I am honoured to be the first MP to contribute to the new LGBT Labour Trans Action website, and welcome this new space for Labour’s transgender members and supporters to debate issues that matter to them, and hopefully develop the transgender-friendly policies that Labour should be pursuing. I’ll be checking back regularly, and I look forward to seeing those debates flourish.
But today is a day to look back, and to remember those in the worldwide transgender community who have paid the ultimate price simply for seeking to be themselves – men and women who lost their lives because they had the courage to be who they wanted to be.
Fourteen years ago today, an impromptu candle-light vigil driven by the lack of media recognition of the brutal murder of Rita Hester, an African-American transgender woman from Massachusetts, took place in San Francisco. Today, transgender individuals, NGOs and transgender allies will assemble at University of London Union to continue that tradition.
The persecution of the transgender community internationally continues to be a real and current concern, and it is just as important now as it was 14 years ago that we take a day to stop and remember those who have suffered, and those who continue to suffer, as a result of hate and ignorance.
The Trans Murder Monitoring project has recorded over 238 trans-people losing their lives since the last Day of Remembrance, including sixteen year old Dwayne Jones, who was beaten, stabbed, shot and run over by a car in Jamaica for attending a party dressed as a woman.
And although a high percentage of killings happened in the Americas, it must be remembered that 35% of those deaths this year occurred in Europe, with at least one known death in the UK.
And of course, these statistics don’t capture the beatings, the bullying or the other forms of discrimination, or the many more suicides amongst the transgender community due to that hostility.
Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) must act as an important reminder to all of us to reflect on the injustices committed against a community which remains very much on the fringes of mainstream political debate.
The last Labour Government had a great record on tackling hate crime and reducing discrimination against the LGBT community, but I’d be the first to accept that more could and should have been done specifically to tackle the problems transgender people face.
As many in the transgender community have voiced, being the last letter in LGBT does not mean they have to be the last community to receive equality. The starting point – both here and abroad – has to be the right to be yourself without fear of recrimination or violence.
Everybody deserves the right to live a happy and fulfilling life, and TDoR reminds us that it’s the responsibility of all of us to ensure we continue working towards that ideal.
Sharon Hodgson MP
Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities