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Defiant crowds protest against the UK government blocking gender reforms

"Don't give up. We fought, we win, we go again."

By Alastair James

Trans Rights signs
Trans rights signs (Image: Alastair James)

Crowds have turned out in force to protest against the UK government blocking gender reform in Scotland and across the UK.

London Trans Pride organised an emergency protest on Wednesday (18 January) following the blocking of Scotland’s recently passed gender recognition reform.

The Gender Recognition Reform Scotland bill was passed in December by a majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament. The bill made it easier for trans people to contain a Gender Recognition Certificate.

After expressing concerns the UK government decided to block the bill from taking effect on Monday (16 January). Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, described the move as “a full-frontal attack on our democratically elected Scottish Parliament.”

In response, London Trans Pride organised Wednesday’s protest to “show solidarity for Scotland’s independence and autonomy.”

Starting at 5pm outside Downing Street, people gathered with placards, banners, and signs in hand.

Crowds gather at London Trans Pride protest
Crowds gather at Wednesday’s (18 January) London Trans Pride protest (Image: Alastair James)

“After the dark, comes the light”

As more people arrived chants such as “it’s our history don’t deny it; Stonewall was a f***ing riot” rang down Whitehall. More and more people continued to arrive as speeches began, with Labour MPs Nadia Whittome, Olivia Blake, and Lloyd Russell-Moyle among the speakers.

Whittome, the MP for Nottingham East, countered the concerns that Scotland’s bill would impact UK equalities legislation. She lambasted those seeking to use trans people “as a political football” and fight “a culture war.”

In between cheers from the crowd, she continued: “I care, we care, all of us here today… The trans community is not collateral damage…” She also assured the audience: “We will win this fight”.

Sheffield Hallam MP, Olivia Blake, expressed her anger at the situation. She assured people: “We see you, we recognise you, and we will stand with you!”

Moyle, the MP for Brighton, Kemptown, added: “After the dark, comes the light. And we will win!”

Kenny Ethan Jones at London Trans Pride protest
Kenny Ethan Jones at London Trans Pride protest (Image: Jack Pengelly)

“Allyship is so crucial”

Speaking to Attitude at the protest, writer and advocate Kenny Ethan Jones shared what LGBTQ people could be doing to stand with the trans community at a difficult time.

“Showing up like today for the protest that we have here,” Jones said. “Listening to trans people, understanding what our needs and wants are, and using your current skill set to help us.”

Activist Max Hovey echoed that sentiment, saying: “Allyship is so crucial. Less than 1% of the UK population identifies with the trans umbrella. So, showing up for the trans community by sharing information directly from trans people, consuming trans-created media, and just really listening to the backstory of trans people is so crucial right now because this fight is not going to be won without allyship.”

Model and designer Lili St. Jerry again said people could show solidarity by “showing up.”

Sarah, from Watford, had come to the protest on behalf of her 15-year-old trans son. She was happy to show her support for the community and encouraged other people to do the same.

Eventually, the protest returned to the gates guarding Downing Street before making its way to Parliament Square Gardens. After a short while the protest turned into a march, crossing Westminster Bridge and circling around Waterloo Station.

As they were escorted along the way by police, people continued to chant “block section 35,” and “trans rights now!”

Section 35 of the Scotland Act is what the UK government used to block the bill from becoming law.

Halting traffic, the march erupted into thunderous cheers as vehicles sounded their horns as they passed near Waterloo.

“Don’t give up”

Attitude also spoke to Lucien, who identifies as non-binary. They said it was “beautiful to see people mobilising” against bills that demonise trans people.

Asked what message they have for young trans and LGBTQ people watching these events unfold Lucien shared: “Don’t be disheartened. There are people feeling exactly the same as you and we’re going to mobilise.”

Kenny Ethan Jones’s message to LGBTQ people was: “Don’t give up. We fought, we win, we go again.”