Artists, activists and cultural workers argue that trans activists' protests against arts programming are part of a legitimate struggle for equal rights.
The article ‘Being prepared’ by Jonathan Best is an opinion piece that seeks to denigrate trans people who might be hurt by the programming of anti-trans professionals within arts organisations.
Most worryingly, the article paints trans people as troublemakers who protest perfectly reasonable “debate”. We argue that trans identity is not up for debate. Trans, intersex and non-binary people exist, and recent research supports their identities. This is important to note, because the author is not supportive of trans people being part of the what he terms the LGB umbrella – as such, he is anti-trans.
In this opinion piece it is clear that Jonathan Best seeks to erase trans people from his spaces. When he suggests that “there are some fundamental differences between today’s trans activism and the lesbian and gay activism that preceded it” he does not acknowledge the important role that trans people played in “lesbian and gay” activism. Nor does he acknowledge the initiation of the Pride movement by trans women of colour and other gender diverse people. Jonathan Best’s social media activity demonstrates his opposition to Stonewall’s support and representation of trans people. In this way, he is speaking over Stonewall’s CEO, butch lesbian Ruth Hunt, who wholly supports trans people’s civil rights.
He suggests that he was faced with unjust resistance from trans people when platforming an artist that had played at Michigan music festival, and that this was misplaced because Michigan music festival was not, in his view, anti-trans. However, Michigan music festival did have a women-born-women admission policy. The author himself even states that “Michigan Womyn’s Festival took the view that biological sex was central”. All of this denotes an anti-trans agenda backed by gender essentialism – which many artists, such as the Indigo Girls and Andrea Gibson, have opposed.
When Jonathan Best suggests that “the strategies deployed by some trans activists can be distressing to experience”, he fails to acknowledge the distress felt by trans people who do not see their civil rights being upheld by organisations. When organisations platform gender critical and anti-trans artists, talkers, or academics, they present an idea that it is permissible to question the existence of trans people, and that having a gender identity outside of the binary is up for debate. He also implies that trans people demand a shift in the way we think in a manner that lesbian and gay activists did not. However, we know that granting lesbian and gay civil rights of course challenged some people’s ideas of nature, morality and marriage.
We suggest that trans people's struggle to obtain equal rights justifies protest against those who seek to erase their existence and their legal rights to access gender appropriate spaces – and that these protests constitute free speech, and are not a “danger”.
Jonathan Best makes his portrayal of trans people as “troublemaking” difficult to refute because, by the very act of challenging it, we are providing more evidence of our troublemaking.
Signatories (including artists, activists and cultural workers):