LGBTQ+ Tories on how they voted in leadership race and why they still have faith in Truss and Sunak
LGBTQ+ Conservative members discuss the leadership race’s descent into anti-trans rhetoric – and why they voted the way they have.
Andrew Boff, deputy chair of the London Assembly, is one of the 150,000 Tories who have been given a say in who becomes Britain’s next prime mininster.
He ultimately decided to vote for Rishi Sunak – but admits the entire race has given him “cause for concern”.
“I regret that there seems to be some sort of dogwhistle campaign to rush to the bottom in terms of trans rights,” Boff tells PinkNews.
Throughout the race, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have faced criticism from LGBTQ+ groups and party members for comments they’ve made about trans people.
Sunak has said he would ban trans women from competing in women’s sports, while Truss has expressed concern about gender-affirming care for minors.
Both candidates came under fire when they said a trans woman isn’t a woman.
Boff wants to “hear less” from both Truss and Sunak on LGBTQ+ issues – he doesn’t want them to continue “making trans people feel uncomfortable” and like they’re “a problem”.
I think both of them need some education on issues relating to trans people.
Rhetoric aside, he thinks both candidates likely have a more “nuanced” position on trans rights than they would like the public to know.
“Liz Truss was at the centre of expanding the provision of gender identity clinics and that’s something to be welcomed,” he says.
“This is a nuanced position – it’s not straightforward, black and white.
“I’m a very loyal Conservative – have been since my teens – and I think both of them need some education on issues relating to trans people.”
He sees Sunak as the more “responsible” candidate when it comes to the economy, which is one of the major factors that influenced his vote.
“On Liz Truss’ side, she’s quite dynamic and forceful. I do feel however that some of [her] policies on tax cuts may have a wider effect on the economy that wouldn’t be to the benefit of the people as a whole.”
Emma Best thinks Liz Truss will ‘get things moving’
London Assembly member Emma Best has voted for Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race.
Truss, who has served as minister for women and equalities since 2019, has faced criticism from LGBTQ+ groups for her failure to ban conversion therapy and reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA).
Best thinks she was prepared to listen to LGBTQ+ people when she first took on the brief, but that changed over time.
“I think she was moving in the right direction, however I think she has perhaps listened to some strong minority voices in recent years.
“She needs to get back to listening to the wider public and the community that these decisions affect – the LGBTQ+ community.
Some of the things Sunak has said throughout the leadership race have been “concerning”, Best says.
Sunak faced backlash for saying he would ban trans women from competing in sports if he wins the race, while he has also spoken out against the alleged “erasure” of cis women – a notion that’s most often floated by anti-trans pressure groups.
“It worries me that he’s saying that to appeal to a certain voter base as opposed to actually sharing his true opinions, and I think that’s fairly dangerous,” Best says.
“With Rishi I’m concerned that he may not be believing some of the things he says but he’s happy to be saying them.”
If she had it her way, Best would have voted for Penny Mordaunt.
She thinks Mordaunt would have “united the country” if she had become prime minister – although she was disappointed by some of the comments she made about trans people after announcing her bid.
“As a leader I think you should lead and I felt [Mordaunt] allowed herself to be dragged into the debate of trying to justify her stance on human rights which was unnecessary.”
Ultimately, Best vote for Truss because she thinks she will “get things moving”. She believes Truss would think in “innovative ways” about how she could improve people’s lives.
“Just getting by isn’t going to get us by at the moment. We need to do things differently and I do think that’s going to come through more from Liz.”
Like so many others, Best has watched on in dismay as trans lives became a major talking point in the Tory leadership race – but she wasn’t surprised. The debate is indicative of where society is right now, she says.
“Trans issues are being discussed more than ever and that is why it’s forming such a large part of the debate at the moment,” she says.
“But I don’t think that debate is being had in the right tone a lot of the time. I think we need a big reset on how we talk about these issues and to remember we’re talking about human rights.
“It’s not trans issues, it’s human rights.”
Conservative Party member Colm Howard-Lloyd says anti-trans rhetoric is ‘unfortunate’
Colm Howard-Lloyd is among those “frustrated” by the way trans rights have been debated throughout the Tory leadership race.
“The government has a perfectly reasonable and right position to improve trans rights so I don’t really understand why we’re debating it for votes,” he tells PinkNews, adding that it would be “deeply unwelcome” for the next prime minister to do anything other than move forward on LGBTQ+ rights.
“The government is capable of doing multiple things at once – we should never stand there and say: ‘We have a cost of living crisis to solve so therefore we can’t continue to improve human rights, we can’t continue to be a global leader.’ The government needs to be capable of multitasking. Whichever one is elected will need to do that.”
Anti-trans organisations have succeeded in muddying the waters in the leadership race – and according to Howard-Lloyd, they’re “quite effective at getting their voice heard”.
“It’s deeply unfortunate,” he says, comparing it to the way “a very well-funded and vocal group of people” rallied against same-sex marriage “to deny a group of people their rights”.
As far as Howard-Lloyd sees it, support for trans rights – and support for LGBTQ+ rights more broadly – should be a core Conservative value. He hopes Truss and Sunak will come to see that.
“Some politicians are naive enough to think that this is something that should be endlessly debated rather than going to their core principles and saying, ‘This is about protecting and improving the rights of a vulnerable group. Let’s not debate whether that’s a good idea or not.’
“Whoever next leads the party needs to realise that that’s not open to debate.
“We will hold the new prime minister’s feet to the fire.”
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