Across the country, right-wing forces are escalating their campaign against trans people, denying their rights and their very existence. In the parliamentary arena, these attacks are echoed by legislation that has been passed or is being promoted by conservative parties including Doug Ford’s Ontario government.
In early September, Ford tried to deflect public opinion from the Greenbelt scandal by criticizing school boards and teachers who keep information confidential about students’ sexuality and gender identity, including from parents. The Ontario Tories are clearly emboldened by their provincial counterparts in New Brunswick, who recently introduced a requirement that schools must “out” trans or non-binary students to parents, and Saskatchewan, where the right-wing government has just declared its intention to use the notwithstanding clause to implement similar regulations.
At the federal level, Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives recently adopted policies that would severely limit gender-affirming care for young people and create “women-only” spaces which refuse access to trans and gender-diverse people.
Throughout their anti-trans attacks, conservatives constantly reference the language of “parental rights” and “women’s rights” as justification. By this, however, they only mean the rights of cisgender parents and women – their aim is that trans people be denied altogether.
They also repeatedly invoke the trope of “bathroom violence,” the narrative that women (by which they mean cisgender women) are at risk in all-gender bathrooms because of “predatory” trans people. Despite the fact that this claim has been decisively disproven by research, it persists and continues to confuse even people on the political left.
Attacks on trans people must be halted. They lead to an increase in hate speech and acts, and they put trans people – including children and youth – at risk of injury, illness or even death. Furthermore, conservatives are using their warped version of “women’s rights” language to conceal the devastating impact that their own policies are having on women. The bogus “parental rights” arguments are another tool in the ongoing conservative campaign to attack public schools and provide public funding for religious schools.
Throughout its history, capitalism has relied on institutionalizing the sexual division of labour in order to constantly reproduce itself. Key to this is maintaining the patriarchy’s categorical distinctions between “men” and “women” – any serious challenge to those rigid, artificial classifications is severely suppressed. Transphobia is part of this maintenance, and one of its effects is to divide working people and hamper the development of a strong mass struggle for progress.
To its credit, the bulk of the labour movement has been one of the stronger advocates for trans and gender diverse people.
Now, in the face of a coordinated conservative campaign to co-opt the language of women’s rights in order to attack both trans people and women, labour and its allies need to redouble their efforts. This includes rebuilding a structured cross-country organization of equity-seeking movements, capable of mobilizing millions of working people in the fight to defend and protect trans rights and for women’s and gender equality.
Ontario Committee, Communist Party of Canada – Oct 1, 2023