Cambridge protestors march in favour of blocked gender recognition bill

‘People don’t just fill the streets and march through their city on a whim. There is genuine outrage and hurt by this decision and it’s important decision-makers see this’

On Saturday (28/1), protestors amassed in the streets of Cambridge to protest the Government’s blocking of a Scottish gender recognition bill, which proposes making it easier for Scottish people to self-identify their gender. The protest was organised by Trans Liberation Cambridge who, speaking to The Tab, stated that the event attracted “around ten per cent of the trans population of Cambridge” on less than a week’s notice, saying that this “goes to show not only the urgency of the situation, but also the strength of the trans community and our willingness to stand up for our liberties.”

Protestors gathered at Shire Hall (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

After the gender recognition bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish secretary for the UK Government announced his intention to invoke Section 35 of the Scotland Act for the first time in order to block the legislation. Trans Liberation Cambridge told The Tab that this unprecedented move “shows how far Westminster is willing to go to use trans people’s lives as political footballs in their culture war.” The group emphasised the importance of public demonstration in expressing disaccord:

“Cambridge is offended at the brazen erosion of our democracy – whether it’s curtailing protests and strikes or denying a legitimate democratic decision such as the Scottish Gender Recognition reform.”

A placard in Senate Passage (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

The protest organisers also drew attention to the scale of the issue:

“People don’t just fill the streets and march through their city on a whim. There is genuine outrage and hurt by this decision and it’s important decision makers see this. Trans hostility is unique in that it’s a minority of people perpetuating serious harm to this community, it’s unique in that it’s a small section of the middle class trying to dictate how people should live.”

The demonstration began at Shire Hall, as people gathered together to share speeches and chants. The protestors then marched down Castle Street, and over the bridge past John’s and Trinity colleges, blocking cars and buses and attracting a lot of attention, and some participation, from onlookers.

The government will trigger Section 35 for the first time (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

The demonstrators then filled Trinity Lane and Senate Passage before emerging onto King’s Parade, where the march was flanked by flocks of interested tourists and shoppers.

Protestors filled Trinity Lane (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

After looping round Downing and St Andrews Streets and into Market Square, the parade came to an end in front of the Guildhall, where the group congregated to hear speeches from various activists and members of the LGBTQ+ community. One speaker drew attention to the will felt by trans people to live peacefully and undisturbed, something they feel unable to do: “We have a lot of rights but we don’t have the power to use them. We don’t have the power to enjoy our lives without being harassed in the street.”

The protestors marched down a busy St Andrews’ Street (Image credit: Felix Armstrong)

Another speaker highlighted the complacency that can arise in Cambridge, due to its perception as a liberal and enlightened city: “Cambridge is not exempt, we need to try harder.”

Trans Liberation Cambridge emphasised the potential of a vigilant and unified city, asserting that “the people of Cambridge support trans people and want them to have protective rights, our protest demonstrated that fact. Local leaders should pay attention to that and act accordingly. Nobody believes that trans people are a danger to society or to women, but people do believe that Cambridge can be in the vanguard of tolerance and equality.”

Featured image credits: Felix Armstrong