13 February 2023
The following is a lightly edited speech by IBT supporter Vera Ashborne at a rally for trans healthcare in Wellington, New Zealand on 11 February 2023. Audio of speech also available:
Kia ora koutou, my name is Vera Ashborne. I’m speaking here for the International Bolshevik Tendency.
We’re here today to demand change to the system of trans healthcare in New Zealand. Every trans person here today will have a story to tell about how desperately this change is needed. The system is rife with pointless gatekeeping, endless referrals, invasive psychological questioning, ignorance, delays and discrimination. I was lucky with my HRT — it “only” took me seven months from application to actually getting my first dose. I know people who’ve had to wait twice that or longer. I know people who’ve faced ridicule by doctors, or had to start the whole process again because their paperwork has been lost by the DHB. And this is just in and around Wellington. In the regions it’s even worse. The present model of healthcare is failing us, that’s plain to see — and it’s failing us on purpose. All these delays and all this gatekeeping are meant to address cis anxieties about trans people, not trans needs. We have to suffer and die because they think transition should be hard or else more people will want it. We need a total overhaul of the healthcare system to put trans autonomy and needs front and centre. We need trans people to be involved in setting the standards for our own care, not just as patients but as equals and experts. We call for full, free and fast trans healthcare on demand!
And would that healthcare were our only problem! Trans people are systematically discriminated against in the workplace and the home. Our lives are scarred, and too often cut short, by poor mental health, poverty, homelessness, abuse, sexual assault and physical violence. Improving the condition of trans people will take more than just healthcare, it will take a protracted struggle against discrimination, homelessness, poverty and violence, and the establishment of a system of social support that will allow trans people independence from the family and control over their own lives.
In particular we call on the trade-union movement and working-class militants to take up the fight, because this isn’t a fight of trans people alone. Marxists recognise that the organised working class is the real motor of progressive change in capitalist society. The whole public health system is the fruit of decades of workers' struggle — it wasn’t given to us out of the goodness of the capitalists’ hearts. It is the decline in working-class militancy, in the understanding that our rights are won through struggle against the bosses and their government and not by sitting down and pleading with them, that has led directly to the hollowing out of this medical system. And the government so often uses this as an excuse for not doing anything to help us. It is urgently necessary that the working class, organised in its trade unions, takes up the fight for trans rights — and that this struggle be militant and determined. The fight of one section of the working class for its rights is the fight of the whole class. We call for militant trade-union struggle against trans discrimination in the workplace, the health system and broader society, and for the involvement and leadership of trans workers in working-class struggle.
But under capitalism every demand we win will never be safe. Our oppression is intimately linked to the maintenance of the family and the whole system of social reproduction that creates new generations of workers to exploit. We’ve all seen the anti-trans movement on the rise in the US and Britain, we all know trans youth are being banned and our public existence is under threat. It will come here, it has already started. It is funded by the capitalist class because our rights are an inconvenience to their profits. This brings us to our final demand. Only through overturning the system of private property and exploitation can our rights and lives be made safe. Only a society free of privilege can be free of discrimination. Against the rising tide of hate, of fascism resurgent across the world, we say: trans liberation through socialist revolution!
Trans Equality & the Working Class (1917 No.46)
State Sponsored Transphobia (1917 No.46)
Birth Certificates & Bullies (1917 No.45)
Capitalism & Homophobia (1917 No.15)