Monday 15-05-2017 - 16:00
With just a week left to register to vote in the General Election, NUS Trans Officer Jess Bradley writes about why it's so important Trans students are heard and why their vote matters.
Trans people are often told we are impossible people. We are not represented in parliament or in our local councils. Our genders are not represented on our passports, on library forms, or on job applications. Each interaction we have with policies, procedures and other provisions by which everyday life is organised tells us that our lives are less liveable, less visible and less viable than those of our cisgender counterparts.
In the last general election, I lost count of the number of my trans friends who were deemed too impossible to vote. Their name and gender changes were seen as inherently untrustworthy: more checks and balances were required to verify their eligibility. Often these checks took so long the election had passed before some bureaucrat somewhere could confirm that they were, in fact, a real person. Some did not have papers in the right name, or perhaps they were not believed that they were who they said they were at the polling station. This means that many trans people are disenfranchised from voting simply due to the fact that the systems and schemas of governance were not set up with trans people in mind.
Much more work needs to be done to change society so that it is accessible, empowering and liberating for all trans people. This work will involve much more than writing a cross next to a name in an election in June. It’s true that the ballot box cannot contain all of our dreams. But it is also true that the outcome of this election may crush a few: with NHS cuts and privatisation deepening; rising homelessness, and hate crime going through the roof, the continuation of the status quo is a high-stakes gamble not all of us will survive. We need change, and the ballot box can be part of that change.
Where we can vote, trans people have a lot of good reasons to get out there and do so. We could vote for a government which would protect our NHS, and commit to extending and improving gender treatment. We could vote for a government which would reverse cuts to mental health provision, make education free so we can study without fear that family estrangement might jeopardise our ability to stay enrolled, or vote for a government that would actually implement the findings of the recent Trans Inquiry rather than leaving them to gather dust.
To do this, we must register to vote, and it just so happens the NUS is in the middle of the biggest drive to get students to register to vote I’ve ever seen, so there should be plenty of opportunities to do so. Trans people should be especially mindful to register as soon as possible, to account for any delays that might occur. And if you’re a student with both a home and university address, can register at both addresses and work out which they would prefer to vote at: it might be worth checking out whether one of these addresses is in a swing seat, because then your vote will give you more bang for your buck.
Trans people might be seen as impossible; but together, we can make another world possible. Voting is one important way to make that happen. Register to vote today and make sure your vote counts.