Tory health minister Sajid Javid thinks trans-inclusive language ‘could literally kill people’

Sajid Javid

UK health secretary Sajid Javid has reportedly claimed that using trans-inclusive language in healthcare settings could literally cost lives.

Javid made the shocking claim at the annual Conservative party conference on Tuesday (5 October), at a fringe event organised by the right-wing think tank Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

The minister suggested that gender-neutral language could cost lives, The Times reports, and that the NHS must talk about “women” when sending invitations for cervical screening, rather than language that includes trans men, non-binary and intersex people.

“When it comes to women, I have noticed the uptake of cervical smear tests has been falling in recent years. And these tests really, really save thousands of lives. And I want more women to come forward and take cervical smear tests,” he said.

Javid’s comments completely disregard the basic fact that cervical screenings are routinely not inclusive of trans men, non-binary and intersex people.

Only people registered as female with their GP are automatically invited for cervical smears. Trans men with cervixes who are registered as the correct gender, as well as intersex and non-binary people with cervixes registered as male, are eligible but have to request appointments, per the NHS.

The UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, has repeatedly stressed the importance of inclusive language around cervical health that encompass trans men, non-binary and intersex people as well as women.

Research by the charity found that only 58 per cent of eligible trans and non-binary people had ever been screened for cervical cancer, with this group experiencing significant barriers as a result of discrimination and medical professionals’ lack of expertise in gender dysphoria.

Using inclusive, gender-neutral language is critical to combating this and increasing overall cervical cancer screening rates – yet Javid centred his concerns solely on cis women.

“As health secretary you won’t be surprised to hear that I believe biology matters in healthcare,” he said according to the CSJ,  adding that removing the word woman was “unhelpful”.

He went on to say that debates over trans rights should be conducted with “compassion and sensitivity” but insisted: “As health secretary I think biology matters. Someone biologically, if they are born a man or woman, will have to some extent have different health needs.”

The controversial speech followed a fierce debate prompted when Javid insisted it was “scientific fact” that only women have cervixes.

His careless words inevitably placed trans people in the firing line as they were forced to explain, not for the first time, that many trans men and non-binary people do actually have cervixes.

Trans man and journalist Freddie McConnell questioned the health secretary’s understanding of the matter at the time.

“I’m leaving the space for the possibility that the health secretary, Sajid Javid, doesn’t know that trans men exist, or non-binary people exist and it’s purely a question of ignorance,” he told BBC Radio 4 PM host Evan Davies.

McConnell said statements such as Javid’s do not just deny the existence of trans men and non-binary people, but “many cis women [who] do not have a cervix, or have them removed for a variety of issues”.

McConnell added: “It’s genuinely scary and appalling that I suppose he feels he can say it on Twitter without any consequences.”

Jules Gleeson, a leading intersex journalist, also highlighted the fact that Javid’s comments had overlooked the entire intersex community who make up as much as 1.7 per cent of the population.

“For intersex people, Sajid Javid’s cheap Twitter trolling simply adds insult to injury,” she told PinkNews last week.

“Intersex people both have our health needs neglected by the NHS as it exists now, and are still too often actively harmed by it. Rather than taking any efforts to correct this, Javid is playing into some sick ‘culture war’. But intersex people have no choice whether we’re going to be part of this conflict, we’re seemingly being forcibly enlisted!

“The only upside is that these remarks clarify once and for all where his priorities lie: clearly not with improving the services offered by the NHS.”