Trans activism isn’t just about pronouns and toilets. It’s about the class struggle
More broadly, both feminists and trans activists must fight for the right to bodily autonomy. This is most clearly seen in struggles to access safe and affordable health care, whether it is access to abortion or access to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although not all trans people continue on HRT and surgery, these are important parts of many people’s gender transitions, and in partially or fully privatized health systems, it is often very expensive.
Trans people face health disparities due to financial and socio-economic barriers, discrimination and lack of knowledge about trans health care by providers. Medical institutions have a long history of pathologizing the trans identity by describing the trans experience as a mental illness and denying treatment to trans people whose experiences do not fit a narrow definition of what it means to be trans. The consequences of these systemic barriers and overwhelming discrimination have real and material effects: a study of trans people in the United States found that more than half had seriously thought about suicide.
The liberation of all
Under capitalism, workers will always be subject to the capitalists who control the resources humans need to survive, and thus determine what will be produced and what will be done with the wealth produced by the workers. Politics are often limited to advancing the demands of specific groups rather than abolishing the forces of exploitation that create the conditions for these groups to be marginalized in the first place.
Trans people have become symbols of progress, but that ignores how trans people are actively organizing to change the world. The important roles played by trans people in historical struggles have been hidden and are only now revealed. In the United States, it was the leadership of two trans women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, in the 1969 Stonewall Riots who started the annual Pride Parades. But radical trans activism didn’t stop there. After Stonewall, Marsha and Sylvia founded the organization STAR (Street Travestite Action Revolutionaries) and the legacy of their activism lives on in organizations such as the Sylvia Rivera Bill, queer and trans prison abolition groups, Black Trans Lives Matter, and inspired protests against attacks on sex worker and transgender rights in Brazil in 2019.
Transgender Marxism refuses to sharply separate the struggles of trans people into an isolated category. Instead, it embraces a policy of solidarity with others who are fighting the same forces of exploitation. Trans people are organizing on the ground as part of working class feminist movements, racial justice, the environment and disability liberation. Trans Marxists know that the liberation of trans people must go hand in hand with the liberation of all.