"The final two candidates, Truss and Sunak have both relied on an anti-trans stance to garner support from the base of the party"Creative Commons Licence, Ted Eytan at https://conservativehome.com/2022/03/29/dodge-duck-dip-dive-and-dodge-johnsons-dodgeball-advice-to-tories-about-how-to-tackle-trans/

CN: discussion of transphobia

As with all Conservative party leadership elections, watching the selection process unfold is like watching your own method of torture be chosen for you. A particularly painful part of this is the parties’ success at eroding the collective memory of past government failures. The ability to pitch afresh is one of the most terrifying aspects of these elections. Not only does it mean that parties can conveniently evade accountability for a decade’s worth of crimes, but it also creates space for the creation of new ‘culture wars’ to justify their deliberate targeting of marginalised groups.

Although the Conservative party’s track record on LGBTQ+ rights is frankly abysmal, including the failure to include trans-people in the proposed conversion therapy ban, trans people are bearing the brunt of the candidates’ desire to prove themselves as the most anti-woke. This serves to distract from the reality of the Tories’ destruction of the economy & public services, and has dangerous consequences for all marginalised genders.

“The reality for trans and gender non-conforming people is a grim one that we must organise against”

The final two candidates, Truss and Sunak have both relied on an anti-trans stance to garner support from the base of the party. With the contest witnessing promises to oppose gender neutral language, a supposed re-assertion of the importance of ’biological sex’ and to ‘protect women’, the reality for trans and gender non-conforming people is a grim one that we must organise against; Sunak has proposed a “manifesto for women’s rights”, which supports excluding trans women from women’s sports, along with a more cautious approach to sex education in schools. Truss’ record as Equalities minister demonstrates her vehement opposition to trans rights as she shut down any move towards self-identification, reversed plans to lower the £140 cost to apply to a panel to gain a gender recognition certificate, asserted the need for medical diagnosis, dissolved the UK’s LGBT advisory panel following disagreements on self-identification, and pushed for a withdrawal of funding from Stonewall. Eliminated candidates also pitched their bid on similarly abhorrent statements. Mordaunt rolled back on her previous statements that ‘trans women are women’, claiming that this does “NOT mean they are biologically women like me”. Badenock, who criticised Mourdaunt’s record as equalities minister as being too progressive on trans-rights, went as far as to re-label the gender neutral toilets at her campaign launch to say ‘men’ and ‘ladies’. Braverman and Javid (who withdrew before official nominations began) have also spoken against trans-rights in their campaign and in recent months.

“The leadership contest is revealing not just an abject failure to serve one of the most marginalised groups in society, but a desire to actively harm them”

The promises being made, whilst offering cis women absolutely nothing to improve their conditions, incite violence against trans people by subjecting them to invasive examinations to compete in sports and highlighting them publicly as trans, increasing their visibility as targets of harassment. Withholding crucial information from LGBTQ+ youth about their gender, sex and sexuality will contribute to the isolation and bullying faced by many due to homophobia, transphobia, and misinformation - which plays an undeniable role in the disproportionately high number of LGBTQ+ youth facing mental health issues. The leadership contest is revealing not just an abject failure to serve one of the most marginalised groups in society, but a desire to actively harm and exclude them further that is nothing short of abhorrent.

This dangerous agenda shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone. For years, anti-trans groups have mobilised, and the media in tandem have failed to challenge anti-trans propaganda. Our national and supposedly ‘unbiased’ platform, the BBC, have consistently peddled stories such as “We’re being pressured into sex by trans-women”, and platformed transphobic hate speech. There has been a clear failure to uphold good journalistic standards by framing the push for trans-rights as simply a ‘row’ or ‘debate’, contributing to the spreading of anti-trans propaganda.

There has also been a complete failure to defend against these attacks by other mainstream parties. The Labour party, notably, have refused to expel transphobic MPs from their own party such as Rosie Duffield, and Starmer has failed to take a principled stance to assert support for trans-rights. In true Starmer fashion, his flip-flopping between pandering to the Conservatives - and transphobes - and balancing retaining some semblance of progressiveness leads him firmly to de facto reinforce the legitimacy of the right’s position. This as a political strategy is dangerous at all times, but when it comes to trans-rights, the normalisation of transphobia within the political mainstream will continue to have dire consequences for trans and gender non-conforming people in the UK.


Mountain View

Legislation passed under the Johnson government has undermined our democracy

Those who consider themselves ‘progressive’ must take a firm stance to condemn the weaponization of trans-people by the leadership contestants and expose it for its violence. The prospect of a government that is explicitly anti-trans is a terrifying reality, and any attempt to deny this is to deliberately erase the Conservative government’s responsibility for anti-trans violence. It’s vital for us to remain vigilant, build community and organise against this. While it’s important not to feed the ‘culture war’ stirred up by transphobes, we can continue to fight for rights and the improvement of the material conditions of trans people through measures such as tackling the appalling waitlists for healthcare on the NHS, recognising that this comes hand in hand with dispelling the myths pedalled in the Tory leadership contest.

I find that one of the most frustrating aspects of watching the leadership race is the ability of the Tories to present their oppression as true freedom. Transphobia is a violent ideology that harms not just trans and non-binary people, but all genders. By relying on reductive and patriarchal norms of what it is to be a ‘woman’ that typically centre around reproductive function, ‘gender critical theory’ is simply the patriarchy repackaged as its cure. By pandering to transphobic ideology, the liberation of all is threatened. The fixation around being ‘anti-woke’ by the leadership contestants, and their anti-trans policies as the embodiment of this, gives a stark and painful reminder of the long fight to liberation that remains.