On Saturday 17th November, I marched, yelled, and spoke at Reclaim the Night, Brighton. I’ve have only been to one or two marches, but this was one of a kind, and truly special to me. For one, I actually gave a shit about the cause; to end male violence against women. But this march in Brighton was different; we weren’t just marching for women. We were marching for men, for trans men, for trans women, for non-binary people, for intersex people, for everyone. And I believed it. It was reflected in the 400-500 people there, not just women, but men, trans men, trans women, non-binary people, intersex people; everyone was there.
Considering the amount of people who turned up, walked, sang, and shouted down West Street, on the seafront, and up St James Street, it was no surprise that I was bricking it. I had only just written a speech the night before, and only ran through it once whilst tying my shoes before I headed out the door. I was so nervous. It was a huge thing for me, for many reasons. It was the first time I was presenting myself as openly trans in front of so many people, and representing the trans community. It was definitely a stepping stone in my transition, and one that I needed to cross considering how dark the past few months have been.
The nerves were purely because I’ve never done something like this before. I was actually pretty confident in what I had to say. I knew that no matter how I presented myself, the words would still be there, and people would still listen. I’d be talking about something that hadn’t been spoken about at RTN, and none of the other speakers would be touching on it. I guess then I suddenly felt the pressure, hoping I would say what needed to be said. I didn’t want to miss anything, but to be honest, I could’ve extended my speech and talked for much longer, because so much does need to be said.
Saying that, I never really got to say how grateful I am, how much of a privilege it was to speak to so many people, and to have people listen to what I have to say, acknowledge it and respect me for it. The support of Brighton Feminist Collective was incredible, the whole night was a real success. And I know next year it will be bigger, better and louder. Our message will not be unheard.
So what I have for you is my speech for you to read. And because I’m ever-so-selfless, I’ve even embedded a video of my talk – judge how nervous I am for yourselves. You’ll understand now why I avoided a youtube vlog.
Thank you for listening.
It was in the late 70’s, when ‘Women Reclaim the Night’ was transformed into what we are marching for at ‘Reclaim the Night’. If ‘women’ was dropped from the title, why are we still marching for just women – what about trans?
The Reclaim the Night website states the aim as being to end male violence against women. It explicitly uses ‘women only’ countless times. I understand why this limitation was there initially, but the opinions beliefs and fight should never be limited to ‘women only’.
Reclaim the Night is about giving women a voice. Sexual violence and abuse has primarily targeted women. What about our voice? The obstacles trans survivors face are the same barriers faced by all survivors of abuse – worry, self-doubt, and shame. We have to consider and support the barriers that trans survivors also have to overcome.
The system is consistently neglecting the increasing number of survivors who go beyond the gender binary, of either sex or gender expression. Trans and intersex survivors also exist. A small study showed that 13.7% of the transgender sample had experienced rape or attempted rape. There are risks when a survivor comes out as trans and seeking support; discrimination, harassment and further violence. And that’s not even taking into account how the medical and legal system will recognise trans survivors, where the system is predominantly gender-segregated. Gender identity should be the last thing to stand in the way of what we’re fighting for and who we’re supporting – the right to feel safe from violence of any kind.
I’m sure we’ve all heard of the case of Brandon Teena – a transman who was raped and murdered in the states in the 90s. He was the subject of the film ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, where we all fell in love with Hilary Swank. Beautiful actress aside, Brandon was ridiculed after he was raped, and his accusation was not taken seriously by the county sheriff. Since then, a website has been set up called ‘Remembering our Dead’ by Gwen Smith, to monitor violence against the transgender community. Smith said that violent antipathy towards transgendered people remains high in the US, especially in certain anti-transgender ‘hotspots’ where attitudes towards the trans-community are negative. It was a wake-up call that was undoubtedly needed. We should not have to wait for such a wake-up call. Unfortunately there have been many more since.
In Sweden this year, a 61 year old man brutally attacked a woman, and ripped off her pants in an attempt to rape her. The District Court understood his intention to rape this woman, but when she was found out to be a transwoman, the court ruled there was no completed rape. The man argued that he was unaware and wouldn’t have been able to “physically” rape her. The court agreed, and he was only charged with assault. This is another example of how transvictims have also been silenced. Transwoman or ciswoman, rape is still rape.
Over the years, marches and movements have grown to focus on rape and male violence and have returned into the public eye. I feel that these marches need to evolve even more. With gender expression and diversity increasing, attitudes changing, the support around us (Brighton trans scrutiny panel) legal, medical and emotional, should also transform. We need to focus on rape and sexual assault within the trans community and help give us a voice too. Why reclaim the night? Because I too want to demand justice for survivors. I want to feel safe walking the streets at night, and I don’t want to have to worry about being raped or sexually assaulted on the streets, by someone unknown or even someone I trust. I want justice for transgendered survivors. I want us to feel empowered tonight. Tonight, we too will reclaim the night.