Kemi Badenoch claims Tories are taking the ‘toxicity’ out of trans ‘debate’. No, really

Kemi Badenoch in red shirt

Women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch has claimed the Conservatives are on the side of trans rights, despite evidence to the contrary.

The Tory MP made the claim to the House of Commons as she took questions alongside junior equalities minister Stuart Andrew on Wednesday (26 April). 

Addressing Badenoch directly, Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said while he “fully” understands the “need to protect places for women” and “the issues when it comes to sport”, he is “growing increasingly concerned that trans people are becoming demonised in some quarters”. 

He asked what Badenoch is doing to protect the interests of “genuine trans people”. 

She responded: “I want to emphasise that the government believes in the principle of individual liberty and in the humanity and dignity of every person, and in everything we do we want to make sure that we take the toxicity out of the debate.

“A lot of the demonisation is happening out there on social media. 

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“We have a responsibility to make sure that all trans people have that dignity and are looked after.”

She offered no clarity on how she is doing this.

Badenoch’s claim comes after widespread criticism of her interventions on trans rights, including her meeting with the LGB Alliance, calling trans women “men”, and more recently, considering a change in the Equality Act that would strip trans people of protections.

The Tory party more broadly has repeatedly leveraged attacks on trans rights. Controversial Tory MP and deputy party chair Lee Anderson went as far as to say the party needs to fight the next election on a “mix of culture wars and trans debate”. 

The Tories have previously blocked Scotland’s gender law reforms and are investigating changes to the legal definition of ‘sex’. (Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Kemi Badenoch could strip trans people of rights

In early April, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued a response to a letter sent by Kemi Badenoch asking for advice on possibly amending the definition of sex to mean biological sex in the act.

In her response, EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner said that whilst “there is no straightforward balance”, the equalities watchdog believes that defining sex in such a way would “bring greater legal clarity” in eight areas. These included making it easier to exclude trans women from women’s sports and single-sex spaces. 

Although the EHRC’s response is just advice and does not change the operation of the Equality Act nor the current definition of sex, LGBTQ+ activists see the exchange as dubious

Chair of TransActual Helen Belcher said at the time of the response’s publication that it seemed to indicate the watchdog is “keen to assist in the redefinition” of the word “woman”. 

She said: “Our challenge to the increasingly misnamed EHRC and [Kemi Badeoch] is: why it is necessary now to try to redefine ‘woman’ to exclude trans women (and include trans men) when there is no evidence of problems actually caused by the understanding that has existed for decades?”

“By insinuating in its previous advice that organisations should exclude trans people from single-sex services and spaces, and now proposing that parliament actively considers effectively removing trans people from sex-based protections under the Equality Act, the EHRC continues demonstrating its inability to fight for human rights for everybody. 

“Trans people no longer seem to be people in their eyes. Our pains and struggles are seemingly irrelevant.”

The exchange came mere months after the UK government used an “unprecedented” Section 35 order to halt Scotland’s landmark gender reforms from getting royal assent. 

The move, a first of its kind in the history of devolution, put trans rights at the front of contentions between Holyrood and Westminster, with new SNP leader Humza Yousaf set to mount a legal challenge against the order. 

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