Rishi Sunak’s anti-trans remarks are the last gasp of a dying government
Rishi Sunak’s bigoted remarks at the Conservative Party Conference were dangerous and cruel, but they just prove that his party is out of ideas and out of time, writes Amelia Hansford.
I’ll be the first to admit that Rishi Sunak’s address at the Conservative Party Conference shook me in a way that no political speech has in years.
It’s hard to pinpoint why, as this isn’t even close to the first time that the prime minister has spouted contemptuous and ignorant statements on the trans community. But something about his speech on Wednesday (4 October) stuck with me.
Perhaps it was the blatant demonisation of a community without even masking it in the thin veneer of the ‘gender-critical’ movement’s so-called “concerns”. Or maybe it was the rapturous applause he received from the audience after he repeated the bigoted party line that misgendering trans people is just “common sense”.
I came away from Rishi’s speech feeling more scared for my future than ever. I left my desk, close to tears, and sat by myself in a screenless haze, wondering whether I’d be forced to escape the UK if things got any worse.
If this sounds at all hyperbolic, anti-trans bigotry really has reached such a point in the UK that, as a trans person, there is no respite from the knowledge that the government doesn’t believe you’re valid enough as a person to afford basic respect.
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Even beyond the government’s routinely cowardly treatment of marginalised groups, there are the constant media ‘debates’ on trans people’s existence without a single trans person present, and obsessive anti-trans coverage from right-wing outlets.
Social media isn’t an escape, either. Elon Musk’s X has become a cesspit for reactionary grifters to spread hate speech and push their shoddy crypto scams.
All of this is punctuated by the harrowing statistic that hate crimes against trans people are skyrocketing in this country, jumping by 11 per cent in the past year.
Whether Rishi Sunak and those who clap like seals at his unabashed anti-trans rhetoric like it or not, they are, in some capacity, culpable.
If you’re not careful, the tidal wave of transphobia flooding our media and political discourse right now can pull you under. The pressure of constantly having to push back against this hateful rhetoric is exhausting. We’re all so tired of holding our breath underwater, waiting for the moment we can come up for air.
Sunak’s speech was a litany of broken promises and ridiculous policy decisions – but his blatant transphobia was the most shameful part of it. He threw an entire demographic of people under the bus for an audience he knew would approve of bigotry.
But there is hope, because outside of those blindingly blue walls is a world that, statistically speaking, does care for trans people or at least approves of their existence.
The prime minister’s anti-trans comments represent one thing – the dying wheeze of a government that is out of touch and eating itself alive.
On the same day, YouGov shared two sets of statistics following Sunak’s speech – one that showed 55 per cent of Britons think that trans people are valid and another that revealed 69 per cent of the UK public believe Rishi Sunak does not represent change.
The applause in that conference room when Sunak delivered his speech was an empty facade, an attempt to drown out the sound of the Tories’ putrid 13-year reign crumbling.
I wish I could tell everyone who felt a chill down their spine hearing Sunak’s comments that this will be a turning point and the British public will reject the Tory narrative of transphobia once and for all, but it’s not that simple.
One thing, however, is clear: the prime minister’s attack on trans people is the last gasp of a dying government, running out of time.
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