Liz Truss parrots anti-trans dog whistles in ‘unclear’ diatribe against ‘wokery’

Liz Truss speaks on stage the Birmingham hustings

Liz Truss has been accused of parroting “gender critical and far-right dog whistles” by activists while hinting that she could move to ban trans women from single-sex spaces, such as hospital wards and domestic violence shelters.

Truss and Rishi Sunak are now in the final two weeks of campaigning before members of the Conservative Party choose a new leader, to become prime minister of the UK.

At a hustings in Birmingham on Tuesday (23 August), Truss was asked by an attendee: “We have now had a majority Conservative government for 12 years, and in those 12 years, the country seems to have got even less conservative.

“We’ve had to endure damaging wokery in academia, the civil service, and even the armed forces. What specific action would you take to put that right?”

Truss told the party member: “You are right. There is an issue with the culture in our public services not reflecting the views of the public. This is true when it comes to talking down our country, which I’m concerned about, but it also is true when it comes to women’s rights.”

Despite promising earlier this year she had “no interest” in banning trans people from single-sex spaces, she continued: “I’m very clear, for example, that I will make sure that single-sex spaces are protected and we can’t have a situation where, you know, there are hospital wards which claim to be single-sex that simply aren’t, or we have domestic violence shelters where that’s under question.”

“I think as Conservatives, sometimes we’ve been afraid of making conservative arguments,” she added.

“And we’ve allowed the left to dominate the social space, and I won’t allow that to happen. I am prepared to make the argument, I am prepared to be difficult, I’m not prepared to take no for an answer, I’ll get those things done.”

Liz Truss is offering ‘a solution in search of a problem’

But Liz Truss’ hint of banning trans people from single-sex spaces, like hospital wards, suggests she doesn’t have a proper understanding of the Equality Act 2010. 

The Equality Act 2010 includes “gender reassignment” as a protected characteristic, and specifies that trans people cannot be discriminated against unless that discrimination is a “proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim”.

Blanket statements around permitted discrimination against trans people make little sense, as when a court decides if discrimination is “proportionate”, that decision is completely case-specific.

Gendered Intelligence, a charity which works to improve awareness of gender diversity, told PinkNews: “Any blanket legislation excluding trans women from healthcare or services would also likely be in violation of The Equality Act 2010.

“The act not only provides trans people (along with eight other protected characteristics) with legal protections against discrimination, it also already has a clause by which trans people can be legally excluded from single-sex spaces. What Liz Truss is promising already exists in our current legislation.

“The act has been threatened before – Rishi Sunak recently called it ‘woke nonsense’ and promised to review it – but so far this has been nothing more than sabre-rattling. To legislate against the Equality Act would be to invite international condemnation and undermine the foundations of equality in the UK, not just for trans people, but for all women, for people of colour, for disabled people, for everyone.”

“Although Truss’ comments are full of ‘gender-critical’ and far-right dog whistles, what she is actually proposing is unclear,” they added.

“The NHS already has robust guidelines for accommodation, covering both cis and trans people, that put patient safety and security first. Providers of domestic abuse services have made it clear that they don’t need ridiculous culture war debates, they need funding and government support.

“Take Survivor’s Network in Brighton, who have been punitively sued for helping a trans woman – preventing them from helping anyone at all. Excluding trans women from healthcare and services doesn’t actually help cis women or improve services. It is nothing but political point scoring by punching down on a marginalised group.”

jane fae, director of trans-led organisation TransActual, described Truss’ comments as “more posturing on the part of prime ministerial candidates who have little to offer the general public on the economy, or the future, so are resorting to the demonisation of minorities to score cheap debating points”.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” she said.

“On the one hand, shelters already have the right to be single-sex, yet for the most part, those working in the sector have chosen not to. On hospital wards, there is no evidence of any issue, beyond the beyond the doubtful claims made in the pages of more sensational news outlets by individuals with a determined anti-trans agenda.

“It is not even clear whether these moves could be achieved under the Equality Act as it exists now.

“As for trans people – and above all, trans women, who would be most affected by this – the result would be disastrous. There is already significant distrust of these institutions and a reluctance to seek help.

“All that such moves would achieve would be to exclude trans women from protections against violence and from necessary and important hospital support.”

PinkNews has contacted Liz Truss for a comment.