and joined a sea of over 10,000 comrades and like minded inspired people who saw this as a real chance for the party to stick it to the party establishment and start to transform it into a truly grassroots movement that would be representative of all members, with policy being made from the ground up on the steps of St. Georges Hall to listen to Jeremy on a cold, wet, rainy August evening.
After that election, I become very involved in anti-cuts and anti-austerity campaigning in the city but after such lack of activity and divisions between left, centre and right within the local party I let my membership lapse in 2017 before rejoining a very short time later after being talked around by my local Cllr Adele Dowling who hammered home the point that if I wanted things to change locally then I’d have to fight for it from within, even if I was to be a lone voice.
From that day it all changed, a true socialist in Dan Carden was selected by the party to be our new candidate for MP weeks later, with the then EC all resigning their posts in protest and refusing to come to future meetings, this changed the CLP completely with the left taking complete control and from that day being an inclusive, active, campaigning CLP with members at every picket line, every liberation march/protest, every migrant/refugee/asylum rights protest, every anti-fascist demonstration etc – this was the beginning of what was to be ‘The Walton Model’
Some of the local campaigns I have been involved in include:
Tackeling food poverty, peace activism for Palestine, Syria and Yemen, the FBU’s campaign in Liverpool to stop the cuts to night time fire cover, the RMT’s campaigns to Keep the Guard on the Train, Save Our Seafarers, Unite the Union’s campaigns to Stop and Fix/Scrap Universal Credit, the UCU’s USS dispute, the GMB’s Stop the British Gas Fire campaign, Liverpool Trans Pride, Save the Women’s Hospital, These Walls Must Fall, Solidarity with the Stansted 15, Merseyside Green New Deal, Youth Strike for Climate, Save Our NHS, and have taken part in the monthly Liverpool Vigil for Grenfell organised by Anna Rothery.
I have also been invited to speak at number of rallies for different causes including the ‘Stand Up For Democracy' rally in response to the unlawful prorogation of parliament, the ‘Solidarity Forever' rally in aid of Medical Aid for Palestine, the ‘Not My PM Rally’ after the 2019 general election, the ‘Trans Rights Now! Reform The GRA!' rally organised by Liverpool Trans Pride in response to the dropping of the GRA. I have spoken at multiple anti-racism/fascism rallies including the ‘One Love BLM Day Of Action' event and the ‘Stand With Us: Liverpool Says No To Racism' protest. I have also spoken at numerous LGBT+ Rights events such as ‘Trans Liberation: What are our demands?' alongside Nadia Whittome MP and other amazing LGBT+ activists.
I recognise that taking a strong stand against Homophobia, Transphobia, Disablism, Sexism, Racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all other forms of bigotry and oppression is not an optional extra in the class struggle but in fact a core part of it. Labour should be leading anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigning within our communities and mobilise on the streets where necessary. We must without qualifications or caveats and in solidarity with all marginalized groups, and accept that education to counter racism and prejudice is a process and that we as socialists must always strive for better.
I believe in taking active steps to reach out to and organising alongside other under-represented communities, standing in solidarity with each other’s ongoing struggles and supporting the pushes for self-organised liberation structures within the Labour Party for our many minority demographics.
In 2018 I founded the Labour Party LGBT+ Network with the founding aims to not only bring together and build an active campaigning nationwide network of LGBT+ members of the Labour Party but to also provide a coordination platform for LGBT+ members of the party to organise & promote events, socials, policy forums, share speakers and give members a safe space community while also building links with the wider LGBT+ Community and community groups. Maintaining it via a completely grassroots led organisation that actively aims to promote education to raise consciousness for LGBT+ issues, while also trying to improve and democratise LGBT+ representation within the Party.
Since our founding we now have a steadily growing membership and have set up both nationwide and localised LGBT+ Officers/members forums, we have in collaboration organised campaign days for LGBT+ identifying candidates, we have teamed up with various community groups, charities and MPs to share events and speakers for education and social events. We have also in areas that there is currently little active organisation or established policy forums for LGBT+ Officers held socials and events for LGBT+ members to meet one another to help build contacts in their local areas to help get activity started. We were also proud to as an organisation which founded in Liverpool to have organised Labour's involvement with Liverpool's first ever Trans Pride in 2019 and also organised the ‘Red Block’ at LCR Pride, which seen the largest number of Socialists and Trade Unionists to ever march in together in solidarity with the LGBT+ community at a Liverpool Pride event. In 2020 we collaborated with Momentum, The World Transformed, Labour Campaign for Trans Rights to organise a programme of political education on trans liberation.
In February 2020, I was very proud to have launched the ‘United We Stand – Solidarity Network’ to start bringing together the UKs many minority and under-represented demographics as one large collective to work collaboratively. To help each other build self-organised liberation structures, to collaborate on communal art projects to educate our communities of one another’s cultures, to promote acceptance, to stand in solidarity with each other in one another’s struggles and also combat not only the rise of hate/division but the apathy that facilitates it.
We’ve platformed many organisers, academics and creatives from across the countries many communities and demographics, alongside supportive MP and Cllrs like Nadia Whittome, Kim Johnson and Anna Rothery. Most importantly, we’ve used United We Stand to connect and empower people within their communities, the UK and beyond.
I also co-founded Merseyside Alliance for Racial Equality with local BLM activists and have helped organise direct action protests, art festivals, and held politicians / organisations to account.
Why Trans Liberation Should Matter To The Left:
Across the world there has been an epidemic of violence against trans people, in the last decade there have been over 3,000 trans people murdered in ways such as hangings, lynchings, alive burnings, with the large majority being Black and Latinx transgender women. It is worth noting that because hate crimes and murders go unreported or, crucially, misreported in the media, so the true number of deaths could be far higher. 2020 became the deadliest year for transgender violence since records began, with at least 350 trans people were killed, again with the majority being Black and Latinx transgender women. The number killed had already surpassed the previous year’s total by early October.
In the UK hate crime against LGBT+ people has risen by over 150% since 2017, and hate crime against trans people has seen a spike of over 80% in the last 2 years alone, with just under 50% of all reported incidents involving being physical assault such as GBH. This spike in hate crime against trans people over the past couple of years has coincided with the public “debate” rife with hysteria and misinformation led by media outlets like the Spectator, Daily Mail, the S*n and others, which began after Theresa May's announcement of the public consultation on changes to the Gender Recognition Act in 2017 – a minor piece of legislation that in truth has very little to no impact on the lives of most trans people, let alone anyone else.
In this time I like many trans people have seen this “debate” about trans liberation become an ever more divisive issue, not just among wider society but within the Labour and Socialist movement.
We have seen large left wing media outlets publish articles belittling Labour’s commitment to trans liberation, comparing it to charging white people more to hear Corbyn speak' or calling people who display flags as 'racist'. We have also seen transphobic illustrations printed comparing trans women to large reptilian predators. Within the party itself, motions with anti-trans sentiment and content have repeatedly been passed by BLP and CLPs without any response or action taken from the NEC. The 2019 Annual Labour Party conference also seen reports of anti-trans campaigners leafleting members at the event, leading to LGBT+ Labour counter-leafleting with trans myth buster document. There were also claims of members wearing the “Women-Adult Human Female” definition T-shirts associated with ‘Gender Critical Feminist’ Posie Parker AKA Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull. Just recently we have also seen a Labour MP have two members of staff resign citing transphobia, All of this has been greeted with near silence from the leadership of the party.
Where there has been a reaction to this, it has come from the membership itself, often calling for administrative punishments for party members, elected representatives or staff who have made dog whistle comments or expressed what can be considered transphobic views. While an understandable reaction, and in some cases implementing a suspension may well be the appropriate course of action. But trying to deal with the issue of transphobia (much like any form of bigotry) in this way, fails to deal with the root of the problem, can further radicalise people through them feeling silenced and can ultimately be at the expense of the people most affected. Of course these conversations can be very difficult, but if more allies were equipped to effectively challenge transphobia when it arises, trans people wouldn’t have to expend so much energy responding ourselves. It gives us the chance to engage with people who have taken on problematic views about trans people – be it from the largely transphobic UK mainstream media, or popular culture – before they become truly radicalised.
While any action at this point from the party leadership would be very welcome, we need to be taking steps to begin actively educating our entire membership; this would give our members a basis for understanding how things like liberation for GTR, Black, trans and other groups fit within the broader struggle for socialism.
For example: The last decade of Tory austerity has disproportionately affected the LGBT+ community, especially those with multiple minority identities - such as those of us who are LGBT+ and have a disability or are in the BAME community for example. This has manifested in areas such as sexual and mental health services which are not being fully addressed by the mainstream providers, where LGBT+ service delivery is sadly being ignored and treated as a 'nice thing to do' rather than an as an important part of our health care system.
Trans people getting referred to gender identity clinics around the country are put on a NHS pledge of a 18 week waiting list between getting a referral from a GP to be seen by a doctor at a specialist clinic, however these wait times are being missed massively. For example, people in areas such as Northern Ireland’s or Nottingham’s Gender Identity Clinics will likely not get an appointment before the next (assuming it is fixed term, will definitely not if it’s snap) general election. For clarity: Nottingham’s reported wait time is now over 4 years
There are very few gender identity clinics in the UK and the current situation is seeing transgender patients becoming depressed, suicidal, self-harming or choosing to self-medicate with hormones bought online from unregulated sources due to these waiting times to see NHS specialists, for many it can feel like a choice between self-medicating or suicide.
COVID-19 is hitting trans people hard too, being felt most severely by trans people who are homeless, sex workers, disabled, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, poor, and/or elderly, Those communities are not only affected by the virus itself, but also by health care systems and providers, as well as by the socioeconomic and political impact of the pandemic. “At the same time, we are noticing some governments using the pandemic as an excuse for violating human rights, with signs of a wide range of political and legal rollbacks leading towards more systemic discrimination against trans people in the world.”
Key stats on how Trans people are affected:
• Almost half (48%) of trans people in Britain have attempted suicide at least once; 84 per cent have thought about it.
• More than half (55%) have been diagnosed with depression at some point.
• More than half (54%) of trans people reported that they have been told by their GP that they don’t know enough about trans-related care to provide it.
• Two in five(41%) trans people have been attacked or threatened with violence in the last 5 years.
In the last year alone, two thirds (65%) of trans people have been discriminated against or harassed because of being perceived as trans.
• Over a third (35%) avoid expressing their gender through physical appearance for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed.
For young trans people:
• More than one in four (27%) trans young people have attempted to commit suicide and nine in ten (89%) have thought about it. 72% have self-harmed at least once.
• More than four in five (83%) trans young people have experienced name-calling or verbal abuse; three in five (60%) have experienced threats and intimidation; and more than a third (35%) of trans young people have experienced physical assault.
Why I Am Standing:
Young Labour has to be an agent of change, If elected LGBT+ Officer, I will make sure that all young LGBT+ members’ voices are heard, feel included and ultimately feel represented not just being spoken to. Taking active steps to reach out to and organise alongside other under-represented communities, standing in solidarity with each other’s ongoing struggles and supporting the pushes for self-organised liberation structures within the Labour Party for our many underrepresented groups.
I have been a supporter of both Labour Trans Equality and the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights groups, and will always be an unequivocal champion of the rights of all our LGBT+ siblings. As a Labour Party, we need to be prepared to listen to, and not dismiss, new movements which are telling us that our solutions fall short.
Our common struggle is a united one through intersectionality, and it is important that we begin educating our membership to identify this and be able given the knowledge and toold to be able to tackle all forms of injustice and opression. I have taken part in these battles helping establish the United We Stand – Solidarity Network, Merseyside Alliance for Racial Equality and Merseyside BLM Alliance to stand up for all, unite people and also oppose the far-right both nationally and in my hometown – helping organise demos of 100s of activists to protest racist attacks, government policies and more - this is how I will be as an elected representative for my fellow LGBT+ members on the national committee.
My Priorities If Elected:
• Making sure that all LGBT+ members are included in all of Young Labour’s activities and that meetings and events are fully accessible and inclusive of LGBT+ members.
• Reaching out to LGBT+ people through campaigns, and working with our many LGBT+ member led organisations to collaborate in running events including policy development, social events, training and engaging members, education, highlighting issues, and making sure that LGBT+ feel fully represented.
• Bringing all LGBT+ members together to empower each other and help break down the barriers that may stop getting involved such as factionalism.
• Giving full reports on each national committee meeting
• Be a champion for safeguarding reform in Young Labour, and calling for safeguarding training for staff, young members and youth officers.
• Listening to LGBT+ people’s views and ensuring that they are reflected in Young Labour’s policy making.
• Acting as link with LGBT+ Labour, the party’s national affiliate representing LGBT+ members, and encouraging participation with their national events within Young Labour.
Originally published by the Labour Party LGBT+ Network on 27th February 2021
Article written in a personal capacity, the Labour Party LGBT+ Network have yet to ballot members to endorse a candidate
About the Author:
Paul L. McGowan (They/Them) is co-chair for the Labour Party LGBT+ Network, co-chair of the United We Stand - Solidarity Network, and LGBT+ Officer for Liverpool Walton CLP
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