We have won same-sex marriage. Now we must fight for trans* rights

Yesterday the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed its final stage in the House of Lords, making same-sex marriage legal in England and Wales.

Jack Saffery-Rowe is LGBT officer at Royal Holloway University

Yesterday the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed its final stage in the House of Lords, making same-sex marriage legal in England and Wales.

This is a huge victory for the LGBT movement after 20 years of campaigning.

Same-sex couples can now have their relationship legally recognised on an equal footing to opposite-sex couples for the first time in British history.

But this is not the final battle.

Throughout the height of campaigning for the bill trans* people have been almost entirely erased from the discussion, most visibly by Stonewall.

Stonewall is the leading LGB rights organisation in the UK, but has had the pomposity to call this bill ‘equal’ marriage.

However we do not have truly equal marriage, and won’t do so for a long time.

We must fight for non-binary and poly* relationships to be legally recognised in the same way.

The impact that this bill has on trans* people is complex.

Before the bill trans* people who were in a marriage or a civil partnership and wanted their affirmed gender legally recognised (for example, for pensions) by having it changed on their birth certificate, were forced to end the marriage or civil partnership, get the Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) (which changes the birth certificate), and then enter into the ‘other’ form – the option of ‘marriage’ or of ‘civil partnership’ permitted to the affirmed gender of the individual.

For a GRC to be issued, the trans* person has to be living as their affirmed gender for two years, which implies to a reasonable degree of certainty that their spouse would be aware of their transition.

Now, instead of a divorce, for the GRC to be issued and the trans* person to have their birth certificate changed the spouse has to consent to their partner being granted a GRC and the conversion of the union between opposite and same sex. This form of consent requires a statutory declaration signed in front of a solicitor, which also costs money.

Given that 51 per cent of trans* people who come out to their partner or spouse can expect a negative reaction in the long term, 29 per cent of trans* people stated that their spouse has made getting a divorce difficult, and 44 per cent of partners and spouses have actively attempted to prevent their trans* partner from transitioning, this creates a situation in which trans* people could be blocked from having their affirmed gender legally recognised by a partner, possibly even a partner that they are trying to divorce.

Worst still, some have claimed that this is the final frontier of queer rights and that we are now equal. This is not the case. LGB and T people are still the subject of some of the most violent attacks in the UK.

In June 2012, gay teenager Steven Simpson was burnt to death for being gay and autistic at his 18th birthday party by Jordan Sheard. Sheard received just three and a half years imprisonment for Steven’s murder. Sheard’s lawyer described it as “the result of a criminally stupid prank that went wrong in a bad way.”

The verdict of manslaughter was widely condemned; however nothing further has come of it.

Lucy Meadows was a school teacher who was hounded by the right-wing press for being a trans woman. On 19 March this year, Lucy was found dead in her home after committing suicide. The response from the press, primarily the Daily Mail and its bigot-in-chief Richard Littlejohn was entirely unapologetic.

This was just one of a string of transphobic attacks in recent years.

These deaths are a call to arms for the fight for true equality. Same-sex marriage is limited and will do little to curb this trend of violence against queer people. Fighting homophobia, biphobia and, most of all, transphobia should be the priority in our movement over the coming years.

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