Michael Cashman says LGB people who attack trans rights ‘learned nothing’ from the AIDS crisis

Michael Cashman

Lord Michael Cashman, one of the founders of LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall, has spoken out about the loss and anger he felt after watching Russell T Davies’ seminal Aids drama It’s a Sin.

Comparing the stigma that gay men, lesbians and bisexual people faced in the 1980s to the treatment of transgender people today, Lord Cashman said that “loss and anger raged in me” after watching It’s a Sin.

“Despite the sacrifices over the years, the pain, the decimation of people’s humanity, the denial of their integrity and their identity, the stigma that they had faced, the same things are happening again now,” Lord Cashman said.

“This time the target is not LGB people, but trans women, trans men, non-binary people and trans teenagers.”

As transphobic hate groups increasingly seek to drive a wedge between the LGB and T communities, feeding the media inflammatory anti-trans misinformation, Lord Cashman has repeatedly spoken out in support of trans and non-binary people.

The former politician and actor – Lord Cashman has previously described the “hatred” that was hurled at him in the 1980s when he played a gay character, Colin Russell, on EastEnders – also called out LGB people who support anti-trans pressure groups.

Writing for Independent Voices, Lord Michael Cashman said: “The fact that some of the instigators of these misrepresentations are LGB people, including some who lived through this period, angered me even more. It signifies that, for some, nothing has been learnt.

“Trans people have become the individuals to discriminate against, to debase, and to portray as a ‘threat’ – in the same way that previously they portrayed gay men, lesbians and bi women as a threat.”

Celebrities help to hold a banner opposing Section 28, at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride event, London, 4th July 1998. Those present include (from second left) actor Michael Cashman, comedian Rhona Cameron and activist Peter Tatchell. First and second from right are musician and radio presenter Tom Robinson, and comedian and TV presenter Graham Norton. (Steve Eason/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Lord Michael Cashman also explained that heated debate over trans rights has “gathered pace” in the UK over the past three years “because the government prevaricated over reform of the Gender Recognition Act and allowed myths to fill the vacuum created”.

Anti-trans campaigners, he said, are repeating the tactics of the Conservative party in the 1980s. “Once again they use others, particularly children, as the emotional shield for the dogma of inequality (echoes of Section 28 forbidding schools to ‘promote’ homosexuality),” Lord Michael Cashman wrote.

“The rights of LGBT+ pupils, indeed all pupils, to learn about same-sex relationships and gender identity are being misrepresented and undermined by some politicians, the media and by legal challenge. So too the rights of young trans adults and their parents to seek informed help and advice.

“Trans people are under attack and so are the rights of all LGB people. Those campaigning for equality are portrayed as ‘woke’ or fighting ‘cultural battles’ by pundits and politicians. Intolerance and hate crimes are on the rise. News outlets repeat ludicrous ‘replacement’ theories and the trans ‘threat’ without substantial evidence, citing the exception as representative.”

Michael Cashman and Ian McKellen at an LGBT+ protest march in 1988

Michael Cashman and Ian McKellen at an LGBT+ protest march in 1988 (Holborn/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)

He concluded: “So, I will continue working with others to refine legislative measures that will give equal protection to all people – including trans people.

“We have nothing to fear except history repeating itself, and intolerance feeding on one minority after another.”