Every major political party has now condemned Liz Truss’ ‘troubling’ attack on trans youth. Yes, even her own Tory party
Two weeks ago, on April 22, Conservative equalities minister Liz Truss set out her plans for reforming the UK’s gender recognition laws for trans people.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 – which governs the process by which trans people in the UK have updated the gender on their birth certificates for the past 16 years – has been debated since 2017, when then-Tory prime minister Theresa May promised reform.
This could make it simpler, easier and cheaper for trans people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate.
But since 53,000 people took part in a comprehensive public consultation on potential reforms in 2018, several Conservative equalities ministers have promised to publish the results, and the government’s plan, only to then repeatedly kick that notion into the long grass.
At a virtual meeting of the women and equalities select committee on April 22, Truss said that she would be ready to launch the government’s plans for the GRA this summer.
But in comments that immediately sparked alarm among human rights organisations, LGBT+ groups and the trans community, Truss said that her response would be informed by three “very important” principles – two of which, the protection of single-sex spaces and healthcare for trans youth, are unrelated to the GRA but are talking points often repeated by anti-trans organisations.
Within days, thousands of people were virtually protesting against Truss’ statements. More than 42,000 people have signed a petition to fight back against what they describe as an attack on trans youth by the UK government.
And the chair of the grassroots Labour Campaign for Trans Rights slammed Truss’ comments about healthcare for trans under-18s as a “successor to” and “new edition” of Margaret Thatcher’s homophobic Section 28 legislation.
But the backlash to Truss’ comments has not just come from the opposition – it has come from across the political spectrum in the UK.
LGBT+ groups and politicians from the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Labour Party have all criticised Truss’ comments, to varying degrees.
LGBT+ Conservatives call Liz Truss comments ‘troubling’.
Colm Howard-Lloyd, chair of the official LGBT+ Conservatives group, told PinkNews that while the group welcomed the government’s commitment to move forward with plans to reform the GRA, as part of its wide-ranging LGBT Action Plan, Truss’ comments were “troubling” and they’ve asked for “urgent clarity”.
“The Equality Act ensures that everyone in the UK has the right to live without discrimination or abuse. This includes trans people. Any attempt to alter their existing access to single-sex services would be retrograde and harmful, and something we would strongly oppose,” Howard-Lloyd said.
Safeguards already exist to protect under-18s.
Calling Truss’ remarks about protections for under-18s “unclear but deeply worrying”, he added: “Safeguards already exist to protect under-18s. I am seeking clarity from the department for health and social care on what advice they have been asked for and given, to support the minister and her department in deliberations.
“I do not imagine there is any clinical evidence or need to the statements,” he continued.
“I look forward to some urgent clarity on these statements, an explanation of why they are thought to be necessary, and to moving forward with the planned reform of the GRA.”
Liz Truss condemned by LGBT+ Labour for anti-trans ‘dogwhistle’.
In a statement, LGBT+ Labour said they had “serious concerns” about what Liz Truss said to the women and equalities select committee on April 22, and that they had requested a meeting with the new shadow equalities secretary, Marsha de Cordova, to hold the government to account and “ensure that the changes made to the GRA this summer do not roll back on hard won rights”.
“Since 2017 the Tory government have delayed publishing proposals for progressive reform of the Gender Recognition Act time and time again,” LGBT+ Labour said. “This has led to a vacuum that has been filled with misinformation and vile bigotry about trans people.”
“We can finally expect some movement on GRA reform by the summer. While we had hoped that this would mark a move in the right direction on trans rights in the UK, [Truss’] comments in the meeting have caused serious concern for the trans community and their allies.
“We condemn the use of dogwhistle by a government minister that will no doubt undermine the rights and safety of trans people in the UK.”
Conservative record on trans and non-binary rights ‘appalling’, say Lib Dems.
Reacting to Liz Truss’ comments on her plans for GRA reform, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine welcomed the Tory promise to publish plans on GRA reform by the summer, saying they must not delay any further.
“Far too many trans and non-binary people do not have their rights and dignity respected,” Jardine said.
“Far too many are the victims of discrimination, harassment and hate crimes, and the rates of suicide and self-harm are heartbreaking.”
Calling the Conservative government’s record on trans and non-binary rights “appalling”, she added: “They promised to reform the Gender Recognition Act two-and-a-half years ago, but have been dragging their feet ever since.
“I’m glad Liz Truss has promised to finally publish the government’s plans on the Gender Recognition reform by the summer. She must not kick this issue into the long grass again, but instead urgently bring forward the vital changes to improve people’s lives.”
The Tories’ record on trans and non-binary rights is appalling. They promised Gender Recognition Act reform 2½ years ago but have been dragging their feet ever since.@LibDems will always stand up for rights & equality for all. @LGBTLDhttps://t.co/yL1kLGVOur
— Christine Jardine (@cajardineMP) April 24, 2020
SNP ‘shares solidarity with trans siblings across the rest of the UK’.
Gender recognition laws are reformed in Scotland, and Holyrood has reportedly postponed its own plans for GRA reform due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However Out for Independence, the LGBT+ wing of the SNP, said on April 26 it “would like to share solidarity with our trans siblings across the rest of the UK”.
The group condemned Truss’ “worrying” remarks in a statement, saying her plans “could lead to the obstruction of existing health care provisions for transgender children and young people”, and underlining the fact that single-sex services are unrelated to the GRA.
“We also hope that any future discussions that occur because of Truss’s statement do not silence the voices of the trans children that it will inevitably affect and acknowledges their agency in their self-determination,” the statement continued.
Out for Independence said it has asked the SNP representative on the equalities committee, Angela Crawley MP, to “reaffirm her commitment to resisting any moves by the Conservative Government to roll back existing LGBTQIA+ rights”.
It added: “During this period of isolation, and especially in light of the recent worrying remarks, we ask everyone to continue to provide support and outreach for our trans friends and family. Despite our distance, we stand together.”
Young Scots for Independence, the SNP’s youth wing, echoed this sentiment in a statement likening Truss’ plans to the horrific anti-trans legislation recently pushed through in Hungary.
“The UK and Hugarian governments’ recent steps threaten the lives of innocent people,” it said. “It is unacceptable. We cannot stand by and be silent.”
Women’s network in the Scottish Green Party accuse Liz Truss of ‘fear-mongering’.
In an article on May 4, the Scottish Green Party Women’s Network fiercely hit back at Truss’ comments, saying that “the same fear-mongering that was once used about homosexuality is now being brought to bear on trans people”.
Echoing other parties with concerns that Truss used “the same buzzword dog-whistle language” that anti-trans groups use to stir up “fear and mistrust of trans people”, the group said they unequivocally stand with the trans community.
“The current process [of gender recognition] is onerous, stressful and overly medicalised for people who are already under enormous emotional strain,” the Scottish Greens Women’s Network said.
“It is not in keeping with international best practice. Australia has now joined Ireland, Malta, Norway, Argentina, Portugal and Belgium in this modest reform.
“The particular danger in Liz Truss’ use of language is that it appears to accept the falsehood that trans women are a danger to other women and girls and that there must be ‘checks and balances’ to keep us safe.
“The reality is that trans women are overwhelmingly in danger, not a danger to others. The same fear-mongering that was once used about homosexuality is now being brought to bear on trans people.”
We’re incredibly alarmed at @trussliz’s comments yesterday
It’s awful to see her:
✅ Attacking trans young people’s right to healthcare
✅ Throwing around transphobic dogwhistles on gendered spaces
✅ Undermining the Equalities Acthttps://t.co/oMqxmWnwny
— LGBTIQA+ Greens (@LGBTIQAGreens) April 23, 2020
The LGBTIQA+ Greens said that it’s “heartbreaking” to see Truss “row back” the government’s commitment to trans equality.
A spokesperson said: “It seems clear that Liz is far less committed to a fairer system of legal recognition of gender than her predecessors.
“It’s vital that we all mobilise to demonstrate that public opinion supports trans equality. And that certain noisy parts of the internet do not represent the nation.
“Scotland should be an inspiration – where the vast majority of LGBT+ charities, womens charities and more have come out in favour of the common-sense changes on how gender is recognised by law.”
Plaid Cymru ‘stands in solidarity with trans people’.
Welsh politician Leanne Wood, a former leader of Plaid Cymru, tweeted that the party “stands in solidarity with trans people” following Liz Truss’ comments.
Sharing a link to an article about Truss’ plans for GRA reform, Wood said that it was “concerning”.
“Trans people are worried about the implications,” she continued.
“Plaid Cymru stands in solidarity with trans people and we will do what we can to stop this Westminster attack on trans rights.”
Wood added: “Wales should take a different approach.”
An earlier version of this article said that the SNP had not criticised Truss’ comments. This has now been amended.
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