Despite regular claims that the North ‘doesn’t care about trans issues’, these Northerners are terrified Liz Truss’ attack on trans rights

Olivia Blake: It's clear the government has not listened to trans people

LGBT+ campaigners in the North East of England are “terrified” by Tory equalities minister Liz Truss’ recent comments on transgender rights.

In an interview with Newcastle’s Chronicle Live, members of a Newcastle-based LGBT+ group have spoken out about their concern that Truss’ plan could see trans rights being rolled back, rather than improved.

This is despite regular claims from London-based media and politicians that people living in the North of England don’t care about or are unaware of trans issues – and, of course, that there aren’t any transgender or non-binary people outside of big cities.

In 2019, these claims reached a peak when Number 10 was accused of “weaponising” trans issues by polling Northern working-class voters on them – the guiding assumption being that trans issues are a concern only of metropolitan liberals.

In the wake of Liz Truss’ comments on her plans for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act – the law that for the past 16 years has governed the process by which trans people can update the gender on their birth certificate – trans people and their allies have been speaking out across the country.

This includes more than 42,000 people who have signed a petition protesting what they see as Truss’ “attack” on healthcare for trans youth; the LGBT+ associations of every major UK political party; a grassroots campaign called the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, which compared Truss’ plans for GRA reform to Margaret Thatcher’s homophobic Section 28; and multiple human-rights and LGBT organisations.

Including trans people and allies in the North of England.

“It’s terrifying to think that somebody could use words like [‘checks and balances’] about somebody’s identity, somebody’s life,” said Jay Anderson, one of the moderators of online community the LGBT+ Northern Social Group.

Anderson was referring to one of three points Truss made. Two of her points – protecting single-sex space and healthcare for trans youth – were unrelated to GRA reform, but the third saw Truss say that trans adults should be free to lives their lives “as they wish without fear of persecution” whilst the “proper checks and balances” are maintained.

“It’s on everyone’s minds because we feel unsafe, in a sense, because it’s like there’s nothing we can do about it, we are trapped inside, we can’t protest, we can’t get together, feeling quite hopeless,” he said.

Anderson, a 20-year-old trans man, continued: “She talked about ‘protecting single sex spaces’  – this is often around things like bathrooms but, in reality, you wouldn’t want a six-foot transgender man with a beard in the women’s toilet, but that’s the reality of what people are talking about when they want to stop trans people being in the right single-sex spaces for them.

“She talked about children accessing medical services making ‘irreversible decisions’. The reality is, I don’t know a single transgender person who thinks children should be given surgery. That unrealistic example is being used against us.”