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To Protect Trans Youth, We Must Organize Ourselves!

On Trans Day of Visibility, a group of trans and queer youth led nearly a thousand people through the streets of New York City with combative slogans on their lips. In the face of reactionary attacks on trans existence across the United States, these students and organizers sent a clear message of strength and solidarity to their trans and queer siblings whose existence is being suppressed, criminalized, and erased. Left Voice was proud to march with them and to take up their message of resistance as an integral part of the struggle for a better world. Inspired by their example, we call upon every sector of working and oppressed people to join this struggle as one innately tied to their own.

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Image: Luigi Morris / Left Voice

To the organizers of yesterday’s march, and to trans youth everywhere: thank you for fighting. No one should have to fight for their very existence, but your example reminds us that there is a joyous, expansive range of human experience that capitalism tries to erase and forget. Your example shows us that there is beauty to be found everywhere and in every moment of the struggle for a better world. We find in your combative example the spirit of the world we will build—free of every oppression. 

We also thank our trans and queer elders. It’s an incredible thing to have lived in a world so pitted against your very existence for years or decades and still love that world enough to give of yourself for its betterment. No one can properly thank you for such indestructible optimism or pay recompense for the wounds inflicted by this hostile world. But through collective action, we can build your strength, accomplishments, and resilience into a fighting movement to remake the world in your image—to make a socialist world, in which we care for and protect each other, where our truest selves can flourish. We fight for socialism to honor your example, and to pave the way for your successors. 

Thanks, also, to the parents who attended the march or who watched, and to all parents of trans or gender-expansive children who are their advocates and allies. We live in a social order that treats children as property, incapable of agency, nuance, or maturity; your choice to treat your children as independent agents is an incredible example that puts the lie to the cynical conservative “concern for children.” For a trans kid, a supportive parent can mean the difference between growing up in a world shrouded in fear and confusion and growing up joyously, audaciously themselves. Your active resistance to this myopic world buttresses the vanguard of your children and shows us how a world without gender and sexual hierarchy is by no means a world without family or love. Your example points to a world beyond capitalism where deeper and stronger love is possible, based not on coercion and control, but on solidarity and common struggle. 

Fight for Trans Liberation

Clearly, “Existence as Resistance” is not enough. The joy and positivity of yesterday’s march prefigures a social order that will not be given to us easily. We will need to fight for it with everything we have. The attacks on trans rights are not defensive, they’re proactive. The Right, as always, claims to resort to fascistic tactics in response to the supposed extremity of their enemies. In fact, they cynically weaponize concerns over “parents’ rights”, or the supposed sexualization of children, to attack every aspect of queer and trans existence, from banning drag shows to forcing medical detransition. Let’s be clear: they don’t care about the well-being of youth, as any one of the organizers of yesterday’s event will attest. Appealing to concern for children is a well-worn reactionary tactic to justify the excesses and violence of reactionaries who want to snuff out queer existence for people of all ages. So, as our trans comrades continue the struggle to survive and live as they choose, the rest of us need to join them in proactively defending a space for them, for all of us, to thrive in. We need resistance that boldly lays claim to every aspect of life: a fighting movement to secure, lastingly and materially, a world in which trans existence is protected and celebrated. 

Let’s be clear: the great majority of people in the U.S. do not buy into the Right’s fearmongering about trans people. While over 450 anti-trans bills have proliferated in statehouses just this year, over two-thirds of Americans oppose such legislation. But we live in a sham democracy—a class-based system where wealth has always equated to influence and the will of workers can be ignored and overridden at will by the ruling class unless the people themselves stand to oppose it. But we, the working and poor and oppressed, are more numerous and powerful by far if we know our own strength. The reactionary minority can only institute their attacks on trans people if the working majority complies, so we must not comply. Doctors and nurses must resist every attempt by the state to intervene in their patients’ care. Pharmacists must take up the cause of their patients whose access to treatment is threatened. The teachers and administrators and school counselors and therapists tasked with surveilling and reporting on students’ gender expression must refuse to be the foot soldiers of repression. As drag story hours come under attack, librarians, parents, and communities must come together, not just to show solidarity with drag queens, but to defend a public space of free expression. The politicians, capitalists, and reactionaries who want to erase trans life can only do so with the active compliance of the working masses—but we must not comply. 

In the fight for trans life, we must be clear-eyed about who our allies are. Republicans and the Far Right are a clear enemy, but we can expect no support from the other party of capital. Democrats are worse than just fair-weather friends to trans youth; more often, they are enemies of a more pernicious stripe. Even the most “progressive” Democrat fundamentally supports the exploitative capitalist system which constrains and degrades the bodies and lives of queer working people. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have a stake in the liberation of queer and trans lives; they will not fight or agitate for them except where it drums up electoral support for their candidates. We must base our struggle independent of both parties of capital, on the strength of a mass movement that fights in every school, workplace, and public square to beat back the attacks of the reactionary right, and the exploitative and oppressive drives of capital. A combative party, by and for the working masses, is the only force capable of building a world beyond capitalism where trans existence is protected and celebrated.

Trans liberation should take comfort and strength in the knowledge that this fight is one front of a larger struggle—one in which working and oppressed people around the world share a stake. Ultimately, the struggle for trans liberation cannot be limited to the token elevation of a few trans people to positions of comfort and influence within a ruthless class society; for every Caitlyn Jenner, there are many millions of gender nonconforming people who suffer the burdens of capitalism all the heavier for their perceived nonconformity. For every “successful” queer and trans CEO, there are another thousand queer and trans workers on whose backs that success is built. 

Similarly, trans liberation necessarily extends beyond the artificial borders and distinctions impressed by racist, patriarchal capitalism. The struggles of migrants in a world of militarized borders are experienced all the more sharply by trans migrants, and we must fight for migrants all the more if we mean to achieve thoroughgoing trans liberation. Similarly, the burdens of being Black in America have always been borne the heaviest by Black trans women, Latinx trans women, and other trans people of color, like those whose quarters and bottles and stinging insults struck the first blows of the American LGBT liberation movement at Stonewall. We fight not for the acceptance of trans people into the capitalist system, but for its destruction. We fight not for a world in which trans existence is barely eked out around the margins, but one where it is assumed, celebrated, and defended by default.

Why should the working class take up the fight for trans lives, and why should the trans community seek to base its fight for life in the working class? Simply put, the working class has no interest in the gender hierarchy enforced by capitalism. The working class contains every shade and flavor of queer existence, despite the capitalist drive to oppress and erase us. The bourgeois nuclear family is eminently useful to capitalism: men should work, and women should birth and raise new workers (uncompensated by the capitalists, of course). Queer and trans existence, though, hint at what love and expression can look like beyond capitalism. They remind us that heteropatriarchal norms for what families should look like are simply that—norms, structured to serve systems of production and culture that favor the bourgeoisie. As capital relentlessly tries to co-opt queer people and families into these systems, those whose lives and relationships remain contrary to these norms continue as a reminder that this, too, is not the way it must be. As the vanguard of trans youth carves out deeper and broader ways of understanding what it means to be human, the working class can use its strategic power to materially secure a basis for life to flourish beyond the depredations of capitalism. We rely on each other in this fight like the leaves and roots of a tree. As Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote in his last testament: “Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression, and violence, and enjoy it to the full.”

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Charlotte White

Charlotte is a teacher and childcare worker in New York City.

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