Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys for The Oxford Student

“Trans lives not Tory lies”: Oxford students protest transphobia

TW: Transphobia

Students have come together in Bonn Square this afternoon to protest for trans rights.

This follows comments made at the recent Conservative Party Conference which have been criticised for transphobic rhetoric by the queer community, including a statement released by the SU LGBTQ+ campaign last week.

The campaign announced today’s protest saying “it is important to call out and hold our current government responsible for the Transphobic rhetoric and unfounded initiatives our parliamentary majority wish to take”.

Demonstrators held signs stating “not your scapegoat” and “trans joy is real”, alongside “queers for Palestine” in reference to the London protest also taking place today to demand an immediate end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Joel Aston, co-chair of the SU LGBTQ+ campaign, began the event expressing how trans people have always been here will always be here. The aim of visibility and volume from the community at this time was also highlighted.

Aston told The Oxford Student that the campaign wants to be present and there for people so it was important to rally behind trans students. They emphasised that whilst this protest wasn’t specifically focused on the university, they wanted it to remind the university to be constructive not performative in supporting trans students, pointing to issues raised since controversy surrounding Kathleen Stock’s visit at the Union last term.

A local journalist spoke on the comments at the Conservative Party Conference being “pandering”, pointing out the plan to ban trans people from respective single-sex wards as a distraction from the NHS crisis that there are “no more beds to go around”.

Demonstrators chanted “trans rights are human rights”, a call and response “intersectionality – important for humanity”, and “trans lives not tory lies” to put across their message.

Farabee Pushpita, co-chair of the SU Women*s Campaign, also spoke at the protest. They put forward that “all women deserve to be under the umbrella of feminism”, including opposition to discrimination against trans women.

In a comment to The Oxford Student, Pushpita expressed that as “Wom*Cam co-chair and a non-binary AFAB” it was important for them “to speak out against the rising transphobia in the UK”. Such an “attack on the trans community is an attack on all of us”, so the turnout today was “beautiful” and the group “won’t ever stop fighting”.

The SU’s VP for Activities and Community Mia Clement joined the speakers and expressed they felt “happy and joyful” to see the turnout. They recently took place in another peaceful protest against the Oxford Students for Life stall at Freshers’ Fair.

Responding to Rishi Sunak’s idea that it was “just common sense” to say “a man is a man and a woman is a woman”, Clement criticised government failure to see “common sense” in climate action, COVID recovery, and addressing the cost of living crisis.

Chrissie Chevasutt, author and outreach worker for the trans, intersex and non-binary communities at St Columba’s United Reformed Church, also attended and spoke.

She highlighted the recent Safe Churches Report, looking at harm caused by anti-trans figures like Reverend Ian Paul. Paul called upon the Church of England to change guidance on welcoming transgender people to the church on the view that leaders were “allowing themselves to be hijacked by these very small special interest groups”

Chevasutt also spoke of the link between hate speech and real life harm, such as the death of Brianna Ghey, but maintained progress would be made via non-violent protest. Speaking to The Oxford Student, she said today’s demonstration was a “recognition that the rhetoric of the government, media, and even parts of the Church are inciting hatred against trans people”.

Towards the end of the demonstration, SU LGBTQ+ campaign co-chair Bella Done concluded on the hope for a future where “it’s not radical to be trans, it’s just normal”.

Image Credit: Cameron Samuel Keys for The Oxford Student