On the International Workers’ Day 2018 GATE salutes to all trans, gender diverse and intersex activists working to make human rights a lived reality worldwide.
Today, more than ever, it is necessary to acknowledge that the full enjoyment of the right to work is still a distant promise for many trans, gender diverse and intersex people around the world. Many factors conspire against the realization of the right to work among us, including systematic stigma, discrimination and violence across all educational levels and throughout many different policies and practices of employment. Negative social and institutional attitudes towards our gender identities, gender expressions and/or sex characteristics render us unemployable. The same attitudes justify extremely low payments when we are employed as well as lack of employers’ compliance with labor regulations and, overall, support a moral economy where trans, gender diverse and intersex people are assumed to have to work for free and to feel gratitude for the opportunity of “developing experience” or “being included”.
In most countries, our access to general and specific healthcare is directly linked to work-related insurance, or critically depends on our ability to save money to afford it. Therefore, diminishing or denying our right to work has an immediate negative impact on our right to health. In the same sense, access to housing and, many times, to water and sanitation, it is strongly linked to our status as workers. Those of us whose ability to work has been impaired or destroyed by unconsented and medically unnecessary interventions, as well as by other experiences of social and institutional violence, rarely find the reparative justice needed to compensate the loss in the capacity to work. An intersectional combination of factors, including age, HIV status, disability, race and ethnicity and migrant status aggravates this situation for many people. The systematic exclusion of trans, gender diverse and intersex people from fairly paid work, associated with our equally systematic exclusion from shelters and other welfare programs, keeps our communities trapped in a structural cycle of poverty, exploitation, homelessness, incarceration, and annihilation.
Trans, gender diverse and intersex activists share the general socioeconomic background that characterizes our communities, and many of us started our political organizing to address the socioeconomic issues affecting us. However, according to the reports co-produced by Astraea, AJWS and GATE in 2017, trans, gender diverse and intersex organizing still heavily depends on volunteer work, and both trans-led and intersex-led organizations have little capacity -or not capacity at all- to hire paid workers. Moreover, many activities organized at the national, regional and international level count on trans, gender diverse and intersex activists working for free -for example, by engaging in consultative processes, providing expert advice, editing massive amounts of texts or carrying out extensive trainings.
International Workers’ Day commemorates the collective struggle to achieve the eight-hour workday in Chicago, back in 1884, and the brutal repression that followed. The world has changed since then, but workers’ rights and the very right to work and associated rights are still at stake. On this International Workers’ Day, GATE reiterates its call to governments and donors, to international, regional and national institutions and organizations, and to allies in all movements and professional fields, to recognize, defend and promote trans, gender diverse and intersex people’s right to work, to be fairly compensated for our work, to enjoy all the associated benefits derived from our work, and to be protected from stigma, discrimination and violence in the workplace.
The GATE Team