Last week Boris Johnson effectively declared open war on Transgender Rights in the UK. Contrary to the commonly used claim that Trans Activists are demanding increased rights, our Prime Minister has stated that he believes rights that Trans People currently have should now be removed from them. His empty meaningless claim to fully understand and support Trans people is simply not true.
Under the universally accepted definition of the 2010 Equality Act, Trans People are protected at any stage of their transition as the gender that they identity with. And this law has worked perfectly well because quite rightly it also contains exemptions where organisations, in order to achieve a legitimate aim, can discriminate against anyone transgender even if they hold a GRC. This exemption needs to be applied on a case-by-case basis, but means that the likes of Prison and Refuges retain full legal control to entry – so contrary to another well used misconception (or in most cases, lie) no one has the ability to ‘Self ID’ and demand entry as that request can be denied without breaking any discrimination laws if there was a justifiable reason – an obvious example in the case of prisons being someone who has a previous history of sexual assault.
Likewise, Women’s Sport can deny entry if there also is a legitimate aim, and this is precisely what they do. The act of Self ID alone is not sufficient as clearly any Trans Women who benefits the considerable (sporting) advantage of Male Puberty would have an unfair advantage, and that is why Sport is lawfully permitted to discriminate by laying down rules of entry to ensure that any such unfair advantage is fairly reduced/removed. But there is no blanket ban.
So currently Trans Women legally use Female single sex spaces and they are permitted to participate in Women’s Sport, yet last week in one statement Boris set out his intentions to remove Trans Women from Women’s Spaces and remove them from participating in Women’s Sport. So why has he chosen this path?
A simple answer is that Boris believes this to be a vote winner – he believes this will appeal to UK voters when it comes to the next General Election.
If you go by the relentless spate of Newspaper Headlines regarding Trans issues you may believe that he is likely to be right. Articles depicting Trans Women as a ‘danger’ in single sex Hospital Wards or Female changing rooms appear on a regular basis, as do stories implying Trans Women are taking over Women’s sport. The fact there is no evidence Trans Women have ever posed any genuine threat in single sex spaces, or the fact that predatory Cis Men ever pretend to be Women to abuse current Trans Rights to commit crimes, is completely ignored. The fact that the Sport articles claiming the total destruction of Women’s Sport currently only feature two solitary Trans athletes and one solitary girl (a US College swimmer and a UK cyclist, plus a 12 year old Trans Girl in Kentucky who is the only participating person in the entire state to be banned from sport following the state wide ban), proves there is simply nothing credible in these articles - however the constant negative message from these articles could clearly influence the way the UK public perceives Trans people and whether they support or fear them.
The answer to this question has become clearer over the last couple of weeks.
The first insight followed the most recent U-Turn debacle from this Government which aptly took place on April Fool’s Day. Just hours after announcing that they were going to break their 2018 promise to ban both Gay and Trans Conversion Therapy, a promise that Boris Johnson and his administration had repeated many times over the last 12 months, it was announced that the ban would now only be for Gay Conversion Therapy. His repeated claim that he believed it was only right that this abhorrent practice be banned was in itself a shallow lie. The leaked document that led to the backlash and U-Turn was revealed to be full of excuses that Tory Ministers should use when questioned about the total dropping of the ban, ranging from blaming the Ukraine War and that there was insufficient time for this ban to be implemented. And yet just a few hours later the War was now suddenly no longer an issue and miraculously there was sufficient time – but time only for Gay ban and not a Trans ban. If Boris had truly believed that even Gay CT was as ‘abhorrent’ as he again insists, he would never have dropped this in the first place. When it comes to lying, Boris Johnson will hold a special place in history – really not something to be proud of compounded by being the first Prime Minister to be guilty of breaking the law whilst in office.
With the restoration of the Gay CT ban, you may be forgiven for thinking that the LGB community might react with a sense of relief and a show of positivity to this news, but no. The response from the LGB Community was both swift and unanimous. The community leaders stated that no Conversion Therapy ban was complete or acceptable if it failed to include a full ban on Trans CT. The support shown was incredibly heart-warming.
Behind the scenes the LGBT Community stood firm and furious discussions took place with Tory Ministers as it became very clear that unless the full ban was re-introduced, it would have serious implications for the communities support for the Government’s so-called ‘Safe to be Me’ LGBT Conference scheduled for July. The Government refused to move, and so over 100 LGBT organisations and charities withdrew their support and sponsorship from the Conference. As a result of this overwhelming support for the Trans Community, the Government had no option but to cancel their flagship event. Maybe it was no coincidence that it was the following day that Boris delivered his declaration of war as stated at the start of this article.
So if there was is doubt that the LGB stand firmly with the T, this was totally squashed by this action. But this show of support didn’t end there.
Within a couple of days a Government petition was started entitled 'Ensure Trans people are fully protected under any conversion therapy ban' – a real aim of any such petition is to reach 100,000 signatures, as reaching this level of support effectively triggers a Parliamentary debate on the subject matter. This target was surpassed within just 4 days. As I write this article, the current total stands at an impressive 135,929 signatures.
And to put this into context, there are currently 1,366 open Government petitions (all petitions remain open for a full 6 month period), and out of these 1,366 petitions, the petition to include Trans people within the CT ban stands at the 4th highest level of support. If you look even further, there have been 38,852 Petitions in total with this petition standing 66th highest on that list. In 63rd place is ‘Reform the Gender Recognition Act’ and in 61st place ‘Make non-binary a legally recognised gender identity in the UK’ – it is clear from the support given to these petitions that the level of support for those Transgender in the UK is clearly anything but low.
For balance I tried scrolling down through the page listings and got down to page 10, where out of the 500 top listed petitions it was evident that not one of them was from a Gender Critical position. The 500th petition had received 13,035 signatures, so even if there are any sitting somewhere amongst the remaining 38,352 petitions, the support will clearly dwarf that constantly being expressed for Trans rights issues.
These petitions do demonstrate support, but of course the knowledge of such a petition would be generated within the Trans Community so it is possible to gauge the level of support from allies but this alone would not necessarily reflect support from the population as a whole. There are other examples that do however show this support.
One such good indication was delivered by a recent YouGov poll on whether Conversion Therapy should be banned for a) Gay people and b) Trans people, and the result was just as conclusive. 65% believed Gay CT should be banned with just 14% believing it shouldn’t, and the numbers for Trans CT ban was practically identical with 62% believing a ban to be correct and only 15% being against it. Not only is the support for Trans people’s rights overwhelming, it is at an almost identical level to the support shown for LGB rights even though the fight for Gay rights is clearly far more socially accepted and advanced than those for Trans.
But this level of public understanding isn’t new. In February YouGov repeated their 6 monthly poll on the question on how the public believe it to be the right way Transgender people define their gender. Bearing in mind the general public will have only seen negative anti-Trans article in the UK Media for the last 12 months, the number believing this definition to be by our Birth Sex (i.e. the Gender Critical belief) was recorded at only 12%, which was in fact down from 15% from the previous poll 6 months prior, whist those believing it be by ‘the gender that they identify with’ remained at the overwhelming majority of 47%. What makes these figures even more remarkable is that these are the results delivered specifically from Women, who we are led to believe do not support Trans Rights.
A clear picture is emerging and it is not one that will please Boris and it should isolate him from parties looking to respond to the true feelings of the UK population.
Yet another poll appeared in the Mail on Sunday this weekend. If Boris believes picking on Trans people is popular with the UK at the moment this will have delivered yet another damning nail in that coffin.
When asked what are the most important problems facing you and your family, the Cost of Living was expressed by 39%, the Economy by 31% and the NHS by 27%. With regard to the rights of Trans Men & Women (which was included within the list of 18 issues that also included Covid, Ukraine, The Environment & Immigration), the importance of Trans issues finished last – 18th out of 18 with just 1% of those polled stating this as an issue that was of importance to them.
A vote winner Boris? Really? All the evidence is telling a completely different picture, and to be honest, one that I and my adult Trans daughter both experience in the real world. If you are Trans or a Trans ally and just look at Twitter you would believe that the whole world is conspiring against you, but in real life that just doesn’t appear to be the case.
Now don’t get me wrong, as I’m not for one second claiming there is no longer any racism or homophobia experienced in the UK, far from it. But what is becoming clear is that this does come from a very loud and vocal minority who manage to make themselves heard, mostly via social media, and appear to be far more representative of public opinion than in reality. We are a far more inclusive and accepting population than Boris believes, and if he truly thinks his latest move on Immigration (disgracefully shipping asylum seekers to Rwanda) is going to be popular, then think again, as Immigration only received 7% of the votes in the Mail on Sunday Important Issues poll.
The so called ‘Respect my Sex If you want my Vote’ campaign has wilted in the Spring sunshine as there is simply no evidence of any support for such a position. With this poll revealing that only 1% believe this an important issue (and remember this 1% includes both those for and against the position on Trans Rights, so given the current level of UK anti-Trans hate, anyone Trans included in this poll would be highly likely to register this as an issue of vital importance) - quite clearly there is an insignificant number holding Gender Critical beliefs who will specifically vote based on this issue – this will not impact on the overall result.
If you truly want to want to identify what a society truly supports, there is no better way than to look at TV advertising. Organisations with products to sell pay millions to ensure their products are correctly and successfully marketed and will appeal to the widest possible audience. So there are very good reasons why adverts appearing on our TV screens today include so many family scenes depicting people of colour and LGBT relationships – the UK population today as a whole is not racist or homophobic, but even more, it is sign that we as a population actually warm to these images. It is clear indication that advertisers know we want to be associated with people of colour and different sexualities and that using these images will make us want to buy their products.
And to back this up even further, if Boris needs that one final sign, just take a look at the latest Virgin Atlantic Advert that they have entitled ‘See the World Differently’ - it’s been over two long ‘Covid-stricken’ years since their last advert, so clearly this is a very important period for the airline industry as a whole, and how do Virgin see the best way to rebuild public confidence and desire to start flying again? With the use of the song ‘I am what I am’, their advert depicts what they describe as a new and inclusive era welcoming diversity from both cabin crew and their customers. Given the desperate state of the travel industry, their choice of sexual, gender, racial and disability inclusivity speaks volumes.
The UK today, post Covid and Brexit, is unsurprisingly a far different place to December 2019 when Boris saw an opportunity to use Brexit and Immigration as his route to securing Election victory. Following on from the recent ‘Me Too’ and ‘Black lives Matter’ movements, which have had far greater impact than any previous inequality issues for many decades, maybe the National experiences of Covid, Brexit and now the devastating war in Ukraine, have made us more open to empathy and so less accepting of discrimination. So will Boris now see it?
But maybe even more importantly, as Boris is clearly out of touch and clutching at straws to save his own dying political career, we need Keir Starmer to make a firm stance on this. There has been a suggestion that Boris has chosen this path simply because he believes it is putting Labour on the spot in an area that their leadership has struggled to clarify their position. To some extent this may be understandable when the Tories were not making any firm policy commitment, so sitting on the fence may have felt the best option, but that time has gone and Boris has made his position clear.
That time has surely come and Keir needs to see that Labour taking a positive Trans stance is not only morally right, but it’s what the voting public also back. Labour, we are waiting.