Co-Founders of Mammies for Trans Rights what keeps them going. Limerick Mammies for Trans Right pictured at the 2023 Limerick Pride Parade
Opinion: Co-Founders of Mammies for Trans Rights Karen Sugrue & Claire Flynn write about what brought them together and keeps them going
Opinion piece by Co-Founders Mammies for Trans Rights Karen Sugrue & Claire Flynn
Last February a beautiful 16-year-old trans girl called Brianna Ghey was brutally murdered in broad daylight in her local park in England and the heart of every parent of a trans kid stopped. In that moment, as a parent, you think, how do I keep my kid safe and alive? Do I keep them at home? Do I tell them to hide themselves? Or do I go into the world and try to make it safer for them? And that’s how the Mammies for Trans Rights began.
It started out as three mammies wanting to do something to support their own kids and now there are groups of mammies marching in almost every Pride event in the island of Ireland, often with two or three groups marching in different towns at the same time. Mams, Dads, Grans, Grandparents, Aunts, Cousins, Friends, Neighbours, Colleagues – everyone has joined us to march this year to show all our kids that they are safe and loved.
Fear and grief brought us together, but what keeps us going is love, solidarity, community and friendship.
Although we know from conversations we have had within our own communities and the reaction we get as we have travelled around the country to march, that the majority of people are supportive of trans people, the chilling effect the fear of harassment and backlash has makes them fearful to speak publicly.
A core aim of our group is to give allies a space also to show their acceptance, love and support in a safe way. We want to counter the negative, misleading, and often wildly incorrect things being said about trans people in the media and draw attention to the chilling effect that public backlash, massive pile ons and strategic lawsuits have on silencing supporters and isolating trans people. We want trans people to know that they are not on their own.
We are not interested in discussing trans peoples’ existence – we know they exist, a lot of us gave birth to them, and they are our gorgeous babies grown into wonderful kids and young adults.
They are funny, and clever and kind, and we embarrass and annoy them terribly. They roll their eyes at us and tell us we are cringe, and that we’re ruining their lives when we say they can’t go out on a school night. They cry when someone breaks their hearts or they have a falling out with their friends. In our houses, they are not ‘trans kids’, they are simply, our kids.
But Brianna Ghey is always on our minds and we worry constantly. We worry whether they’ll be safe when they’re out. We see frightening statistics from around the world about the steep rise globally in attacks on Trans and people across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. We worry if their binders will hurt them, will they want puberty blockers or hormone treatments, how will we get support if they need it, who can we turn to for advice? We see our own health service not following the updated global standards for trans care, and the harm and damage this causes.
These questions that are so hotly contested and ‘debated’ by people for whom this is all abstract have no notion of the sick dread and heartache of being a parent trying to do their best for their distressed child when everyone you turn to tells you something different and there are people of enormous power and influence telling the world that you and your child are dangerous.
And it’s important to say also that not all our kids are in crisis. Lots of kids are very clear and grounded in who they are and the crisis lies only in getting them appropriate medical support. Others are comfortable in the space of social transition while they learn to navigate the world as their new selves. Not all chose puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or surgery. But many do. There are as many experiences as there are trans and gender queer people because of course, no two people are the same.
We do enormous damage as a society to our young people when we do not allow them to safety explore the world and themselves. While we do not have accurate statistics available in Ireland because last year’s census did not include a category for non-binary people, looking at recently published US census data shows that about 2% of the population is Intersex, 3% Trans and 5% non-binary. Gen Z and Gen A, the generations coming up behind us, are issuing a challenge to the old gender order.
This challenge to the gender order forces us to look closely at the extent to which we treat people differently depending on their gender. Very tellingly, this idea is causing a lot of distress among those for whom equality has always been a struggle, and very sadly, also among some who fought for equality for other groups. The norms of the old gender order are so deeply embedded that sometimes even those who are oppressed and dehumanised by the old system fight to keep it.
And so we find ourselves in a moral panic of increasing vitriol and hysteria. Groups are storming libraries and bookshops because they don’t want LGBTQIA+ kids having access to information about themselves. The curriculum is being challenged by religious groups. Radio and TV shows are capitalizing on guaranteed outrage engagement by inviting high profile inflammatory speakers who call the people who support trans people ‘grifters, thugs, pedophiles, or perverts’.
Every time the Mammies march we get death threats and rape threats. Our employers are contacted and told that we are pedophiles and our children are targeted and abused online. The aim of course is to make us too fearful to continue. And we are afraid. But we are more afraid to stop. We want our kids, and everyone’s kids to know that there are mammies and allies everywhere and that we will keep marching so that they can see us til they feel safe.
Of course, this is all happening as part of the increasing rise in extremist groups in Ireland and around the world and unscrupulous politicians and bad faith actors are eager to cash in on this period of great uncertainty. Wars, pandemics, environmental collapse, and genocides are making the world feel like a profoundly unsafe place right now and history shows that at times like these, small vulnerable groups become scapegoats for our collective fear and unease.
When the Mammies march, we are marching to counter that. We for all the kids who need a mammy to tell them that they’re wonderful. We are marching for all the parents out there who are terrorized by the misinformation being spread. We are marching because we want everyone’s child to be allowed to make decisions about themselves in safety and privacy. And finally we are marching because we know love always wins but we want to make sure people have company while we’re getting there.
If anyone would like to get in touch with us you can find us on social media @Mams4Trans. We are currently supporting groups to set up in local areas and signposting services and notices of events and tips and advice from parents.
Read more about this year’s Limerick Pride Festival here.