Words and pictures: Alastair James
"Keep Trans in the ban", "LGB with the T", and "Trans Power" were among the calls ringing around Whitehall over the weekend, as more than 3,000 people protested against the government's exclusion of trans people in its 'conversion' therapy ban.
The protest outside Downing Street on Sunday (10 April) followed a horrendous double u-turn by the government where, in the space of a few hours, it dropped all plans of a ban before recommitting to one that would exclude trans people.
The fiasco has seen the cancellation of the government's LGBTQ conference after more than a hundred LGBTQ organisations boycotted it as well as condemnation from the government's own MPs. The government has since said it plans to carry out "separate work" on a trans 'conversion' therapy ban.
Presided over by LGBTQ campaigners such as Peter Tatchell and Jayne Ozanne, the protest was a demonstration of the solidarity within the LGBTQ community, as well as its allies.
— Attitude Magazine (@AttitudeMag) April 10, 2022
Reacting to the size of the crowd, author Charlie Craggs, who is trans, said it was "incredible" to see such a turnout.
"Often I feel a bit disillusioned. Often it only feels like trans people are caring about this. So just to see so many people have our backs today means a lot as a trans person."
Charlie Craggs (Photo: Alastair James)
Aitch Wiley (he/they), who identifies as trans and at one point addressed the protest from the mic, echoed that sentiment.
"I think this is the first time where there has been a significant amount of cis-people here. But the one thing I felt the whole way through was trans people need to be the ones speaking about what we need."
They are angry with the way trans people have been spoken down to, they tell Attitude, and for being told what they should ask for and how.
"I'm not going to be nice about it because I'm angry as f***. So, thank you to the cis-people who are finally stepping up. Don't stop now. Carry on with it. And listen to the trans people, don't speak over them," they added.
Peter Tatchell, a familiar face at such protests, assured us that this protest "is the first of many". He told the crowd any ban had to include trans people and on that there could be "no ifs, no buts, no exceptions."
Describing the government's double u-turn as "evidence of the chaos and shambles in Downing Street" he said, "It was really moving to hear the personal testimonies of trans people who have been through 'conversion' therapy and experienced firsthand the damage that it does. That shows why trans people have to be included."
One of those testimonies came from Susie Green, the CEO of the trans charity, Mermaids.
Taking to the mic she, the parent of a trans child, recounted feeling "lost" when her child came out and how she got in touch with the charity for help. There she found a welcoming and loving community.
She also led calls of "shame on them!" in response to the government's exclusion of trans people.
One parent of a trans child takes to the mic and condemns the government for excluding trans people from the ‘conversion’ therapy ban.— Attitude Magazine (@AttitudeMag) April 10, 2022
Speaking to Attitude she commented on the turnout that it shows "we have the whole community coming out for the trans community."
Continuing she said, "I think what it shows is that there is power in community. What we're also seeing is the damage done by the actions of the government and I think what today shows is that we're just not going to take it anymore."
Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin (they/them) who is queer non-binary described it as "empowering" to see such support from the community and beyond.
"It's very emotional but I think it's also really, really beautiful and it really represents the joy and power that we see when we come together as a community when we stand in solidarity with one another," they added.
"For everyone to actually show up in person, and stand up there and share their stories is a true form of connection which I think is really important for us as a community."
Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin (Photo: Alastair James)
The sense of solidarity was strong.
"It's felt joyous to be in a space where trans people are celebrated for once because it's not something you see every day. It doesn't exist outside of trans space at the moment," said Sammantha Harris, a trans woman, who started the petition to get trans people included in the government's new ban.
It now has more than 100,000 signatures which will see it debated in Parliament. A government response to meeting the 10,000 threshold for one has not yet been forthcoming.
Sammantha Harris (Photo: Alastair James)
Sammantha also said it's "refreshing" to see people care about trans people and to see the petition signatures continue to rise when there's so much negativity in the media.
Charlie Craggs felt the same.
"I can't believe we're still having this conversation in a country like this in 2022. If you watch what's happening in real-time in Hungary where trans people have been villanized in the press and the government have been coming for their rights. The gays and lesbians never stood up for us and now they're coming for you. The arguments they're using on us they can use on you."
She warned: "If you don't stand up for us, they're coming for you next."
The anger is palpable, the solidarity is strong. The hope is tangible.
The message from everyone to the trans community is the same: You have allies, you are not alone and we will fight. The message for the LGBTQ community and its allies is this: Do more.
You can sign the petition to get trans people included in the ban here.
Attitude's new-look March/April issue is out now.