Anger on the protest outside Downing Street (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Up to 2,000 protesters raged outside Downing Street in central London on Wednesday night against Rishi Sunak’s decision to block Scottish legislation that advanced rights for transgender people. For the first time ever, Sunak said the British government would block law passed in the Scottish parliament under Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998.

Rose told Socialist Worker she was at the emergency protest “because I’m transgender. Why wouldn’t I be here?” She said the Tories are attacking trans rights “to keep the majority of their party united” as it faces crisis and resistance.

“We’re only 0.5 percent of the population, so we’re an easy target,” she said. “It’s a cheap shot. But we’re in every walk of life.” She added, “The hate comes from the right wing media.”

Protesters kept up angry chanting throughout the demonstration. It included, “When trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back,” and, “Strop breaking British law for your culture wars.”

Demonstrators crossed the road to outside Downing Street, blocking Whitehall, while chanting, “I’ve never met a Tory that I liked,” and, “Fuck the Tories.” The demonstration then continued marching to Parliament Square and beyond. 

Placards read, “Trans rights are not up for debate,” and, “The government is happy to block trans rights rather than deal with train, ambulance, postal and nurse strikes.”

The Gender Recognition Reform Bill passed in December by 86 votes to 39. It allows trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate without the need for a medical diagnosis.

It also drops the minimum age for applicants to 16, and lowers the time required for an applicant to live as their gender from three years to two months. For 16 and 17-year-olds, this will be six months.

Ally told Socialist Worker that what the Tories are doing is “dangerous and horrible”. “I’m non-binary and we have our issues too. The Scottish bill didn’t actually give non-binary people recognition,” they said.

“To access healthcare we have to pretend to be binary. It’s hard enough for trans people—now the Tories are breaking laws to stop rights.

“They’re trying to maintain the status quo by demonising us. We’re not going to let that happen. That means fighting back however we can. Clearly we can’t do that through legislation.”

After Labour MPs spoke to show support, protesters chanted, “Keir Starmer eat shit.” Starmer said this week he doesn’t agree with 16 year olds being able to decide their gender.

One speaker told the rally, “It brings me so much shame that we are once again protesting against the politicisation, weaponisation and demonisation of trans bodies.

“Trans liberation is liberation for all. The bill passed by 80 percent of the Scottish Parliament. 

“We’re only a small part of the population yet they seek to divide us. Trans people are human beings and workers. It’s time to join a trade union, stand up for ourselves and push back.”

NEU education union member Michael slammed the Tories’ attacks as an “outrage”. He told Socialist Worker, “It’s time to link up with other struggles. On Monday I voted to strike. 

“I’ll be taking the ideas discussed here onto the picket lines. We can fight this as a class. I was a teacher when the homophobic Section 28 was brought in, so I know Section 35 can be beaten.

Speakers pointed out that less than 10 percent of trans people have a Gender Recognition Certificate because they’re so hard to get. 

Neil told Socialist Worker, “It’s disgusting that the Tories are blocking laws protecting trans people—and that 11 Labour MPs supported their use of Section 35 in parliament today.

“It’s important to stand up against all oppression in protests and through strikes. No group should be alone in fighting.”

The Tories want to use trans and non-binary people as a scapegoat, ramping up hostility to divide working class people. More militant resistance—as seen at the demonstration tonight—is what’s needed to push their bigotry back.

Edinburgh: Rally for Trans Equality: protect trans rights, defend democracy, Thu 19 Jan, 1.30pm, rally point at Queen Elizabeth House, EH8 8FT 
Aberdeen: Protest for Trans Equality, Thu 19 Jan, 1pm, Castlegate 
Glasgow: Rally for Trans Equality, Sat 21 Jan, 11am, Buchanan Steps

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