Glasgow Youth Demand: Protect Trans Healthcare!

Trans Protest Glasgow mobilized against Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS's halt on puberty blockers, demanding urgent reform for gender-affirming care.
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On the evening of the 18 April, there assembled on Glasgow’s George Square a crowd of a couple hundred transgender people, there to protest that day’s abrupt decision by Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS to pause the provision of puberty blockers to 16 and 17-year-olds at the Sandyford clinic. This news has come as a further blow to a trans community already distraught following the publication of the Cass report and the total demolition of gender affirming care for under-26s in the English NHS.

The demo was organised by a group called Trans Protest Glasgow on very short notice, so the showing by the crowd was impressive. The speeches began with a contribution from Glasgow University lecturer Ruth Pearce, a researcher in trans healthcare. A trans woman herself, Pearce described her experiences as a young trans person in the early 2000s, before going on to criticise the Cass Report for its ridiculous rejection of a wealth of positive studies on the effects of puberty blockers just because they don’t use double blind methods, something that cannot be done with puberty blockers. Pearce also made a case for the unity of transgender and feminist struggles on the basis of the demand for bodily autonomy, ending by leading a chant of: “Trans rights, women’s rights, one struggle, one fight!”

There was then a reading of a statement from an LGBTQ+ youth commission, condemning the Cass Report, stressing the importance of gender affirming care for the wellbeing of queer youth, and calling on the NHS to reverse their kneejerk decision.

After this, Jen Bell, co-convenor of the Rainbow Greens, spoke. She began with a stark declaration that had things been the way things are now when she was first coming out, she wouldn’t be alive today. She spoke of the anger and the exhaustion she and other trans people feel at constantly being spoken over and constantly having decisions made over our heads. She also spoke of the long, near endless waiting lists for trans healthcare, and of friends who died still waiting on those lists. It was, sadly, a sentiment echoed by the crowd.

“A charter for social murder” — that is the phrase Bell used to describe the Cass report, and adding to Pearce’s criticisms, she pointed out how the report flippantly threw out one hundred peer reviewed international studies on trans healthcare, and at the same time involved anti-trans lobbyists in its work. Also discussed was the fact that the Cass report has been roundly condemned by medical opinion across the world.

Bell then talked about the Bute House Agreement, the agreement that underpins the cooperation between the SNP and the Greens in the Scottish government. Part of this agreement, Bell stressed, was a commitment to reforming the trans healthcare system, and cutting down on the delays, inefficiency and gatekeeping of the system.

Quite clearly, on this matter the Bute House Agreement simply isn’t delivering, and Bell spoke about how the Rainbow Greens are launching a petition to the national executive of the Green Party for an extraordinary general meeting to be held on the future of the Bute House agreement. “Either Sandyford has defied the Scottish Government, or the Scottish Government has broken the Bute House agreement,” said Bell. “The Scottish Government must keep its promises and Green politicians must do their jobs.”

Bell’s speech was followed by a reading from a trans young person, and then there was an open mic for speeches from the crowd. The speakers comprised a rich variety of trans experiences, mostly that of youth, with some of the speakers being as young as 12. Clear and eloquent, these were not confused and misled children, as the fear-mongering press pretend trans youth are. These were determined young people, sure of themselves and their identities, surer than any Tory politician or newspaper columnist could ever know.

The speeches from the crowd hit the listener with a heavy sense of sadness at so many crushed dreams and hopes deferred. Here was trans young person after trans young person voicing their frustration and disappointment at waiting lists, denial of healthcare, clinical bigotry and bullying in class and on the streets. Here, in the voices of living, breathing trans kids, was the confirmation of that palpable sense which you get reading the news these days, that a new generation of queer youth is being forced back into the closet. I am a 27-year-old trans woman, and the way things are going makes me want to scream. How must it be for the 12-year-old nonbinary kid, the 14-year-old trans girl, the 16-year-old trans boy?

We heard, in all the speeches, whether as an undertone or as an outright statement, the grim facts of the matter: that gender affirming care saves the lives of queer youth, and that the hindrance or denial of this care can be measured in mental health crises and suicides. The Tories, and Labour too, going by the words of Wes Streeting, stand for the social mutilation, the social murder of trans youth. There is no amount of waffling, journalistic euphemism or political window dressing that can conceal this fact.

This is a problem that must hold the attention of all socialists. Here we have the intersection of capitalist austerity in healthcare with culture war bigotry by the people in power. The NHS is on its knees from privatisation, yes, but it is also suffering from the ideological crusades of Cass and her ilk masquerading as impartial researchers. Don’t forget, Cass shared info with Governor Ron Desantis’ team as they drafted anti-trans legislation for the state of Florida, and she recently urged caution in implementing the conversion therapy ban in the papers. Her, Rishi Sunak and Wes Streeting are all cut from the same cloth, and it is the duty of socialists to oppose all of them.

With that in mind, Trans Protest Glasgow should be supported in its future actions, and the Scottish Socialist Youth will be active in doing so. You can keep up with their social media on Twitter and Instagram.

You can read responses to and criticisms of the Cass report, collected by Ruth Pearce, here.

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